Introduction to bashunit - unit testing for bash scripts

Today I will talk about bashunit - a unit testing library for bash scripts.

All the posts about bash were building up to this. I wanted to be able to test bash scripts, but having found nothing that makes that practical, I decided to roll my own.

Having created bashcov earlier, I needed to connect the dots between discovering tests, running them, reporting errors in a nice way and measuring coverage at the same time. I also wanted to avoid having to source bashunit from test scripts, to avoid complexity related to having two moving parts, the tests and the program running them. I settled on the following design.

bashunit is a standalone bash script. It can enumerate tests by looking for files ending with In isolation, it sources each one and discovers functions starting with test_. In further isolation, it calls each test function, having established tracing in order to compute coverage. All output from the test function is redirected. On success only test function names and test file names are printed. On failure the subset of the trace related to the test function is displayed, as is any output that was collected.

The ultimate success of failure is returned with the exit code, making bashunit suitable for embedding into a larger build process.

In addition, since coverage is enlightening, similar to bashcov the collected coverage data is used to create an annotated script with the extension .coverage, corresponding to each sourced program that was executed through testing. This data is entirely human readable and is meant to pinpoint gaps in testing or unexpected code flow due to the complexity in bash itself.

Let's look at a simple example. We will be working with a pair of files, one called, housing our production code, and another one called, with our unit tests.

Let's look at first

hello_world() {
    echo "Hello, World"

if [ "${0##*/}" = ]; then

When executed, the script prints Hello World. When sourced id defines the hello_world function and does nothing else. Simple enough. Let's look at our unit tests.



test_hello_world() {
    hello_world | grep -qFx 'Hello World'

In the UNIX tradition, we use grep to match the output of the hello_world function. The arguments to grep are -q for --quiet, to avoid printing the matching output, -F for --fixed-strings to avoid using regular expressions and finally -x for --line-regexp to consider matches only matching entire lines (avoids matching a substring by accident).

Running bashunit in the same directory yields this the following output:

bashunit: sourcing
bashunit: calling test_hello_world
bashunit: calling test_hello_world resulted in exit code 1
bashunit: trace of execution of test_hello_world
bashunit:    ++ .
bashunit:    + hello_world
bashunit:    + grep -qFx 'Hello World'

What is that? Our tests have failed. Well, I made them to, if you look carefully the example code has a comma between Hello and World, while test the code does not.

Correcting that discrepancy produces the following output:

bashunit: sourcing
bashunit: calling test_hello_world

The exit status is zero, indicating that our tests have passed. In addition to this, we have coverage analysis in the file, it looks like this:

  -: #!/bin/bash
  -: hello_world() {
  1:    echo "Hello, World"
  -: }
  1: if [ "${0##*/}" = ]; then
  -:     hello_world
  -: fi

The two 1s indicate that the corresponding line was executed one time. If you add loops or write multiple tests for a single function you will see that number increment accordingly.

Interestingly, not only test functions are executed, the guard at the bottom, where we either execute hello_world or do nothing more is also executed. This is done when the script is sourced by bashunit.

Much more is possible, but this is the initial version of bashunit. It requires a bit more modern bash than what is available on MacOS, so if you want to use it, a good Linux distribution is your best bet.

You can find bashunit, bashcov and the example at

You'll only receive email when they publish something new.

More from Zygmunt Krynicki
All posts