Python Unit Testing with Pytest

Unit testing is one of the most valueable tools we have as developers to right working code. I have tried out both the inbuilt unittest and third party pytest and no doubt have found pytest to shine. At a glance the two appear to be equal and unittest for me personally has better assertions syntax. However when you start to do some more advanced things like fixtures and mocking then you really pytest shine and when it comes to control of running tests you will have way more at your disposal with pytest.

This article is not meant to compare the two but instead will be focused on highlighting some key features of pytest.

Sample test

Let's look at two very simple test and run them with Pycharm.

from typing import NoReturn

import pytest

def to_str(x: int) -> str:
    return str(x)

def test_to_str() -> None:
    assert to_str(3) == '3'

def raises() -> NoReturn:
    raise SystemExit(1)

def test_raises()  -> None:
    with pytest.raises(SystemExit):

Test Result

For tests to be discovered they have to have the naming convention test_*

PRO TIP: If you want to continually run tests in Pycharm as you make changes you can set the current test run to be run on a delays when you stop coding by toggling with the auto-test icon (refresh icon). The top bar of the test runner has a settings menu item (cog wheel icon) and there you can configure the delay for values between 1 and 10 seconds.

I have pytest set as the default test runner in Pycharm, see screenshot below for setting. Additionally you can run this from the console with the command pytest -q test_file.py

Pycharm set test runner

The tests above are simple functions, alternatively they could have been grouped under a class:

To my delight each test run by pytest in a class gets it's own instance, which is great for isolation. Are you paying attention NUnit?

from typing import NoReturn

import pytest

def to_str(x: int) -> str:
    return str(x)

def raises() -> NoReturn:
    raise SystemExit(1)

class TestSamples:
    def test_to_str(self) -> None:
        assert to_str(3) == '3'

    def test_raises(self) -> None:
        with pytest.raises(SystemExit):

    def test_needsfiles(self, tmpdir):
        assert 0

Test that creates temp files

If you are creates a test that creates temp files or any other scenario that requires a temp folder, pytest has your back, no need to jump through hoops. This can be achieved by using a parameter named tmpdir that will be fulfilled by a fixture to inject a LocalPath to your test.

from py._path.local import LocalPath

def test_create_temp_files(tmpdir: LocalPath):
    assert 0


You can configure your test run to emit the JUnit XML report that can be consumed by many Continuous Integration tools like Jenkins to have a visual report on your tests. This can be achieved by triggering the test run with the junitxml flag and providing output path pytest --junitxml=path

If you requires a human readeable report you can also emit plain text by triggering with the resultlog flag and providing output path pytest --resultlog=path

Assert that an exception is raised

Asserting if an exception has been raised is straightforward with context managers

def test_raises() -> None:
    with pytest.raises(SystemExit):

def test_raises_access_exception() -> None:
    with pytest.raises(SystemExit) as exc_info:

Test logging

It is very common to want to test if you code is logging out as expected, this can be achieved easily with the caplog built in fixture.

import logging
from _pytest.logging import LogCaptureFixture

def get_logger(name: str) -> logging.Logger:
    logger = logging.getLogger(name)
    return logger

def log()-> None:
    logger = get_logger(__name__)
    logger.info('sample log')

def test_logging(caplog: LogCaptureFixture):

The same can be achieved with capsys for writes to sys.stdout and sys.stderr

def test_sys_output(capsys: CaptureFixture):
    print('hello there')
    captured = capsys.readouterr()


This is the big one. To have complete test coverage you will no doubt have to test code that has external dependencies you do not desire in your test or that you cannot control. In that case one way, and best in my opinion in most cases, is to mock the specific dependencies. The mocks can target both attributes and behaviour. This is suprisingly very easy to achieve with pytest using the MonkeyPatch fixture.

This fixture has support for mocking various things such as method calls, properties, dictionaries and environment variables. Here are a few examples:

import functools
import os
from pathlib import Path

import pytest
import requests

from _pytest.monkeypatch import MonkeyPatch

def get_path():
    return Path.home()

# Mock method return value
def test_get_path(monkeypatch: MonkeyPatch):
    def mock_return():
        return Path("/abc")

    monkeypatch.setattr(Path, "home", mock_return)

    x = get_path()
    assert x == Path("/abc")

def get_json(url):
    response = requests.get(url)
    return response.json()

class MockResponse:

    def json():
        return {'Name': 'Chloe'}

# Mock method return object
def test_get_json(monkeypatch: MonkeyPatch):
    def mock_get(*_args, **_kwargs):
        return MockResponse()

    monkeypatch.setattr(requests, 'get', mock_get)

    result = get_json('https://fake')
    assert result['Name'] == 'Chloe'

# Scoping of mock with context manager
# Useful as mocking certain framework aspects may break pytest
def test_patch_scoped(monkeypatch):
    with monkeypatch.context() as m:
        m.setattr(functools, "partial", 10)
        assert functools.partial == 10

def get_environment_variables():
    username = os.getenv("USER")

    if username is None:
        raise OSError("USER environment is not set.")

    return username.lower()

# Mock environment variables
def test_upper_to_lower(monkeypatch: MonkeyPatch):
    monkeypatch.setenv("USER", "TestingUser")
    assert get_environment_variables() == "testinguser"

def test_raise_exception(monkeypatch: MonkeyPatch):
    monkeypatch.delenv("USER", raising=False)

    with pytest.raises(OSError):
        _ = get_environment_variables()

https://docs.pytest.org/en/stable/contents.html https://docs.pytest.org/en/stable/fixture.html https://docs.pytest.org/en/stable/reference.html#std-fixture-doctest_namespace

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Thulani S. Chivandikwa

Thulani S. Chivandikwa

husband, dad, .net developer, tech and tea lover

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