Building a Test Executable

What is a Test Executable?

Because you’re testing C code, the first step is to build a test runner executable. This executable will contain all your tests and the Code Under Test and will be linked against the NovaProva library and whatever other libraries your Code Under Test needs. When you want to run all or one of your tests, you run this executable with various arguments.

Setting Up the Makefile

Most C and C++ software is built using the venerable make utility, these days usually the GNU make implementation. While you can use any names you like, the GNU project defines a standard set of target names and their semantics, which you would be advised to stick to. The target check: is what you should be using to both build and run the tests.

Here is a fragment of an example Makefile. It assumes your code to be tested has been built into a local archive library libmycode.a, but it also works if you replace that with an explicit list of separate object files.

NOVAPROVA_CFLAGS= $(shell pkg-config --cflags novaprova)
NOVAPROVA_LIBS= $(shell pkg-config --libs novaprova)


check: testrunner

TEST_SOURCE= mytest.c

testrunner:  $(TEST_OBJS) libmycode.a
        $(LINK.c) -o $@ $(TEST_OBJS) libmycode.a $(NOVAPROVA_LIBS)

NovaProva uses the GNOME pkgconfig system to make it easy to find the right set of compile and link flags.

Note that you only need to compile the test code mytest.c with NOVAPROVA_CFLAGS, and link with the NovaProva library. NovaProva does not use any magical compile options or do any pre-processing of test code or the Code Under Test. All the magic happens at runtime.

However, you should make sure that at least the test code is built with the -g option to include debugging information. NovaProva uses that information to discover tests.

Using GNU Automake

Many C developers prefer to use GNU automake to build their projects. One good reason is that it’s by far the easiest technique to build shared libraries in a cross-platform manner. NovaProva can be used to run tests in an automake-based project too.

First, ensure that your has the following


AC_INIT(15_automake, 1.4)



Note the use of the serial-tests automake option. Recent versions of automake feature a new “parallel tests” feature, which is enabled by default. This feature is complicated to use and provides no benefit at all when used with NovaProva, as NovaProva implements it’s own parallelism and doesn’t need help from automake. The serial-tests option disables the feature. If you’re running with an older version of automake which does not offer the parallel test feature, you do not need to specify the option.

Note also the use of the PKG_CHECK_MODULES autoconf macro. This sets up the variables NOVAPROVA_CFLAGS and NOVAPROVA_LIBS to the correct value for compiling and linking with the NovaProva library.

Next, ensure your contains something like the following.


lib_LIBRARIES=      libmycode.a
libmycode_a_SOURCES=        mycode.c

# Tell automake to build the testrunner on "make check"
check_PROGRAMS=     testrunner
# Tell automake to run the testrunner on "make check"

# List all your test source code here
testrunner_SOURCES= mytest.c
# Compile only test code with -g and the NovaProva flags
# Link testrunner with the Code Under Test and the NovaProva library
testrunner_LDADD= libmycode.a $(NOVAPROVA_LIBS)

Now when you run make check, make will build the Code Under Test, build the test code, link the test runner, and run the test runner.

Main Routine

You do not need to provide a main() routine for the test executable to link. The NovaProva library provides a default main() routine which implements a number of useful command-line options. This section describes the behavior of test executables built with the default main().

Note, you can always write your own main() later, but you probably won’t need to. NovaProva has a hierarchical Fixtures feature which you should probably use instead.

Test Executable Usage

Here is a description of the test executable usage.

./testrunner –list
./testrunner [-j number] [-f format] [test_spec...]
-f format, –format format
Set the format in which test results will be emitted. See Output Formats for a list of available formats.
-j number, –jobs number
Set the maximum number of test jobs which will be run at the same time, to number. The default value is 1, meaning tests will be run serially. A value of 0 is shorthand for one job per online CPU in the system, which is likely to be the most efficient use of the system.
-l, –list
Instead of running any tests, print to stdout the fully qualified names of all the test functions (i.e. leaf test nodes) known to NovaProva, and exit.
The fully qualified name of a test node (i.e. a test, a test source file file, or a directory containing test source files). All the tests at or below the test node will be run. Tests are started in test node traversal order. If no tests are specified, all the tests known to NovaProva will be run.