Date

In part 1 of this humble attempt to document the interfaces and contracts that unittest actually cares about, we talked about TestSuite and TestCase, how they both implement a common interface that’s used for running tests, ITest and how they each implement their own interfaces, ITestSuite and ITestCase.

Now we’re moving on to a much more complicated object, TestResult, to see how we can pick apart the ways it interacts with the rest of the system.

TestResult

A TestResult object is all about dealing with the results of tests, as you might expect. However, it doesn’t generally represent a single test result. You could say it represents the results of a number of tests, but I don’t think that’s terribly helpful.

Better to think of a TestResult object as an event handler. A TestResult object receives events from a test run and then does something with them.

Just as TestCase has a two-faced nature, presenting one interface to the testing framework and another to test authors, so to TestResult can be thought of has having many interfaces:

  1. Its interface to a TestCase. This can be thought of as the test event handling interface
  2. A result querying interface, normally used by a test runner
  3. An interface for events that come from the test runner, the runner event handling interface.
  4. An execution control interface.

Note that the result querying interface and the runner event handling interface together make up the interface between the TestResult and test runner.

Let’s start with the test event handling interface. The methods below are the interface between TestCase.run() and TestResult. (I guess TestCase.debug too, but no one cares about it).

startTest(test)
Called when test commences running. Although not enforced, it’s impolite to provide any results for test before calling this.
stopTest(test)
Called when test is completely finished. Although not enforced, it’s impolite to provide any more results for test after calling this, unless you call startTest(test) again first.
addSuccess(test)
Called when test has been shown to be successful. The default implementation does nothing.
addError(test, err)
Called when test raises an unexpected error. err is a tuple such as you might get from sys.exc_info(). Calling this method for the first time must change the result of wasSuccessful().
addFailure(test, err)
Called when test has failed one of its assertions. err is a tuple such as you might get from sys.exc_info().

The above interface is tightly coupled to the implementation of TestCase.run(). In particular, if you wish to add more kinds of results to your testing framework (“skip” results are a fairly common addition), then you must change both TestCase.run() and the TestResult interface.

If you do something like that, I recommend making sure that your modified TestCase can handle TestResult objects that do not provide the extensions to the interface that you need. One common way of doing this is to have the TestCase fall back to the primitive result types, e.g. “skip” might become “success” for a TestResult that doesn’t know what skipping means.

Importantly, the interface between TestCase and TestResult has been fattened in Python 2.7.

addSkip(test, reason)
Called when test is skipped. reason is a string explaining why the test was skipped.
addExpectedFailure(test, err)
Called when test failed in a way that was expected. err is a tuple such as the one returned by sys.exc_info().
addUnexpectedSuccess(test)
Called when test was expected to fail, but didn’t.

The following interface is a way of learning about test results after they have happened, the result querying interface, and is part of the contract between the test runner and the TestResult.

wasSuccessful()
If there have been no errors and no failures, return True. Return False otherwise.
testsRun
An integer that is the number of tests that have been run.
errors
A list of tuples of (test, error_message) for all of the tests with unexpected errors, where test is an ITestCase and error_message is a string suitable for display to humans, generally containing a traceback.
failures
A list of tuples of (test, error_message) for all of the failing tests, where test is an ITestCase and error_message is a string suitable for display to humans, generally containing a traceback.

And of course, Python 2.7 fattens this interface again to have the following:

skipped
A list of tuples of (test, reason) for all of the skipped tests, where test is an ITestCase and reason is a string suitable for display to humans, generally containing a traceback.
expectedFailures
A list of tuples of (test, error_message) for all of the tests that were expected to fail and failed in the manner they were expected to, where test is an ITestCase and error_message is a string suitable for display to humans, generally containing a traceback.
unexpectedSuccesses
A list of all of the tests that unexpectedly succeeded. Members of the list are ITestCases.

In Python 2.7, TestResult also extended its interface to the test runner beyond simple result querying and into allowing the test runner itself to send two very important events to the TestResult, behold the runner event handling interface:

startTestRun()

Called before any tests have been run. It is impolite to provide any test results before calling this.

stopTestRun()

Called after all the tests have finished running. It is impolite to provide any test results after calling this. A TestResult object is generally not expected to handle any events at all after this method has been called.

Some test runners rely on TestResults to use those events to display the results to the user. These runners frequently do not use the result querying part of the interface.

There is one more interface that TestResult implements: the execution control interface:

`stop()`
Signal that the execution of further tests should stop now. Sets `shouldStop` to `True`.
`shouldStop`
If `True`, then test execution should stop. `TestSuite.run()` should monitor this value and stop execution if ever it is `True`.

This interface is mostly used as a way of handling KeyboardInterrupts cleanly.

Summary

If you want your TestResult object to work with standard Python TestCase objects, or any TestCase objects that try to stick close to the standard, then you must provide the test event handling interface described above. If you are writing your own test framework or test runner, you care about this, because you want to run everyone’s unit tests.

If you want your TestResult object to work with the standard Python test runner before Python 2.7, then you must provide the result querying interface. If you are using the standard Python test runner, you care about this. For Trial or testtools, you must provide the runner event handling interface. For anything else, I’m afraid you are on your own.

Always provide the execution control interface.

Comments

In this documentation, I’ve been trying to describe the various interfaces without inserting too much of my own opinion about their design. However, I think some commentary might actually help to make things easier to understand.

By providing a querying interface for TestResult to be used by a test runner, the original designers of unittest practically insisted that responsibility for displaying the results of a test run be split between two different classes. The TestResult takes care of displaying incremental feedback from the running tests and the test runner takes care of displaying the summary. You can see evidence of this design in Python 2.6’s unittest.py, where there’s a hidden _TextTestResult subclass which has extra methods that are called only by a special TextTestRunner.

The addition of startTestRun() and stopTestRun() mean that now a TestResult object can be fully in charge of displaying its results. As such, providing a query interface and exposing details like the list of test failures somewhat vestigial.

I’m less happy with this post than the previous one. As such your critique is even more welcome.

Still to come: the interface for test authors and just what is a test runner anyway?

Update: Remove ambiguity in expectedFailures description (see comments). Thanks Aaron.