The Data Charmer Thoughts and notes on software development, databases, and QA

Intro to testscript usage in Go

Notes on testscript usage

I’ve started exploring testscript, which, according to the docs, “provides support for defining filesystem-based tests by creating scripts in a directory”.

It’s an interesting paradigm, because greatly simplifies the testing of compiled applications, rather than functions from the code. I have been searching for a framework that allows writing Go tests for tools without using shell scripts.

The basic functioning requires three steps:

  1. Create a directory (say, testdata) containing one or more *.txt files, which are the testscript tests.
  2. Add import "" to your Go test code.
  3. Write a test function that uses the test files:
func TestFoo(t *testing.T) {
	testscript.Run(t, testscript.Params{
		Dir: "testdata",

The actual test file could be something like the following: (taken from the docs)

# hello world
exec cat hello.text
stdout 'hello world\n'
! stderr .

-- hello.text --
hello world

Several interesting points here should be mentioned.

  • The first one is in the last two lines: you can create a file by indicating a file name delimited by two “--”. The test framework will create the file before executing anything.
  • Second, we can execute commands using exec (unlike the shell exec, it does not end the script).
  • Third, we can state assertions on the outcome of the command. For example “stdout 'hello world\n'” defines the fill text that we expect from running the command. We don’t need to be so literal, though. The keywork stdout accepts regular expressions. I could as well have written “stdout 'hel.*ld'” or “stdout 'h[a-z]+ w[a-z]+'” and it would have succeeded.
  • Fourth, an assertion could also be negated, like in “! stderr .”, which means that we don’t expect the standard error to produce anything.

The testing of a more complex application needs some planning, and it also involves subtle challenges. But for now, I just wanted to point out the existence of this handy testing library. In the next days I will show some examples of how testscript can be used to write powerful tests with a few lines of code, and how I have overcome the first obstacles.

The code used in this post is available in the testscript-explore repository.