Automating UI Tests in Android Using Espresso

January 20, 2021

Other than writing unit tests, developers also have to write User Interface tests to ensure their UI works as expected. Many times, developers find themselves doing these tests manually. Well, it is not much of a burden on a small project. However, manually running UI tests on a big project is a immense burden and disadvantage.


It’s tiresome and time-consuming. Imagine repeating the same test process every time you add a feature or fix a bug. This takes away time that could be used for other important activities.

Well, how can we efficiently do these tests? The Espresso framework is here to help. It is part of the androidx library. This framework gives an Android developer the ability to automate UI tests.

You just tell it the activity you want to open, which views you want to click on, which views you want to modify, and it does all that for you. Fascinating, right? That’s exactly what we are going to cover in this article.


To follow through, you will need to:

  1. Have Android Studio installed.
  2. Have a basic knowledge of building Android applications.
  3. Have a basic understanding of the Kotlin programming language.

Let’s get started!

Step 1 β€” Setting up Espresso

We are going to write tests for a To-Do list application that I created in a previous article. The application has no tests in it.

First, open Android studio and select Get from version control. Paste the following URL in the URL section.

Wait for the project build to finish.

Once it’s done, open the app-level build.gradle file and check whether the following dependencies are present.

testImplementation 'junit:junit:4.13.1'
androidTestImplementation 'androidx.testπŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ1.3.0'
androidTestImplementation 'androidx.test.espresso:espresso-core:3.3.0'

Add and sync the dependencies if they are missing. These dependencies are added by default to any new project that targets API 15.

Go through the project to get a grip of what is going on.

Turn off animations on the test device. Animations slow down the device’s performance which may lead to unexpected results during testing. To turn off animations, go to developer options in settings, go to the Drawing section and turn off the:

  • Window animation scale.
  • Transition animation scale, and
  • Animator duration scale.

We are all set, let’s get to testing.

Step 2 β€” Writing UI tests with Espresso

Espresso is like a robot that needs to be told what to do with the UI. The developer needs to specify the actions that the framework should perform on the views.

The framework has three basic steps to writing UI tests.

  1. Find a view - Tell the framework what view to find. We use the ViewMatcher class to find a view.
  2. Perform an action - Tell the framework what to do on the view. We use the ViewAction class to perform an action on a view.
  3. Assert the results - Check whether the result reflects the expected one. We use the ViewAssertion class for assertions.

Let’s write our first test.

We are going to test the process of adding a To-Do item in our app. Open MainActivity class. Our first test will be to check whether clicking the Floating Action Button opens up the alert dialog.

To create the test class, right-click on the class name and select Generate then Test. Select JUnit4 as the testing library, leave the class name as it is and press OK. Select the Android test source set and press OK.

Add the following annotations at the top of the class.


Then add an activity rule inside the test class.

    val activityRule = ActivityScenarioRule(

This rule launches the target activity before any test is ran and before any function is annotated with the @Before annotation is ran. It then closes the activity when all the tests have ran and when functions annotated with the @After annotations are ran.

Now unto the first test. Create a function as shown:

fun fab_is_clicked(){


Add the following code inside the function.


Let’s see what goes on in the function.

  • onView is a function in the Espresso class.
  • withId is a function in the ViewMatcher class that finds a view with the specified ID. There are many other functions in the ViewMatcher class such us withText, withTagKey, withTagValue, etc.
  • perform is a method in the ViewAction class that performs the action specified as the parameter.
  • Other actions are doubleClick, longClick, pressBack, openLink, etc.
  • The check method is used to assert. It takes in the matches function that is a method in the ViewAssertion class.

The function then takes in the function to assert. In our case, we assert whether the the view is displayed. To run the test, right-click on the class name and select Run.

Step 3 β€” Finishing up the test

Our main aim is to test the process of adding a To-Do item. The test we wrote above is part of the process. However, it was just an example.

Let’s modify the function to achieve our desired output. We are supposed to add logic that adds text to the material TextView and presses save. We then have to check whether the recycler view has the item we have just saved.

Change the test name to test_add_to-do and add the following code.

    .perform(typeText("This is a test To-do"))
    .check(matches(withText("This is a test To-do")))

As you can see, the flow is just as described. Find the view, perform an action on the view, and finally assert. Here, we find the edit text with the ID item then we add text to it. Since the Save button is on the alert dialog and not on the layout, we instead find it with the withText function.

On finding it we click it to save the to-do item. We then check whether the text view in the recycler view holder matches the text we have added.

That’s it. Let’s run our test. Right-click on the test class name and select Run.

This is how the app test should run.

Test result


With that, you have seen how automated tests are written and how they run. Another perk of espresso is that it observes the activity lifecycle. Therefore, you don’t have to write additional logic to handle them since espresso does it for you. Go ahead and automate your UI tests. It will save some time for you and hopefully, you will be more productive.

Happy Testing!

Peer Review Contributions by: Linus Muema

About the author

Peter Kayere

Peter Kayere is a first-year undergraduate student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology studying Computer Technology. Peter has a great passion in software development particularly mobile web and android application development.

This article was contributed by a student member of Section's Engineering Education Program. Please report any errors or innaccuracies to