Unit testing


From Wikipedia:

In computer programming, unit testing is a software testing method by which individual units of source code, sets of one or more computer program modules together with associated control data, usage procedures, and operating procedures, are tested to determine whether they are fit for use. 1

This chapter targets programmers, either ones contributing to SeisComP or adding their extended set of modules / libraries.

Since most of the SeisComP code is written in C++, this chapter focuses on C++ unit tests. For C++, we have evaluated three unit test frameworks:

  • CppUnit

  • Google Test

  • Boost Test

We found that Boost Test is the most appropriate, flexible and easy to understand unit test framework. Another important fact was the availability of Boost Test on all major Linux distributions via their package managers. That SeisComP makes already use of other Boost libraries was the icing on the cake.

So this chapter is about integrating unit tests into SeisComP with the Boost Test library.

Apart from the availability of the Boost test libraries, cmake with version 2.8.0 or greater is also required.


With CMake it is easy to setup arbitrary tests. To make it even easier, we added a shortcut to the CMake macro SC_ADD_LIBRARY. It collects all .cpp files in the directory ${CMAKE_CURRENT_SOURCE_DIR}/test/{libraryname} and creates tests from them.

An example is the SeisComP core library. It is located at src/trunk/lib/seiscomp. Following the above rule, the test files shall be located in src/trunk/lib/seiscomp/test/core/*.cpp. For each found source file, the macro will create a test with the same name and link its executable against the library the tests are built for.


The recommend test file naming is {class}_{function}.cpp.


Compiling and running tests is as easy as running

make test

in the build directory. Thats it.

Test implementation

The following section shows an example of a simple but in many cases sufficient test module. This example can be used as a template for an SeisComP unit test.

#define SEISCOMP_TEST_MODULE [TestModuleName]
#include <seiscomp/unittest/unittests.h>
#include <seiscomp/core/datetime.h>

    Seiscomp::Core::TimeSpan k = 5, l = 7;
    BOOST_CHECK(k + l  == Seiscomp::Core::TimeSpan(12));

BOOST_AUTO_TEST_CASE(dummy_warning) {
    Seiscomp::Core::Time tNegativeUsec(3000, -789);
    BOOST_WARN_EQUAL(tNegativeUsec.seconds(), 3000);
    BOOST_WARN_EQUAL(tNegativeUsec.microseconds(), -789);

That was simple, wasn’t it? For more complex examples and usages, visit the Boost Unit Test Framework documentation 2. Furthermore you have to link your test executable against ${Boost_unit_test_framework_LIBRARY} and seiscomp_unittest. A simple CMakeLists.txt file looks as follows:

ADD_EXECUTABLE(test_mylib_myfeature feature.cpp)
SC_LINK_LIBRARIES_INTERNAL(test_mylib_myfeature unittest)
SC_LINK_LIBRARIES(test_mylib_myfeature ${Boost_unit_test_framework_LIBRARY})

    NAME test_mylib_myfeature
    COMMAND test_mylib_myfeature

Warning levels

In Boost Test there are 3 different levels to handle the results.

  • Warning: WARN 3 The error is printed and the error counter is not increased. The test execution will not be interrupted and will continue to execute other test cases.

  • Error: CHECK The error is printed and the error counter is increased. The test execution will not be interrupted and will continue to execute other test cases.

  • Fatal error: REQUIRE The error is printed and the error counter is increased. The test execution will be aborted.



what it do (short info)


return value

BOOST_<LEVEL>_EQUAL(left, right)

left == right


true or false


predicate is true

BOOST_<LEVEL>(4+5 == 3+3+3)

if false, both results show

BOOST_<LEVEL>_EXCEPTION(expression, exception, predicate)

is exception equal to throw exception of expression

BOOST_<LEVEL>_EXCEPTION(myVector(-5), out_of_range, true)

if false, show the exactly


BOOST_<LEVEL>_CLOSE(left, right, tolerance)

(left - right) <= tolerance tolerance in percentage

BOOST_<LEVEL>_CLOSE(5.3, 5.29,0.1)

if false, the exactly

tolerance is show

BOOST_<LEVEL>_LT(left, right)

left < right


true or false

BOOST_<LEVEL>_GT(left, right)

left > right


true or false

BOOST_<LEVEL>_GE(left, right)

left >= right


true or false

BOOST_<LEVEL>_LE(left, right)

left <= right


true or false

BOOST_<LEVEL>_NE(left, right)

left != right


true or false


increasing error counter and show message

BOOST_ERROR(“There was a problem”)



show message

BOOST_TEST_MESSAGE(“Your ad can be placed here”)



perform an exception perception check


true or false

For more tools and information about the Boost unit test tools see 5.

Test output

The test binary will exit with an error code of 0 if no errors were detected and the tests finished successfully. Any other result code represents failed tests.

An example output looks like this:

Running tests...
Test project /home/sysop/seiscomp/build
    Start 1: stringtoxml
1/4 Test #1: stringtoxml ......................***Failed    0.03 sec
    Start 2: datetime_time
2/4 Test #2: datetime_time ....................   Passed    0.03 sec
    Start 3: xml_test
3/4 Test #3: xml_test .........................   Passed    0.03 sec
    Start 4: datetime_timespan
4/4 Test #4: datetime_timespan ................   Passed    0.03 sec

75% tests passed, 1 tests failed out of 4

Total Test time (real) =   0.17 sec

The following tests FAILED:
          1 - stringtoxml (Failed)
Errors while running CTest
Makefile:61: recipe for target 'test' failed
make: *** [test] Error 8



As of Boost version 1.46, it is located at http://www.boost.org/doc/libs/1_46_0/libs/test/doc/html/index.html


to see the warnings use the instruction: boost::unit_test::unit_test_log.set_threshold_level(boost::unit_test::log_warnings);


to see the messages use the instruction: boost::unit_test::unit_test_log.set_threshold_level(boost::unit_test::log_messages);


As of Boost version 1.46, it is located at http://www.boost.org/doc/libs/1_46_0/libs/test/doc/html/utf.html