cross-platform tool for testing command-line programs (



shelltestrunner tests command-line programs (or arbitrary shell commands.) It reads simple declarative tests specifying a command, some input, and the expected output, and can run them run in parallel, selectively, with a timeout, in color, and/or with differences highlighted. shelltestrunner has been tested on gnu/linux, mac and windows; projects using it include hledger, berp, cblrepo and eddie. shelltestrunner is free software released under GPLv3+.


If your machine's packaging system does not provide an up-to-date shelltestrunner, install it with cabal (and if your packaging system does not provide an up-to-date cabal, get the haskell platform):

$ cabal install shelltestrunner

You should now have the shelltest program in your path.

Release notes

See <>.

Defining tests

Test files, typically named tests/*.test, contain one or more tests consisting of:

  • a one-line command
  • optional standard input (<<<), standard output (>>>) and/or standard error output (>>>2) specifications
  • an exit status (>>>=) specification

Example: here's example.test, a file containing two simple tests:

# 1. let&#39;s test that echo runs. Numbering your tests can be helpful.
>>>= 0

# 2. and now the cat command. On windows, this one should fail.
>>>= 0

Run it with shelltest:

$ shelltest example.test
:t.test:1: [OK]
:t.test:2: [OK]

         Test Cases  Total
 Passed  2           2
 Failed  0           0
 Total   2           2

Test format:

# optional comment
the command to test
zero or more lines of standard input
zero or more lines of expected standard output (or /REGEXP/ added to the previous line)
zero or more lines of expected standard error output (or /REGEXP/ added to the previous line)
  • A /REGEXP/ pattern may be used instead of explicit data. In this case a match anywhere in the output allows the test to pass. The regular expression syntax is regex-tdfa's.
  • EXITCODE is a numeric exit status, eg 0 for a successful exit.
  • You can put ! before a /REGEXP/ or EXITCODE to negate the match.
  • Comment lines beginning with # may be used between tests.

Here are some <!-- more --> real-world project tests to give you ideas.

Running tests

The shelltest program accepts one or more test file or directory paths. A directory means all files below it with the test file suffix (default: .test).

Example: run all tests defined in or below the tests directory with args in their name, up to 8 in parallel, allowing a maximum of 1 second each, showing only failures and the final summary:

$ shelltest tests -- -targs -j8 -o1 --hide

         Test Cases   Total
 Passed  2            2
 Failed  0            0
 Total   2            2

Command-line options:

$ shelltest --help
shelltest 1.2.1


Common flags:
  -a --all              Show all failure output, even if large
  -c --color            Show colored output if your terminal supports it
  -d --diff             Show failures in diff format
  -p --precise          Show failure output precisely (good for whitespace)
  -x --exclude=STR      Exclude test files whose path contains STR
     --execdir          Run tests from within the test file&#39;s directory
     --extension=EXT    Filename suffix of test files (default: .test)
  -w --with=EXECUTABLE  Replace the first word of (unindented) test commands
     --debug            Show debug info, for troubleshooting
     --debug-parse      Show test file parsing info and stop
     --help-format      Display test format help
  -? --help             Display help message
  -V --version          Print version information

     -- TFOPTIONS       Set extra test-framework options like -j/--threads,
                        -t/--select-tests, -o/--timeout, --hide-successes.
                        Use -- --help for a list. Avoid spaces.
  • Test commands normally run within your current directory; --execdir makes them run within the directory where they are defined, instead.

  • -w/--with replaces the first word of all test commands with something else, which can be useful for testing alternate versions of a program. Commands which have been indented by one or more spaces will not be affected by this option.

  • The test-framework library provides additional options which you can specify after -- (note: avoid spaces between flags and values here.) Run shelltest -- --help for a list. Here are some useful ones:

    -j NUMBER        --threads=NUMBER             number of threads to use to run tests
    -o NUMBER        --timeout=NUMBER             how many seconds a test should be run for before giving up, by default
    -t TEST-PATTERN  --select-tests=TEST-PATTERN  only tests that match at least one glob pattern given by an instance of this argument will be run
                     --hide-successes             hide sucessful tests, and only show failures


The released version is on hackage. The latest code (browse, changes) is here:

$ darcs get

Feedback, code, testing, documentation/blogging are most welcome.
Add your experience to the user survey (results).
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Simon Michael wrote and maintains shelltestrunner. John Macfarlane, Bernie Pope and Trygve Laugstøl have contributed code. It relies heavily on Max Bolingbroke's test-framework, other libraries, and of course the Glorious Haskell Compiler. It was inspired by the tests for John Wiegley's ledger.