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Thiago de Bastos
Thiago de Bastos

Posted on • Originally published at

Regular vs Non-Breaking Spaces  

Today at work I came across a failing test that made me wonder if the previous
developer had just given up and left it fail. The failing test looked to be comparing
two identical strings but failing at the spaces.

To replicate this issue, you can fire up the NodeJS
and follow along.

NOTE: Each > is a command to be executed in the REPL.

I've highlighted parts to take note of.

➜  ~ node
Welcome to Node.js v16.7.0.
Type ".help" for more information.
> const assert = require('assert')
> const nonBreakingSpace = '\u00a0'
> const space = ' '
> assert.strictEqual(nonBreakingSpace, space);
Uncaught AssertionError [ERR_ASSERTION]: Expected values to be strictly equal:

' ' !== ' '

    at REPL4:1:8
    at Script.runInThisContext (node:vm:129:12)
    at REPLServer.defaultEval (node:repl:562:29)
    at bound (node:domain:421:15)
    at REPLServer.runBound [as eval] (node:domain:432:12)
    at REPLServer.onLine (node:repl:889:10)
    at REPLServer.emit (node:events:406:35)
    at REPLServer.emit (node:domain:475:12)
    at REPLServer.Interface._onLine (node:readline:487:10)
    at REPLServer.Interface._line (node:readline:864:8) {
  generatedMessage: true,
  code: 'ERR_ASSERTION',
  actual: ' ',
  expected: ' ',
  operator: 'strictEqual'
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In HTML,  's are used to prevent two words from breaking or wrapping
at the end of a line.

Looking at the log above, it is not immediately obvious what is going on. This
is even less obvious when the spaces exist in a sentence, or when the text
exists in html as something like:

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When this is rendered by a React testing library, the &nbsp; will appear
identical to a normal space when rendered.

I had a suspicion it was an issue with ASCII characters only because I remember
an old

regarding replacing semicolons ; with the Greek question mark ;.

I fixed the breaking test by entering the actual ASCII code instead of the
copy-pasted space.

For example:

assert.strictEqual(expected, "Don't\u00a0break\u00a0me")
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