CMake/Testing With CTest

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Revision as of 11:45, 16 October 2004 by Andy (talk | contribs) (Cleanup, and add intro/conclusion)
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CTest is a testing tool distributed as a part of CMake. It can be used to automate updating (using CVS for example), configuring, building, testing, performing memory checking, performing coverage, and submitting results to Dart dashboard system. This tutorial will introduce the testing with CTest.

Simple Testing

The easiest way to create CTest input files is using CMake. It has support for adding tests in the project. To do that, insert the following command in the CMakeLists.txt file:


From that point on, you can add tests in the project using ADD_TEST command:


After building the project, you should be able to run CTest on the project.

1. When using Makefile generators, such as Unix Makefiles, Borland Makefiles, or NMake Makefiles, the CTest can simply be run by running:

make test

2. On GUI development environments such as Visual Studio rebuilding the target RUN_TESTS will run tests on the project.

For more information about ENABLE_TESTING and ADD_TEST, Look at CMake Documentation or run:

cmake --help
cmake --help-full
cmake --help-command-list


cmake --help-command ENABLE_TESTING
cmake --help-command ADD_TEST


Testing Dashboards are web pages that display overview of the project testing. The testing clients update, configure, and build the project, as well as run some number of tests. The results of these operations are then submitted to the central server, which prepares the overview pages. Examples of Testing Dashboards are: [ VTK], [ ITK], and [ ParaView].

There are three types of dashboard submissions. Experimental submission is submission of the current state of the project. It can be performed at any time and will appear on the dashboard on the next roll-up. Nightly submission is similar to experimental, except that the extra update will be performed using the last nighty time. This way all nightly dashboard submissions correspond to the state of the project at the same point in time. Finally Continuous submissions are similar to Experimental submissions, except that an update is performed and if any files were modified, the full dashboard testing is performed.

Dashboard Preparation Using CMake

To enable submission to Dart Testing Dashboard, include the following in CMakeLists.txt:


By default the settings will be to submit to Kitware's [ Public Dashboard]. In order to submit to some other dashboard, create file "DartConfig.cmake" in the toplevel source directory and set the dashboard preferences.

Example of this file is:

# Dashboard is opened for submissions for a 24 hour period starting at
# the specified NIGHLY_START_TIME. Time is specified in 24 hour format.

# Dart server to submit results (used by client)
  SET (DROP_LOCATION "/cgi-bin/HTTPUploadDartFile.cgi")
  SET (DROP_LOCATION "/incoming")
  SET (DROP_SITE_USER "ftpuser")


This will submit testing results to the [ VTK dashboard].

CTest - Client for Dart Dashboard Server

CTest started as a simple tool to run some number of tests in the project, but has evolved in the full Dart compatible client. It can perform simple task of running a set of tests but it can also generate and submit Dart compatible Dashboard results. The good thing about CTest is that it is self sustained. All you need to do testing is CTest. Also, if you use CMake, you already have CTest. Detailed description of CTest option can be seen by running:

ctest --help


ctest --help-full

A simple way to submit Experimental dashboard is:

ctest -D Experimental

This will configure project, build project and check for any warnings or errors, run tests if any tests are specified, run coverage if any coverage files are specified, and submit to the specified Dart server.

To convert existing Dart Client run from the project, find lines like:

 cd ProjectNightlyBuildDirectory
 tclsh /location/of/Dart/Source/Client/DashboardManager.tcl DartConfiguration.tcl \
	Nightly Start Update Configure Build Test Submit

and convert them to CTest style:

cd ProjectNightlyBuildDirectory
ctest -D Nightly

Dashboard can be also generated in stages. This way partial testing results can be submitted and seen before long operations are completed:

cd ProjectNightlyBuildDirectory
ctest -D NightlyStart
ctest -D NightlyUpdate
ctest -D NightlyConfigure
ctest -D NightlyBuild
ctest -D NightlySubmit
ctest -D NightlyTest
ctest -D NightlyCoverage
ctest -D NightlySubmit
ctest -D NightlyMemCheck
ctest -D NightlySubmit

Finally CTest extends functionality of Dart by adding:

  1. HTTP submission support
  2. Customization of the testing by providing:
    • Custom build error/warning regular expressions
    • Ability to suppress some tests from being tested or memory checked and ability to run subset of tests
    • Ability to run commands before and after tests are run
  3. Ability to run whole testing process described in a single script

For an example of how CTest can run the whole testing process described in a single script, look at how CMake dashboards are created with the CTest -S script.

More information about CTest can be found in Mastering CMake.


Performing tests on the project is a great software development practice and can result in significant improvement on the quality of the project. CTest provides a simple and reliably way of performing nightly, continuous, and experimental tests.