package alcotest-async

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Async-based helpers for Alcotest


Dune Dependency






Async-based helpers for Alcotest

Published: 27 Feb 2023


A lightweight and colourful test framework.

Alcotest exposes a simple interface to perform unit tests. It exposes a simple TESTABLE module type, a check function to assert test predicates and a run function to perform a list of unit -> unit test callbacks.

Alcotest provides a quiet and colorful output where only faulty runs are fully displayed at the end of the run (with the full logs ready to inspect), with a simple (yet expressive) query language to select the tests to run. See the manpage for details.

The API documentation can be found here. For information on contributing to Alcotest, see


A simple example (taken from examples/

Generated by the following test suite specification:

(* Build with `ocamlbuild -pkg alcotest simple.byte` *)

(* A module with functions to test *)
module To_test = struct
  let lowercase = String.lowercase_ascii
  let capitalize = String.capitalize_ascii
  let str_concat = String.concat ""
  let list_concat = List.append

(* The tests *)
let test_lowercase () =
  Alcotest.(check string) "same string" "hello!" (To_test.lowercase "hELLO!")

let test_capitalize () =
  Alcotest.(check string) "same string" "World." (To_test.capitalize "world.")

let test_str_concat () =
  Alcotest.(check string) "same string" "foobar" (To_test.str_concat ["foo"; "bar"])

let test_list_concat () =
  Alcotest.(check (list int)) "same lists" [1; 2; 3] (To_test.list_concat [1] [2; 3])

(* Run it *)
let () =
  let open Alcotest in
  run "Utils" [
      "string-case", [
          test_case "Lower case"     `Quick test_lowercase;
          test_case "Capitalization" `Quick test_capitalize;
      "string-concat", [ test_case "String mashing" `Quick test_str_concat  ];
      "list-concat",   [ test_case "List mashing"   `Slow  test_list_concat ];

The result is a self-contained binary which displays the test results. Use dune exec examples/simple.exe -- --help to see the runtime options.

Here's an example of a of failing test suite:

By default, only the first failing test log is printed to the console (and all test logs are captured on disk). Pass --show-errors to print all error messages.

Using Alcotest with opam and Dune

Add (alcotest :with-test) to the depends stanza of your dune-project file, or "alcotest" {with-test} to your opam file. Use the with-test package variable to declare your tests opam dependencies. Call opam to install them:

$ opam install --deps-only --with-test .

You can then declare your test and link with Alcotest: (test (libraries alcotest …) …), and run your tests:

$ dune runtest

Selecting tests to execute

You can filter which tests to run by supplying a regular expression matching the names of the tests to execute, or by passing a regular expression and a comma-separated list of test numbers (or ranges of test numbers, e.g. 2,4..9):

$ ./simple.native test '.*concat*'
Testing Utils.
[SKIP]     string-case            0   Lower case.
[SKIP]     string-case            1   Capitalization.
[OK]       string-concat          0   String mashing.
[OK]       list-concat            0   List mashing.
The full test results are available in `_build/_tests`.
Test Successful in 0.000s. 2 tests run.

$ ./simple.native test 'string-case' '1..3'
Testing Utils.
[SKIP]     string-case            0   Lower case.
[OK]       string-case            1   Capitalization.
[SKIP]     string-concat          0   String mashing.
[SKIP]     list-concat            0   List mashing.
The full test results are available in `_build/_tests`.
Test Successful in 0.000s. 1 test run.

Note that you cannot filter by test case name (i.e. Lower case or Capitalization), you must filter by test name & number instead.

See the examples directory for more examples.

Quick and Slow tests

In general you should use `Quick tests: tests that are ran on any invocations of the test suite. You should only use `Slow tests for stress tests that are ran only on occasion (typically before a release or after a major change). These slow tests can be suppressed by passing the -q flag on the command line, e.g.:

$ ./test.exe -q # run only the quick tests
$ ./test.exe    # run quick and slow tests

Passing custom options to the tests

In most cases, the base tests are unit -> unit functions. However, it is also possible to pass an extra option to all the test functions by using 'a -> unit, where 'a is the type of the extra parameter.

In order to do this, you need to specify how this extra parameter is read on the command-line, by providing a Cmdliner term for command-line arguments which explains how to parse and serialize values of type 'a (note: do not use positional arguments, only optional arguments are supported).

For instance:

let test_nice i = Alcotest.(check int) "Is it a nice integer?" i 42

let int =
  let doc = "What is your preferred number?" in
  Cmdliner.Arg.(required & opt (some int) None & info ["n"] ~doc ~docv:"NUM")

let () =
  Alcotest.run_with_args "foo" int [
    "all", ["nice", `Quick, test_nice]

Will generate test.exe such that:

$ test.exe test
test.exe: required option -n is missing

$ test.exe test -n 42
Testing foo.
[OK]                all          0   int.


Alcotest provides an Alcotest_lwt module that you could use to wrap Lwt test cases. The basic idea is that instead of providing a test function in the form unit -> unit, you provide one with the type unit -> unit Lwt.t and alcotest-lwt calls for you.

However, there are a couple of extra features:

  • If an async exception occurs, it will cancel your test case for you and fail it (rather than exiting the process).

  • You get given a switch, which will be turned off when the test case finishes (or fails). You can use that to free up any resources.

For instance:

let free () = print_endline "freeing all resources"; Lwt.return ()

let test_lwt switch () =
  Lwt_switch.add_hook (Some switch) free;
  Lwt.async (fun () -> failwith "All is broken");
  Lwt_unix.sleep 10.

let () = @@ "foo" [
    "all", [
      Alcotest_lwt.test_case "one" `Quick test_lwt

Will generate:

$ test.exe
Testing foo.
[ERROR]             all          0   one.
-- all.000 [one.] Failed --
in _build/_tests/all.000.output:
freeing all resources
[failure] All is broken

Comparison with other testing frameworks

The README is pretty clear about that:

Alcotest is the only testing framework using colors!

More seriously, Alcotest is similar to ounit but it fixes a few of the problems found in that library:

  • Alcotest has a nicer output, it is easier to see what failed and what succeeded and to read the log outputs of the failed tests;

  • Alcotest uses combinators to define pretty-printers and comparators between the things to test.

Other nice tools doing different kind of testing also exist:

  • qcheck does random generation and property testing (e.g. Quick Check);

  • crowbar and bun are similar to qcheck, but use compiler-directed randomness, i.e. they take advantage of the AFL support the OCaml compiler;

  • ppx_inline_tests allows to write tests in the same file as your source-code; they will be run only in a special mode of compilation.

Dependencies (9)

  1. async_unix >= "v0.15.0"
  2. async >= "v0.15.0"
  3. alcotest = version
  4. ocaml >= "4.11.0"
  5. async_kernel
  6. base
  7. core_unix >= "v0.15.0" & < "v0.16.0"
  8. core >= "v0.15.0"
  9. dune >= "3.0"

Dev Dependencies (4)

  1. odoc with-doc
  2. cmdliner with-test & >= "1.1.0"
  3. fmt with-test
  4. re with-test




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