Choosing a testing system

It’s a first step in starting to create software using Test-Driven Development – deciding on how you want to write the tests.  Having decided that I wanted to give TDD a good ol’ fashioned college try for my next projects (still somewhat under wraps), I found myself faced with a plethora of testing suites for C++ that were – no offense to the authors, effort and massive amount of time that obviously went into them all – not very good.

Being used to the simplicity of writing tests in C# using NUnit, I think I was a bit spoiled.  Having to derive classes from a test class, declare tests in a header then implement them in a source file, manually add tests to a runner, and implement my own main() function to create and run a test suite – and almost every testing system for C++ I looked at required me to do at least one of these – seems like a lot more effort and room for mistake than I wanted in my testing suite.

Noel Llopis gave an excellent run-down of available testing suites for C++ on his blog a while back – it’s a fantastic read and I recommend you look at it if you want a full discussion of the available options.  Having read the article myself I ended up needing to decide between only two suites: cxxtest, and UnitTest++.  The former ended up being the victor of the available suites in Noel’s blog – the latter was written by Noel to fill the absence of a suite he actually wanted to use.  Both implement the kind of easy creation of tests that I’m looking for.

They have their differences though: cxxtest uses Python (or Perl) to create the actual test code, parsing the header files defining the tests to create the implementation of the tests themselves.  This makes the tests easy to write (just a header file), but it requires having Python or Perl installed on the system and setting the project or makefile up to generate and run the tests.
UnitTest++ on the other hand uses macros: the tests are defined in a source file using the TEST(testName) macro, which contains enough magic to turn the test into legal C++ and automatically register it.  Organising tests into fixtures is a little different, as it’s designed to make it easy to create reusable variables without requiring accessors on them, which overall makes them quicker to use than the member variables in cxxtest.

In the end I’ve ended up going with cxxtest, despite the advantages offered by UnitTest++.  My main reasoning behind this is that cxxtest has been seen working on an OSX build server (like ours will be), and as far as I know UnitTest++ may not have been.  If I’m proved wrong, I may end up switching.  But for now, we’re going with cxxtest.

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