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Coverage.py v3.2b1: branch coverage!
» Home : Blog : November 2009
Coverage.py v3.2 beta 1 is available, and it's got a big new feature: branch coverage. It's been a long time coming, but I'm pretty pleased with the results. I'm very interested to hear whether this is useful, and what could be improved.
Coverage.py now supports branch coverage measurement. Where a line in your program could jump to more than one next line, coverage.py tracks which of those destinations are actually visited, and flags lines that haven't visited all of their possible destinations.
In this code, the if on line 2 could branch to either line 3 or line 4. Statement coverage would show all lines of the function as executed. But the if is always true, so line 2 never jumps to line 4. Even though line 4 is executed, coverage.py knows that it was never because of a branch from line 2.
Branch coverage would flag this code as not fully covered because of the missing jump from line 2 to line 4.
How to measure branch coverage
To measure branch coverage, run coverage.py with the --branch flag:
When you report on the results with "coverage report" or "coverage html", the percentage of branch possibilities taken will be included in the percentage covered total for each file. The coverage percentage for a file is the actual executions divided by the execution opportunities. Each line in the file is an execution opportunity, as is each branch destination.
Currently, only HTML reports give information about which lines had missing branches. Lines that were missing some branches are shown in yellow, with an annotation at the far right showing branch destination line numbers that were not exercised.
How it works
When measuring branches, coverage.py collects pairs of line numbers, a source and destination for each transition from one line to another. Static analysis of the compiled bytecode provides a list of possible transitions. Comparing the measured to the possible indicates missing branches.
The idea of tracking how lines follow each other was from C. Titus Brown. Thanks, Titus!
Some Python constructs are difficult to measure properly. For example, an infinite loop will be marked as partially executed:
Because the loop never terminates naturally (jumping from line 1 to 6), coverage.py thinks the branch is partially executed.
Currently, if you exclude code from coverage testing, a branch into that code will still be considered executable, and may result in the branch being flagged.
A few other unexpected cases are described in branches.html, which also shows how partial branches are displayed in the HTML report.
The only way currently to initiate branch coverage is with the command-line interface. In particular, the nose coverage plugin has no way to use it.
One interesting side effect of tracking line transitions: we know where some exceptions happened because a transition happens that wasn't predicted by the static analysis. Currently, I'm not doing anything with this information. Any ideas?