Python testing with doctest and unittest

The problem:

We want to create a function that is able to determine whether a string is a palindrome.

A palindrome is a word that is read the same from front-to-back and from back-to-front.

For instance, the words "noon" and "racecar" are both palindromes.


Reverse the string.

Compare the reversed string to the original string.

Recipe for designing functions:

  1. Give the function a name
  2. Examples
  3. Type Contract
  4. Header
  5. Description
  6. Body
  7. Test

First, we will see the python module doctest which is good for having an up to date documentation.

But using doctest is not recommended for testing a whole program. This is why we will see the python module unittest which is more relevant.

For more about the cons of using doctest: Narrative tests are lousy tests and Tests are code and doctests are not.

Create the file

#! /usr/bin/python2.7

def is_palindrome(s):
    """(str) -> bool

    Return True if and only if s is a palindrome.

    >>> is_palindrome('noon')
    >>> is_palindrome('racecar')
    >>> is_palindrome('dented')
    return reverse(s) == s

def reverse(s):
    """(str) -> str

    Return the reversed string.

    >>> reverse('hello')
    >>> reverse('a')
    rev = ''
    # for each character in s, add the character at the beginning of rev.
    for char in s:
        rev = char + rev
    return rev

import doctest

We want to separate the tests from the main program and use the python unittest module.

Create the file

#! /usr/bin/python2.7

import unittest
import palindromes

class TestPalindrome(unittest.TestCase):

    def test_is_palindrome_true(self):
        value = palindromes.is_palindrome('racecar')
        self.assertEquals(value, True)

    def test_is_palindrome_false(self):
        value = palindromes.is_palindrome('dedent')
        self.assertEquals(value, False)

    def test_reverse_normal(self):
        value = palindromes.reverse('hello')
        self.assertEquals(value, 'olleh')

    def test_reverse_error(self):
        list_of_bad_value = [
        for bad_value in list_of_bad_value:

if __name__ == '__main__':

Choosing test cases to test

  • Size: For collections, test with an empty collection, a collection with 1 item, the smallest interesting case, and a collection with several items
  • Dichotomies: Vowels/Non Vowels, even/odd, positive/negative, empty/full, and so on.
  • Boundaries: If the function behaves differently for values near a particular threshold, test at that threshold.
  • Order: If the function behaves differently when the values are in different orders, identify and test each of those orders.



Comments powered by Disqus