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1. Overview

In this quick tutorial, we’ll focus on different ways to override the system time for testing.

Sometimes there’s a logic around the current date in our code. Maybe some function calls such as new Date() or Calendar.getInstance(), which eventually are going to call System.CurrentTimeMillis.

For an introduction to the use of Java Clock, please refer to this article here. Or, to the use of AspectJ, here.

2. Using Clock in java.time

The java.time package in Java 8 includes an abstract class java.time.Clock with the purpose of allowing alternate clocks to be plugged in as and when required. With that, we can plug our own implementation or find one that is already made to satisfy our needs.

To accomplish our goals, the above library includes static methods to yield special implementations. We’re going to use two of them which returns an immutable, thread-safe and serializable implementation.

The first one is fixed. From it, we can obtain a Clock that always returns the same Instantensuring that the tests aren’t dependent on the current clock.

To use it, we need an Instant and a ZoneOffset:


The second static method is offset. In this one, a clock wraps another clock that makes it the returned object capable of getting instants that are later or earlier by the specified duration.

In other words, it’s possible to simulate running in the future, in the past, or in any arbitrary point in time:

Clock constantClock = Clock.fixed(ofEpochMilli(0), ZoneId.systemDefault());

// go to the future:
Clock clock = Clock.offset(constantClock, Duration.ofSeconds(10));
// rewind back with a negative value:
clock = Clock.offset(constantClock, Duration.ofSeconds(-5));
// the 0 duration returns to the same clock:
clock = Clock.offset(constClock, Duration.ZERO);

With the Duration class, it’s possible to manipulate from nanoseconds to days. Also, we can negate a duration, which means to get a copy of this duration with the length negated.

3. Using Aspect-Oriented Programming

Another way to override the system time is by AOP. With this approach, we’re able to weave the System class to return a predefined value which we can set within our test cases.

Also, it’s possible to weave the application classes to redirect the call to System.currentTimeMillis() or to new Date() to another utility class of our own.

One way to implement this is through the use of AspectJ:

public aspect ChangeCallsToCurrentTimeInMillisMethod {
    long around(): 
      call(public static native long java.lang.System.currentTimeMillis()) 
        && within(user.code.base.pckg.*) {
          return 0;

In the above example, we’re catching every call to System.currentTimeMillis() inside a specified package, which in this case is user.code.base.pckg.*, and returning zero every time that this event happens.

It’s in this place where we can declare our own implementation to obtain the desired time in milliseconds.

One advantage of using AspectJ is that it operates on bytecode level directly, so it doesn’t need the original source code to work.

For that reason, we wouldn’t need to recompile it.

4. Conclusion

In this quick article, we’ve explored different ways to override the system time for testing. At first, with the native package java.time and its Clock class and finally, applying an aspect to weave the System class.
As always, code samples can be found over on GitHub.

I just announced the new Spring Boot 2 material, coming in REST With Spring: