C++ Testing Frameworks

I've always rolled my own unit-testing frameworks for C++. I don't like CppUnit, because it is too Java-like and not C++-like. It has always been easier to throw together what I need than to try to figure out someone else's framework. I can throw together the basics in ten minutes, and then evolve the test rig as necessary.

So I'm not really sure why I decided to re-examine off-the-shelf frameworks for my current testing needs. I guess it comes down to a desire to learn something new, and to make sure nobody else is doing something smarter than I am.

After looking around, I settled on the Boost Test Library. What I like most about this library is that it can be used by simply #include-ing a header file; there is no need to build a library and link to it. The Boost Test Library worked out-of-the-box. The only special thing I did was to use a debug output stream so that the output shows up in the Visual C++ output window. The output format makes it possible to double-click a line in the output window and VC++ will open the source file and go to the source line. There is no need for a TestRunner-style GUI.

I also ran across Michael Feathers's CppUnitLite. He created this as a reaction to the bloat of CppUnit. CppUnitLite is intended to be just a simple example of a testing framework, which should be modified and extended as necessary by its users. While I like the idea of using a simple barebones framework and modifying it as needed, CppUnitLite still seems too complex to me.

I think that C++ unit testing is one of those things where an off-the-shelf framework never seems right. I've come to believe that small off-the-shelf frameworks are a bad idea. The smaller the framework, the less it does for you and the easier it would be to roll your own that does the job better. Only really big frameworks (MFC, etc.) provide enough value to justify spending the time to learn them. C++ unit testing is just too easy to justify learning a framework.

But I'll keep using the Boost Test Library for now. I hope I'll learn something in the process. Using an off-the-shelf library might help me to "test-infect" my co-workers.

© 2003-2017 Kristopher Johnson