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Understanding TextTest Test Suites
A Guide to the Files and Directories
To avoid confusion, here is a quick list of definitions:
  • System Under Test (SUT) – The program that you wish to test. Assumed to be available as an executable file.
  • Test Application (or just Application) – A set of TextTest files corresponding to testing a particular SUT.
  • Test Case – defines a particular way to run the SUT, and the textual output to be expected.
  • Test Suite – a group of Test Cases or (recursively) Test Suites which are in some way related.
The Root Directory
This is the first thing determined by TextTest on being called, and is where in your file system it will start to look for tests. All test files are placed in subdirectories of this directory. It is determined as follows:
  1. If the command line option "-d" has been set, use the value of that.
  2. If not, but the environment variable "TEXTTEST_PATH" is set, use that.
  3. If not, but the environment variable "TEXTTEST_HOME" is set, use that.
  4. If none of the above, use the current working directory.
For normal usage, you should set TEXTTEST_HOME to an appropriate value. It is always set internally by TextTest, however its value is initially determined, so its value may be used in the configuration files that are described below.
It is possible to have multiple roots, as the name TEXTTEST_PATH suggests. TEXTTEST_PATH and TEXTTEST_HOME are essentially aliases of each other, and both can be set in a similar way to PATH, i.e. on POSIX-based systems a colon-separated list can be provided, or on Windows a semicolon-separated list. This means that tests from disparate locations can be loaded into the same TextTest run.
Test Applications
To test a system with TextTest, the first thing to do is to choose a unique identifier to be used as an extension for all files relevant to that application. It does not matter what this is. For the next few paragraphs this variable is indicated by <app>. On Windows, you will probably want to associate this extension with a text editor like notepad or wordpad. The use of file extensions for this purpose is historical: TextTest grew up on UNIX where file extensions do not have the meaning that they do on Windows.
Basic information about an application and how to run it appears in a file called config.<app>, generally referred to as the “config file”. TextTest will look for files with names of this format to determine which applications it will run. It will start looking at the root directory and look in that directory and one level down in the directory structure: this is so that tests for related applications can easily be grouped together in subdirectories of the root directory. When TextTest is started, it will by default look for and use all config files it can find. To tell it to look for just one particular application, specify "-a <app>" on the command line. You can also specify several applications by using a comma-separated list, i.e. "-a <app1>,<app2>"
The Config File for a Test Application
This file basically consists of key, value pairs, where the keys are “properties” with names predefined by TextTest. The full list of these entries is dependent on your configuration module, and is documented here in the form of tables for the default and queuesystem configurations, as well as the personal config file. The file itself has a specific format, which you will need to become familiar with.
The most important of these is the entry "executable" (formerly known as "binary"), which defines the path to the SUT and without which nothing much will happen. This should be an absolute path, although environment variables may be included.
There are a couple of circumstances under which relative paths will be accepted. One is if the same name is also included as a data file using one of the "*_test_path" settings: this allows you to vary the executable used. It can also be the name of a Java class that will be found on the Java class path, provided you set “interpreter” to “java” (below).
The entry “interpreter” allows you to specify a program to use as interpreter for the SUT, in the case that it is a script rather than a binary. To some extent TextTest will try to infer this from the file extension (e.g. set it to “python” if the file ends in “.py”, “java” if it ends in “.jar”), but it is sometimes necessary to specify it explicitly.
It is also possible to have a personalised config file which accepts all the same settings as the normal config file, and will override anything provided there. This is particularly useful for setting things like GUI preferences. On UNIX, provide a file called “.texttest” in your home directory. On Windows, put a file called “.texttest” somewhere, and point the environment variable TEXTTEST_PERSONAL_CONFIG at that location.
Sometimes it can be very useful to share configuration settings between several related applications. In that case you can use the “import_config_file” entry to identify files of the same format whose settings should be included. The file should be found under TEXTTEST_HOME, in the same way as described in the above paragraph for the config files themselves. Such a file doesn't need to have a particular name. It can also be stored in an arbitrary location, see below for a description of how TextTest searches for files.
Test Suites
A Test Suite is a recursive collection of test cases arranged in a particular order. It is defined for a Test Application by a directory in the file system containing a local file called testsuite.<app>. This file is automatically generated by the TextTest GUI so you shouldn't need to edit it directly.
It lists subdirectories in the order in which they should be considered. These subdirectories may correspond to test cases or may themselves be test suites. Its format is briefly documented here. Having found a test application by finding config.<app>, TextTest will then look at testsuite.<app> in the same directory to determine what the full test suite consists of. It will then look, in the order given, at all the subdirectories specified, and where they are themselves test suites, will repeat this process recursively until all specified test cases have been found. Each test suite directory, apart from the top level one, will have the same name as the test suite itself.
Note that testsuite.<app> files are generated and edited automatically when using the static GUI to create test cases or test suites. However, it is also useful to view and edit them by hand: the static GUI will automatically refresh if the elements in the test suite file are re-ordered, and the contents of the Description fields are added as comments to this file.
If you find that managing an explicit order of tests is too much effort, you can set the “auto_sort_test_suites” config file setting to “1”. The order in the testsuite files will then be ignored and all test suites and test cases presented in alphabetical order.
Test Cases
A test case is represented in TextTest by a particular directory in the file system, and the name of the test case is always the same as the name of the directory. Many test applications may share the same test case if desired. Any directory referred to by a "testsuite" file as described above which does not itself contain a testsuite file will be considered to be a test case. "Definition files" may also be placed in the test case directory and tell TextTest how to run the SUT for this test case. The following files will be taken as test definition files:
  • options.<app> - This will be interpreted as command line options to be given to the system under test. They may now also be used in test suites, see section below.
  • input.<app> - This will be redirected to the system under test as standard input.
  • usecase.<app> - The use case recorder will be configured to replay the system under test from this file.
The expected output files from the SUT are also stored in this directory: these will be compared with the actual result for each test run. By default, the standard output of the system under test is redirected to output.<app>, while its standard error is redirected to errors.<app>. Other textual output files can also be collected, and the collection of these can be disabled: look here for details of how.
TextTest assumes that high-level information of interest to it will be logged to one particular result file. This file is indicated by the “log_file” config file entry and defaults to “output” (i.e. the standard output of the SUT). Many different features of TextTest will look here for information to extract of one sort or another.
All of these files are in whatever format is expected or produced by the SUT: TextTest does not itself look at their contents.
Finding and prioritising files in a test suite
By now the idea should be emerging that TextTest follows the principle of "Convention over Configuration", and uses particular names to indicate files for particular purposes. A TextTest test suite therefore consists of such a hierarchical directory structure, where many such files may be found.
There arise many situations where TextTest has to find a particular file in this structure. Files containing environment variable settings (described below), files containing test data, and files containing failure interpretation information all need to be organised in some hierarchical way. The basic idea is that the position a file is stored indicates which tests it should apply to, so that a file in a test suite applies to all tests contained in that test suite.
So if TextTest needs to find a particular file, it will first look in the test, then in the parent test suite, and recursively repeat up to the root test suite. The config file entry "extra_search_directory" can then be used to extend this search path further to look for additional files outside the test structure. As this is a dictionary it can be keyed on the type of file search for, so that different search paths can be provided for different file types. The “default” key can be specified to make the same search path apply to all files. This setting can also apply to the "imported config files" described above, so that they can also be stored outside the given test suite structure.
Using Options Files to set Command-line Options
Any test suite or test case can tell TextTest to pass command-line options to the SUT by providing an options file. This is a file called options.<app>. The contents should just be the options as the SUT understands them on a single line. These options files are found and prioritised via the mechanism described above, and may also contain references to environment variables. All such files are considered and all options found will be set. This means that such files do not override each other: the options provided will be the union of everything found along the way. It is however possible to clear options set higher up: this is done via the syntax {CLEAR ...} as in the config file. For example, if a test suite contains "" with the contents "-foo 1" and a test in it has "" containing "-bar 2", then the application will be run with "-foo 1 -bar 2". It is however possible to override this : the test options file can instead contain
{CLEAR -foo 1} -bar 2 
which will instead cause it to be run with options "-bar 2". It is also possible to simply write "{CLEAR}", in which case all more general options files will be ignored.
For the most part options files will be combined in order, so care is needed in case the SUT is sensitive to the order of the arguments. TextTest will however attempt to insert optional arguments (beginning with "-") before positional arguments as best it can, but it isn't always possible to tell which is which as TextTest has no understanding of what arguments the SUT actually accepts. In the case of "-foo 1", the "1" could be an argument to the "-foo" option or it could be a separate positional argument. TextTest will assume the former in this case.
Using Environment Files to set Environment Variables
Any test suite or test case can tell TextTest to set environment variables by providing an environment file. This is a file called environment.<app> or just environment (it has been found that applications often need to share environment variables). This file is a simple dictionary-style format with the environment variable names as keys and their values as entries: the format is documented briefly here. These environment files are found and prioritised via the mechanism described above: all such files are considered and all variables will be set, although if the same variable is set by several files the most specific one in the hierarchy will of course be chosen.
The values of the variables may themselves contain environment variables: if so, this should be done UNIX-style using $<var_name>.
Using Properties Files to set Java Properties
In Java, environment variables are not used so much and instead applications are generally configured via properties files. You can provide these files in much the same way as environment files described above. This is a file called properties.<app> or just properties. This file has a dictionary-like format, with the section names identifying names of individual properties files, the keys as the names of the properties and the values as entries. Naturally these files are also found and prioritised via the mechanism described above, and settings will be overridden appropriately: it should never be necessary to repeat anything. For example:
This will create a file "" in the sandbox directory (which will be the current working directory when the test runs), containing
prop1 = val1
prop2 = val2
Analysing and updating the test suite directory structure
When a large test suite has been created, you often want to gather information from it, or even update its contents in a predictable way. It is very useful to be able to re-use TextTest's ability to parse and understand the structure while writing your own script in Python to analyse or update in terms of the applications, test suites and test cases.
There is thus a mechanism to plug in arbitrary scripts, which are run with “-s <module_name>.<class_name>”, where <module_name> is some Python module and <class_name> is the name of the script. In order to pass arguments to such scripts, a form with <option>=<value> is used. For example, to call the default.ReplaceText script with appropriate arguments, you would call: -s “default.ReplaceText file=errors old=bad new=good”
TextTest includes several such scripts which have been found to be generally useful, which are listed here. To see how to write your own such scripts, consult the guide to writing your own configuration.
The above example (default.ReplaceText) now has a version available from the static GUI (Replace Text in Files) which will probably be a more convenient way to run it than from the command-line as above. It is a particularly useful way to update lots of results in a predictable way. It is basically a search-and-replace mechanism with the advantage that you can select tests in the normal ways (in the static GUI or via the command line) and the files relevant to the testsuite will be chosen for you. The above example will naturally replace all instances of “bad” with “good” in all “errors” result files.
Transferring tests between different test suites
As another example of the above plugin script mechanism, it is possible to have several different test suites that are based on testing broadly the same application. For example you might have one master test suite with many different possible functionalities, where other projects want to take a part of it to adapt. You can achieve this with the "default.ExportTests" plugin script. This is used as follows: <options> -s “default.ExportTests dest=/path/to/destination/suite”
The tests chosen via <options> will then be copied to an equivalent position in the destination suite. If they existed there already they will not be updated currently.

Last updated: 05 October 2012