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Python expectaton library

pyexpect: Minimal but very flexible implementation of the expect pattern

The whole point of the expect pattern is to allow concise assertions that generate predictable and good error messages.

Best viewed in an example (here from pytest)

___ test_equals ______________________________________________________

def test_equals():
>       expect(foo).to_equal(bar) # many variant spellings, see source
E       AssertionError: Expect 3 to equal 4

___ test_equals_shorthand ____________________________________________

def test_equals_shorthand():
>       expect(foo) == bar # if you like the pyexpect way better
E       AssertionError: Expect 3 to equal 4

=== 2 failed in 0.06 seconds =========================================


Line noise is reduced as much as possible, so the error message is displayed as near to the problematic code as possible. No stack traces to dig through, clear and consistent error messages that tell you what went wrong. Thats how assertions should work.

Why should I use expect() over self.assert*?

Lets start with an example:

self.assertEquals('foo', 'bar')


In this assertion it is not possible to see which of the arguments is the expected and which is the actual value. While this ordering is mostly internally consistent between the different assertions within the unittest package, it is certainly not consistent in how people use this package. This becomes even more unnerving if you switch unit test packages, teams and languages.

The problem here is that the API has not way of knowing which of the two arguments is the expected value, and thus that information cannot be used in the error message.

Consider this unittest.TestCase example:

======================================================================
FAIL: test_equals (__main__.ExpectedActualConfusionTest)
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "<ipython-input-4-a19c8d7db4a9>", line 6, in test_equals
self.assertEqual(sorted(unsorted), [1,2,3,5])
AssertionError: Lists differ: [1, 2, 3, 5, 8] != [1, 2, 3, 5]

First list contains 1 additional elements.
First extra element 4:
8

- [1, 2, 3, 5, 8]
?            ---
+ [1, 2, 3, 5]


Thats quite a nice error message - but you have to read and understand the unit test quite deeply, to unnderstand which of those values is the expected and which the actual value. (To add insult to injury, there are testing frameworks out there who print the second argument first, giving you even more rope to hang yourself trying to read the output.)

If you are as annoyed by this as I am, allow me to introduce you to the expect pattern. An assertion like this:

expect('foo').to.equal('bar')
expect('foo').equals('bar')
expect('foo') == 'bar'


Makes it absolutely plain what is the expected and what is the actual value. No confusion possible. Also the error messages are designed to map cleanly back to the source code:

Expect 'foo' to equal 'bar'.


Thus the mapping from the error message is immediately and completely clear, saving you minutes each time, enhancing your focus, productivity and - most important - your enjoyment when working with unit tests.

As a bonus all these exceptions are not coupled to any TestCase class so you can easily reuse them anywhere in your code to formalize expectations that your code has about some internal state. Sometimes called 'Design by Contract' or 'Fail Fast' programming. Oh and these expectations are generally shorter, so you even have less to type while getting clearer and more to the point assertions into your tests. Almost like having a cake and eating it too!

But I alread gave up on unittest.TestCase and moved on to PyTest

It is quite amazing what kind of error messages pytest can conjure up from just plain python assertions. But there is a problem. Because the API (assert somethingThatResolvesToTrueOrFalse()) has no idea what the test is actually about. This means the error message neccessary easily lacks context.

Consider this test that tries to ensure that a framework outputs a specific type:

import numpy as np
obj = np.int8(3)
def test_bad_error_message():
assert isinstance(obj, int)

# Testing output
____ test_bad_error_message ________________

def test_bad_error_message():
>       assert isinstance(obj, int)
E       assert False
E        +  where False = isinstance(3, int)


Looking at the output - can you figure out what happened?

The repr() of np.int8(3) is 3, which is identicall to that of int(3), which makes this error message ... bad.

The problem is that pytest cannot know what this assertion is actually about. Thus it cannot know that the type of the argument (np.int8) is the information that would be usefull here.

For this reason pyexpect contains a rich set of matchers that generate clear and readable error messages every time.

Also, of course, if you try to use normal assertions outside of pytes tests, you will discover that the python default ouptut from these exceptions sucks quite hard and is completely useless without custom error messages, which is quite verbose to type.

Interesting! So what can it do?

Glad you ask! Here you go:

1. Lots of included matchers: Take a look at the source to see all the assertions you need to get started. From equals over be or is_ and raises till matches - we've got you covered. And not only that, but each matcher has some aliasses so you can use the variant that reads the best in your assertion, or that you are more used to when using multiple unit testing frameworks across language boundaries (python/js anyone?).

Some examples:

expect(True).is_true()
expect(True).is_.true()
expect(True).equals(True)
expect(True).is_.equal(True)
expect(True) == True
expect(raising_calable).raises()
expect(raising_calable).to_raise()


Should an important alias be missing, pull requests are welcome.

2. Ease of use: expect() can be arbitrary chained with whatever you can think of (provided it's a valid python identifier) to give you the cleanest description of your assertion possible:

expect(23).to.equal(23)
expect(23).is_.equal(23)
# or go all out - but just because it works doesn't mean it's sensible
expect(23).to_be_chaned.with_something.that_makes_sense_in\
.your_context.before_it.calls_the.matcher.as_the_last.segment(23)
# Here .segment(23) would be the matcher that is called


Choose whatever makes sense for your specific test to read well so that reading the test later feels natural and transports the meaning of the code as best as possible.

3. Simplicity of extension: In all other python expect implementations I've looked at, at least some aspects of them are way more complicated. Each matcher is a class or something that needs to be registered via a more or less complicated process, arguments are not just straightforward method arguments, not is not supported as a native framework concept...

In contrast in pyexpect if you want to register a new matcher, it's as easy as defining a method and then assigning it to as many instance method names as you want, asserting what you want to assert within and clearly define the error message that is going to be raised:

def falseish(self):
# See expect() source for availeable helpers
self._assert(self._actual == False, "to be falseish")
expect.is_falsish = expect.is_falseish = expect.falsish = expect.falseish = falseish


or class expect(original_expect): def falseish(self): # See expect() source for availeable helpers self._assert(self._actual == False, "to be falseish")

Done!

Also note how the matcher clearly communicates what is important: what it asserts, and what error message it generates. No fluff included™!

Compared this to how you would add matchers to more established packages like sure and ensure - I think pyexpect is simpler - you can either just assign a property on expect or create a local subclass with more methods.

4. Native not support: If you define a matcher, you don't have to define the inverse of it too or do anything special to get it. That means that for every matchers like equals, you automatically get the inverse of that, i.e. not_equals. This inverse can be invoked in a number of ways:

You can just prefix the matcher with not_ like this

expect(foo).not_equals(bar)
expect(some_function).not_to_raise()


You can include not as part of the path before the matcher like this:

expect(foo).not_.to_equal(bar)
expect(foo).not_to.equal(bar)
expect(foo).to_not.equal(bar)
expect(foo).to_not_be.equal(bar)
# or go all out - but just because it works doesn't mean it's sensible
expect(foo).is.just_a_little.not_quite_the_same_as_it.equals(bar)


That is you can include the word not at the beginning, middle or end of an identifier - just ensure to separate it from the identifier by snakecase.

This works for all aliasses of each matcher, so no additional work there.

For more examples, have a look at the testsuite for the matchers.

If you want to add your own matchers, sometimes the inverse doesn't work automatically if you implement your expectations as multiple consecutive checks. In that case the inverse matcher might assert the wrong thing, because the order of the checks doesn't make sense in the inverted case. Should that happen, take a look at expect._assert_if_positive(), expect._assert_if_negative() and expect._is_negative(). Be advised however, that good matchers should need this only very rarely.

5. Great error messages: pyexpect takes great care to ensure every aspect of experiencing an error is as concise and usefull as possible. All error messages have the same format that always starts with what is expected and then is customized by the matcher to pack as much information as possible.

expect(23).not_.to_equal(23)
Expect 23 not to equal 23


If you write your own assertion methods to enhance your unit testing, it's quite easy to get long stack traces because the actuall assertion happens some stack frames down in one of the called matchers.

Consider assertions like this (a little fabricated, ok. But I'm sure you've seen this happen in your projects):

from unittest import TestCase, main
class Test(TestCase):
def assert_equals(self, actual, expected):
self.assertEquals(actual, expected)
def assert_something(self, something):
self.assert_equals(something, 'something')
def test_something(self):
self.assert_something('fnord')
main()


It will give you output like this:

FAIL: test_something (__main__.Test)
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Traceback (most recent call last):
method test_something in test.py at line 11
self.assert_something('fnord')
method assert_something in test.py at line 8
self.assert_equals(something, 'something')
method assert_equals in test.py at line 5
self.assertEquals(actual, expected)
AssertionError: 'fnord' != 'something'


Even in this simple case the actual error is 4 lines removed from the actual error.

Using pyexpect however a test like this:

from pyexpect import expect
def something(self):
self._assert(self._actual == 'something', "to be 'something'")
expect.something = something

from unittest import TestCase, main
class Test(TestCase):
def test_something(self):
expect('fnord').to_be.something()
main()


Gives you this output (standard unittest.main()):

FAIL: test_something (__main__.Test)
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "test_example.py", line 11, in test_something
expect('fnord').to_be.something()
File "/Users/dwt/Code/Projekte/pyexpect/internals.py  # pyexpect_internals_hidden_in_backtraces
raise assertion
AssertionError: Expect 'fnord' to be something


In nosetests:

FAIL: test_example:Test.test_something
mate +11  test_example.py  # test_something
expect('fnord').to_be.something()
mate +150 internals.py  # pyexpect_internals_hidden_in_backtraces
raise assertion
AssertionError: Expect 'fnord' to be something


py.test this is even prettier:

self = <test_example.Test testMethod=test_something>
def test_something(self):
>       expect('fnord').to_be.something()
E       AssertionError: Expect 'fnord' to be something


Notice here, that the actual matcher someting() calls another method _assert to do the actual assertion and compose the error message, but none of this is visible in the stack trace? That is true for any methods you call in the matcher, so call into your api or whatever you need to trigger the assertion and enjoy the readability of the generated error messages.

Another common cause for really hard to read error messages are too long messages. Ever had something like this?

FAIL: test_example (__main__.DemoTest)
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "untitled", line 15, in test_example
self.assertEquals(long_actual, long_expected)
AssertionError: ['foo', 'bar', 'baz', 'quoox', 'quaax', 'quuuxfoo', 'bar', 'baz', 'quoox', 'quaax', 'quuux'] != ['foo', 'bar', 'baz', 'quoox', 'quaax', 'quuux', 'foo', 'bar', 'baz', 'quoox', 'quaax', 'quuux', 'foo', 'bar', 'baz', 'quoox', 'quaax', 'quuux']


Good luck finding where the output of the expected and actual object even are separated, let alone what is different between them.

pyexpect formats long error messages on multiple lines, so you always see where the complaint starts and have a much easier time mentally diffing the two objects:

FAIL: test_example (__main__.DemoTest)
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "test.py", line 16, in test_example
expect(long_actual) == long_expected
File "pyexpect/internals.py", line 17, in pyexpect_internals_hidden_in_backtraces
raise exception
AssertionError: Expect ['foo', 'bar', 'baz', 'quoox', 'quaax', 'quuuxfoo', 'bar', 'baz', 'quoox', 'quaax', 'quuux']

to equal ['foo', 'bar', 'baz', 'quoox', 'quaax', 'quuux', 'foo', 'bar', 'baz', 'quoox', 'quaax', 'quuux', 'foo', 'bar', 'baz', 'quoox', 'quaax', 'quuux']


tl;dr: error messages are much easier to read and there is less fluff in between the error and the cause to distract you. As it should be.

6. Usage outside of unit tests: You can use this package as a standalone assertion package that gives you much more expressive assertions than just using using assert and refined error messages to boot.

Just assert away wherever you need it to get robust code by failing fast:

from pyexpect import expect
def some_method(some_argument):
expect(some_argument).is_.between(3,20)
something(some_argument)


And should you need it, you can switch the assertions from throwing to returning a (bool, string) tuple so you can reuse it in your api.

from pyexpect import expect
def some_api(something):
was_success, explanation = expect.returning(something) == 23
if not was_success: register_error(explanation)


And should you need it, you can override the error messages generated without needing to change the matchers. See expect.with_message() for details.

7. Test coverage: Of course pyexpect has full test coverage ensuring that it does exactly what you expect it to do.

8. Think something could be better in this documentation? Send a pull request. :)

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