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This chapter is from the book

Composite and Test-Driven Refactorings

Composite refactorings are high-level refactorings composed of low-level refactorings. Much of the work performed by low-level refactorings involves moving code around. For example, Extract Method [F] moves code to a new method, Pull Up Method [F] moves a method from a subclass to a superclass, Extract Class [F] moves code to a new class, and Move Method [F] moves a method from one class to another.

Nearly all of the refactorings in this book are composite refactorings. You begin with a piece of code you want to change and then incrementally apply various low-level refactorings until a desired change has occurred. Between applying low-level refactorings, you run tests to confirm that modified code continues to behave as expected. Testing is thus an integral part of composite refactoring; if you don't run tests, you'll have a hard time applying low-level refactorings with confidence.

Testing also plays an altogether different role in refactoring; it can be used to rewrite and replace old code. A test-driven refactoring involves applying test-driven development to produce replacement code and then swap out old code for new code (while retaining and rerunning the old code's tests).

Composite refactorings are used far more frequently than test-driven refactorings because a good deal of refactoring work simply involves relocating existing code. When it isn't possible to improve a design this way, test-driven refactorings can help you produce a better design safely and effectively.

Substitute Algorithm [F] is a good example of a refactoring that is best implemented using test-driven refactorings. It essentially involves completely changing an existing algorithm for one that is simpler and clearer. How do you produce the new algorithm? You can't produce it by transforming the old algorithm into the new one because your logic for the new algorithm is different. You can program the new algorithm, substitute it for the old algorithm, and then see if the tests pass. But if the tests don't pass, you're likely to find yourself on a long date with a debugger. A better way to program the algorithm is to use test-driven development. This tends to produce simple code, and it also produces tests that later allow you or others to confidently apply low-level or composite refactorings.

Encapsulate Composite with Builder (96) is another example of a test-driven refactoring. In this case, you want to make it easier for clients to build a Composite by simplifying the build process. A Builder, which provides a simpler way of building a Composite, is where you'd like to take the design. Yet if that design is far different from the existing design, you will likely be unable to use low-level or composite refactorings to produce the new design. Once again, test-driven development provides an effective way to reimplement and replace old code.

The refactoring Replace Implicit Tree with Composite (178) is both a composite refactoring and a test-driven refactoring. Choosing how to implement this refactoring depends on the nature of the code you encounter. In general, if it's difficult to implement the Extract Class [F] refactoring on the code, the test-driven approach may be easier. Replace Implicit Tree with Composite (178) includes an example that uses test-driven refactoring.

Move Embellishment to Decorator (144) is not a test-driven refactoring; however, the example for this refactoring shows how test-driven refactoring is used to move behavior from outside a framework to inside the framework. This example involves moving code around, so you might think it would be more convenient to use composite refactorings to implement it. In fact, because the changes involve updating numerous classes, it turns out to be easier to use test-driven development to make the design transformation.

In your practice of refactoring, you're likely to use low-level and composite refactorings most of the time. Just remember that the "reimplement and replace" technique, as performed by using test-driven refactoring, is another useful way to refactor. While it tends to be most helpful when you're designing a new algorithm or mechanism, it may also provide an easier path than applying low-level or composite refactorings.

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