package toplevel_expect_test

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Expectation tests for the OCaml toplevel


Dune Dependency






Allows one to write both toplevel phrases and the expected output from the toplevel in the same file. This provides an easy way to test compilations errors as well as provide a nice alternative to using the toplevel in a terminal.

Published: 20 Nov 2019


Toplevel expectation test


Toplevel_expect_test is a modified OCaml toplevel that captures its output and compares it against an expected one. The primary goal is to test various kind of errors:

  • pre-processing errors,

  • typing errors,

  • compilation errors,

  • runtime errors

Since the toplevel is able to print most things out of the box, this gives an easy way to test the result of an evaluation as well.


Simply write a .ml file containing the same phrases you would write in a toplevel, and wherever you want to check the output write [%%expect]. Then run the tool on the file. It will fill the [%%expect] nodes with the real output and write the result in a .corrected file. For convenience, the tool will output the diff between the original file and the corrected one. You can then copy the .corrected file.

For instance:

$ cat
let x = 1 + 'e'

type t = intt

$ ocaml-expect
@@@@@@@@@@ -1,6 +1,14 @@@@@@@@@@
  let x = 1 + 'e'
+|Line _, characters 12-15:
+|Error: This expression has type char but an expression was expected of type
+|         int

  type t = intt
+|Line _, characters 9-13:
+|Error: Unbound type constructor intt
+|Hint: Did you mean int?

$ cp
$ ocaml-expect && echo success

Warning: be sure to write [%%expect] with 2 percent signs

Note that you can use whatever directives you use in the toplevel: #load, #use, ...


The matching of the toplevel output against the expectation is done using ppx_expect. This mean that you can use the same modifiers such as (glob) or (regexp) in expectations.

Testing the result of an evaluation

ocaml-expect doesn't print the toplevel outcome in case of success. This is because it is often used to test errors. You can change this behavior at any time using the directive #verbose:

#verbose true;;
let x = 6 * 7
val x : int = 42

Dealing with line numbers

By default ocaml-expect hides line numbers in error messages, as they can change often and produce useless diffs. You can enable them using the directive #print_line_numbers:

#print_line_numbers true;;
let x = 1 + 2
Line 2, characters 12-15:
Error: This expression has type char but an expression was expected of type

Sometimes values contains line numbers, either from a ppx rewriter or from some special value such as Pervasives.__LOC__. Whenever the expection before some code capturing the line number changes, the line number will change. This can create annoying differences in a test suite.

There are two ways to make line numbers predictable:

  • write tests sensitive on the location in a file with a single [%%expect] node

  • force the line number with the directive #reset_line_numbers

For instance:

Array.make n 0
- : int array = [|0; 0; 0; 0; 0; 0; 0; 0; 0; 0|]

- : int = 1

Whatever the value of [n] is, the line number of __LINE__ will always be 1.

Producing a structured document

Instead of the normal mode, you can ask the toplevel to produce a structured document containing a list of code blocks with the toplevel response.

This is useful when you want to include some code examples with their output in a document. For that pass the flag -sexp:

$ cat
#verbose true;;

let x = 42
[%%expect {|
val x : int = 42
$ ocaml-expect -sexp
  (((name "")
     (((ocaml_code  "#verbose true;;\
                   \nlet x = 42\
       (toplevel_response  "\
                          \nval x : int = 42\
 (matched false))

You can use the library toplevel_expect_test.types to interpret the output. You can see the types in types/toplevel_expect_test_types.mli.

In addition you can add [@@@part "blah"] attributes in your code to organize it. This gives you an easy way to split the results in different part of the final document.

Building a custom toplevel

You can build a custom toplevel following this example:

$ echo 'Toplevel_expect_test.Main.main ()' >
$ ocamlfind ocamlc -linkpkg -linkall -predicates create_toploop \
    -package toplevel_expect_test -o foo

Dependencies (13)

  1. ppxlib >= "0.9.0" & < "0.14.0"
  2. ocamlfind >= "1.7.2"
  3. ocaml-compiler-libs >= "v0.11.0"
  4. dune >= "1.5.1"
  5. base-threads
  6. toplevel_backend >= "v0.13" & < "v0.14"
  7. ppx_jane >= "v0.13" & < "v0.14"
  8. ppx_inline_test >= "v0.13" & < "v0.14"
  9. ppx_expect >= "v0.13" & < "v0.14"
  10. mlt_parser >= "v0.13" & < "v0.14"
  11. core_kernel >= "v0.13" & < "v0.14"
  12. core >= "v0.13" & < "v0.14"
  13. ocaml >= "4.08.0"

Dev Dependencies


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