Let’s take a look at how 🤗 Transformer models are tested and how you can write new tests and improve the existing ones.

There are 2 test suites in the repository:

  1. tests – tests for the general API

  2. examples – tests primarily for various applications that aren’t part of the API

How transformers are tested¶

  1. Once a PR is submitted it gets tested with 9 CircleCi jobs. Every new commit to that PR gets retested. These jobs are defined in this config file, so that if needed you can reproduce the same environment on your machine.

    These CI jobs don’t run @slow tests.

  2. There are 3 jobs run by github actions:

    • torch hub integration: checks whether torch hub integration works.

    • self-hosted (push): runs fast tests on GPU only on commits on master. It only runs if a commit on master has updated the code in one of the following folders: src, tests, .github (to prevent running on added model cards, notebooks, etc.)

    • self-hosted runner: runs normal and slow tests on GPU in tests and examples:

    RUN_SLOW=1 pytest tests/
    RUN_SLOW=1 pytest examples/

    The results can be observed here.

Running tests¶

Choosing which tests to run¶

This document goes into many details of how tests can be run. If after reading everything, you need even more details you will find them here.

Here are some most useful ways of running tests.

Run all:



make test

Note that the latter is defined as:

python -m pytest -n auto --dist=loadfile -s -v ./tests/

which tells pytest to:

  • run as many test processes as they are CPU cores (which could be too many if you don’t have a ton of RAM!)

  • ensure that all tests from the same file will be run by the same test process

  • do not capture output

  • run in verbose mode

Getting the list of all tests¶

All tests of the test suite:

pytest --collect-only -q

All tests of a given test file:

pytest tests/test_optimization.py --collect-only -q

Run a specific test module¶

To run an individual test module:

pytest tests/test_logging.py

Run specific tests¶

Since unittest is used inside most of the tests, to run specific subtests you need to know the name of the unittest class containing those tests. For example, it could be:

pytest tests/test_optimization.py::OptimizationTest::test_adam_w


  • tests/test_optimization.py - the file with tests

  • OptimizationTest - the name of the class

  • test_adam_w - the name of the specific test function

If the file contains multiple classes, you can choose to run only tests of a given class. For example:

pytest tests/test_optimization.py::OptimizationTest

will run all the tests inside that class.

As mentioned earlier you can see what tests are contained inside the OptimizationTest class by running:

pytest tests/test_optimization.py::OptimizationTest --collect-only -q

You can run tests by keyword expressions.

To run only tests whose name contains adam:

pytest -k adam tests/test_optimization.py

To run all tests except those whose name contains adam:

pytest -k "not adam" tests/test_optimization.py

And you can combine the two patterns in one:

pytest -k "ada and not adam" tests/test_optimization.py

Run only modified tests¶

You can run the tests related to the unstaged files or the current branch (according to Git) by using pytest-picked. This is a great way of quickly testing your changes didn’t break anything, since it won’t run the tests related to files you didn’t touch.

pip install pytest-picked
pytest --picked

All tests will be run from files and folders which are modified, but not yet committed.

Automatically rerun failed tests on source modification¶

pytest-xdist provides a very useful feature of detecting all failed tests, and then waiting for you to modify files and continuously re-rerun those failing tests until they pass while you fix them. So that you don’t need to re start pytest after you made the fix. This is repeated until all tests pass after which again a full run is performed.

pip install pytest-xdist

To enter the mode: pytest -f or pytest --looponfail

File changes are detected by looking at looponfailroots root directories and all of their contents (recursively). If the default for this value does not work for you, you can change it in your project by setting a configuration option in setup.cfg:

looponfailroots = transformers tests

or pytest.ini/tox.ini files:

looponfailroots = transformers tests

This would lead to only looking for file changes in the respective directories, specified relatively to the ini-file’s directory.

pytest-watch is an alternative implementation of this functionality.

Skip a test module¶

If you want to run all test modules, except a few you can exclude them by giving an explicit list of tests to run. For example, to run all except test_modeling_*.py tests:

pytest `ls -1 tests/*py | grep -v test_modeling`

Clearing state¶

CI builds and when isolation is important (against speed), cache should be cleared:

pytest --cache-clear tests

Running tests in parallel¶

As mentioned earlier make test runs tests in parallel via pytest-xdist plugin (-n X argument, e.g. -n 2 to run 2 parallel jobs).

pytest-xdist’s --dist= option allows one to control how the tests are grouped. --dist=loadfile puts the tests located in one file onto the same process.

Since the order of executed tests is different and unpredictable, if running the test suite with pytest-xdist produces failures (meaning we have some undetected coupled tests), use pytest-replay to replay the tests in the same order, which should help with then somehow reducing that failing sequence to a minimum.

Test order and repetition¶

It’s good to repeat the tests several times, in sequence, randomly, or in sets, to detect any potential inter-dependency and state-related bugs (tear down). And the straightforward multiple repetition is just good to detect some problems that get uncovered by randomness of DL.

Repeat tests¶

pip install pytest-flakefinder

And then run every test multiple times (50 by default):

pytest --flake-finder --flake-runs=5 tests/test_failing_test.py


This plugin doesn’t work with -n flag from pytest-xdist.


There is another plugin pytest-repeat, but it doesn’t work with unittest.

Run tests in a random order¶

pip install pytest-random-order

Important: the presence of pytest-random-order will automatically randomize tests, no configuration change or command line options is required.

As explained earlier this allows detection of coupled tests - where one test’s state affects the state of another. When pytest-random-order is installed it will print the random seed it used for that session, e.g:

pytest tests
Using --random-order-bucket=module
Using --random-order-seed=573663

So that if the given particular sequence fails, you can reproduce it by adding that exact seed, e.g.:

pytest --random-order-seed=573663
Using --random-order-bucket=module
Using --random-order-seed=573663

It will only reproduce the exact order if you use the exact same list of tests (or no list at all). Once you start to manually narrowing down the list you can no longer rely on the seed, but have to list them manually in the exact order they failed and tell pytest to not randomize them instead using --random-order-bucket=none, e.g.:

pytest --random-order-bucket=none tests/test_a.py tests/test_c.py tests/test_b.py

To disable the shuffling for all tests:

pytest --random-order-bucket=none

By default --random-order-bucket=module is implied, which will shuffle the files on the module levels. It can also shuffle on class, package, global and none levels. For the complete details please see its documentation.

Another randomization alternative is: pytest-randomly <https://github.com/pytest-dev/pytest-randomly>`__. This module has a very similar functionality/interface, but it doesn’t have the bucket modes available in pytest-random-order. It has the same problem of imposing itself once installed.

Look and feel variations¶


pytest-sugar is a plugin that improves the look-n-feel, adds a progressbar, and show tests that fail and the assert instantly. It gets activated automatically upon installation.

pip install pytest-sugar

To run tests without it, run:

pytest -p no:sugar

or uninstall it.

Report each sub-test name and its progress¶

For a single or a group of tests via pytest (after pip install pytest-pspec):

pytest --pspec tests/test_optimization.py

Instantly shows failed tests¶

pytest-instafail shows failures and errors instantly instead of waiting until the end of test session.

pip install pytest-instafail
pytest --instafail

To GPU or not to GPU¶

On a GPU-enabled setup, to test in CPU-only mode add CUDA_VISIBLE_DEVICES="":

CUDA_VISIBLE_DEVICES="" pytest tests/test_logging.py

or if you have multiple gpus, you can specify which one is to be used by pytest. For example, to use only the second gpu if you have gpus 0 and 1, you can run:

CUDA_VISIBLE_DEVICES="1" pytest tests/test_logging.py

This is handy when you want to run different tasks on different GPUs.

Some tests must be run on CPU-only, others on either CPU or GPU or TPU, yet others on multiple-GPUs. The following skip decorators are used to set the requirements of tests CPU/GPU/TPU-wise:

  • require_torch - this test will run only under torch

  • require_torch_gpu - as require_torch plus requires at least 1 GPU

  • require_torch_multi_gpu - as require_torch plus requires at least 2 GPUs

  • require_torch_non_multi_gpu - as require_torch plus requires 0 or 1 GPUs

  • require_torch_tpu - as require_torch plus requires at least 1 TPU

Let’s depict the GPU requirements in the following table:

n gpus


>= 0


>= 1


>= 2


< 2


For example, here is a test that must be run only when there are 2 or more GPUs available and pytorch is installed:

def test_example_with_multi_gpu():

If a test requires tensorflow use the require_tf decorator. For example:

def test_tf_thing_with_tensorflow():

These decorators can be stacked. For example, if a test is slow and requires at least one GPU under pytorch, here is how to set it up:

def test_example_slow_on_gpu():

Some decorators like @parametrized rewrite test names, therefore @require_* skip decorators have to be listed last for them to work correctly. Here is an example of the correct usage:

def test_integration_foo():

This order problem doesn’t exist with @pytest.mark.parametrize, you can put it first or last and it will still work. But it only works with non-unittests.

Inside tests:

  • How many GPUs are available:

from transformers.testing_utils import get_gpu_count
n_gpu = get_gpu_count() # works with torch and tf

Distributed training¶

pytest can’t deal with distributed training directly. If this is attempted - the sub-processes don’t do the right thing and end up thinking they are pytest and start running the test suite in loops. It works, however, if one spawns a normal process that then spawns off multiple workers and manages the IO pipes.

This is still under development but you can study 2 different tests that perform this successfully:

To jump right into the execution point, search for the execute_subprocess_async function in those tests.

You will need at least 2 GPUs to see these tests in action:

CUDA_VISIBLE_DEVICES="0,1" RUN_SLOW=1 pytest -sv examples/seq2seq/test_finetune_trainer.py \

Output capture¶

During test execution any output sent to stdout and stderr is captured. If a test or a setup method fails, its according captured output will usually be shown along with the failure traceback.

To disable output capturing and to get the stdout and stderr normally, use -s or --capture=no:

pytest -s tests/test_logging.py

To send test results to JUnit format output:

py.test tests --junitxml=result.xml

Color control¶

To have no color (e.g., yellow on white background is not readable):

pytest --color=no tests/test_logging.py

Sending test report to online pastebin service¶

Creating a URL for each test failure:

pytest --pastebin=failed tests/test_logging.py

This will submit test run information to a remote Paste service and provide a URL for each failure. You may select tests as usual or add for example -x if you only want to send one particular failure.

Creating a URL for a whole test session log:

pytest --pastebin=all tests/test_logging.py

Writing tests¶

🤗 transformers tests are based on unittest, but run by pytest, so most of the time features from both systems can be used.

You can read here which features are supported, but the important thing to remember is that most pytest fixtures don’t work. Neither parametrization, but we use the module parameterized that works in a similar way.


Often, there is a need to run the same test multiple times, but with different arguments. It could be done from within the test, but then there is no way of running that test for just one set of arguments.

# test_this1.py
import unittest
from parameterized import parameterized
class TestMathUnitTest(unittest.TestCase):
        ("negative", -1.5, -2.0),
        ("integer", 1, 1.0),
        ("large fraction", 1.6, 1),
    def test_floor(self, name, input, expected):
        assert_equal(math.floor(input), expected)

Now, by default this test will be run 3 times, each time with the last 3 arguments of test_floor being assigned the corresponding arguments in the parameter list.

and you could run just the negative and integer sets of params with:

pytest -k "negative and integer" tests/test_mytest.py

or all but negative sub-tests, with:

pytest -k "not negative" tests/test_mytest.py

Besides using the -k filter that was just mentioned, you can find out the exact name of each sub-test and run any or all of them using their exact names.

pytest test_this1.py --collect-only -q

and it will list:


So now you can run just 2 specific sub-tests:

pytest test_this1.py::TestMathUnitTest::test_floor_0_negative  test_this1.py::TestMathUnitTest::test_floor_1_integer

The module parameterized which is already in the developer dependencies of transformers works for both: unittests and pytest tests.

If, however, the test is not a unittest, you may use pytest.mark.parametrize (or you may see it being used in some existing tests, mostly under examples).

Here is the same example, this time using pytest’s parametrize marker:

# test_this2.py
import pytest
    "name, input, expected",
        ("negative", -1.5, -2.0),
        ("integer", 1, 1.0),
        ("large fraction", 1.6, 1),
def test_floor(name, input, expected):
    assert_equal(math.floor(input), expected)

Same as with parameterized, with pytest.mark.parametrize you can have a fine control over which sub-tests are run, if the -k filter doesn’t do the job. Except, this parametrization function creates a slightly different set of names for the sub-tests. Here is what they look like:

pytest test_this2.py --collect-only -q

and it will list:

test_this2.py::test_floor[large fraction-1.6-1]

So now you can run just the specific test:

pytest test_this2.py::test_floor[negative--1.5--2.0] test_this2.py::test_floor[integer-1-1.0]

as in the previous example.

Files and directories¶

In tests often we need to know where things are relative to the current test file, and it’s not trivial since the test could be invoked from more than one directory or could reside in sub-directories with different depths. A helper class transformers.test_utils.TestCasePlus solves this problem by sorting out all the basic paths and provides easy accessors to them:

  • pathlib objects (all fully resolved):

    • test_file_path - the current test file path, i.e. __file__

    • test_file_dir - the directory containing the current test file

    • tests_dir - the directory of the tests test suite

    • examples_dir - the directory of the examples test suite

    • repo_root_dir - the directory of the repository

    • src_dir - the directory of src (i.e. where the transformers sub-dir resides)

  • stringified paths—same as above but these return paths as strings, rather than pathlib objects:

    • test_file_path_str

    • test_file_dir_str

    • tests_dir_str

    • examples_dir_str

    • repo_root_dir_str

    • src_dir_str

To start using those all you need is to make sure that the test resides in a subclass of transformers.test_utils.TestCasePlus. For example:

from transformers.testing_utils import TestCasePlus
class PathExampleTest(TestCasePlus):
    def test_something_involving_local_locations(self):
        data_dir = self.examples_dir / "seq2seq/test_data/wmt_en_ro"

If you don’t need to manipulated paths via pathlib or you just need a path as a string, you can always invoked str() on the pathlib oboject or use the accessors ending with _str. For example:

from transformers.testing_utils import TestCasePlus
class PathExampleTest(TestCasePlus):
    def test_something_involving_stringified_locations(self):
        examples_dir = self.examples_dir_str

Temporary files and directories¶

Using unique temporary files and directories are essential for parallel test running, so that the tests won’t overwrite each other’s data. Also we want to get the temporary files and directories removed at the end of each test that created them. Therefore, using packages like tempfile, which address these needs is essential.

However, when debugging tests, you need to be able to see what goes into the temporary file or directory and you want to know it’s exact path and not having it randomized on every test re-run.

A helper class transformers.test_utils.TestCasePlus is best used for such purposes. It’s a sub-class of unittest.TestCase, so we can easily inherit from it in the test modules.

Here is an example of its usage:

from transformers.testing_utils import TestCasePlus
class ExamplesTests(TestCasePlus):
    def test_whatever(self):
        tmp_dir = self.get_auto_remove_tmp_dir()

This code creates a unique temporary directory, and sets tmp_dir to its location.

  • Create a unique temporary dir:

def test_whatever(self):
    tmp_dir = self.get_auto_remove_tmp_dir()

tmp_dir will contain the path to the created temporary dir. It will be automatically removed at the end of the test.

  • Create a temporary dir of my choice, ensure it’s empty before the test starts and don’t empty it after the test.

def test_whatever(self):
    tmp_dir = self.get_auto_remove_tmp_dir("./xxx")

This is useful for debug when you want to monitor a specific directory and want to make sure the previous tests didn’t leave any data in there.

  • You can override the default behavior by directly overriding the before and after args, leading to one of the following behaviors:

    • before=True: the temporary dir will always be cleared at the beginning of the test.

    • before=False: if the temporary dir already existed, any existing files will remain there.

    • after=True: the temporary dir will always be deleted at the end of the test.

    • after=False: the temporary dir will always be left intact at the end of the test.


In order to run the equivalent of rm -r safely, only subdirs of the project repository checkout are allowed if an explicit obj:tmp_dir is used, so that by mistake no /tmp or similar important part of the filesystem will get nuked. i.e. please always pass paths that start with ./.


Each test can register multiple temporary directories and they all will get auto-removed, unless requested otherwise.

Skipping tests¶

This is useful when a bug is found and a new test is written, yet the bug is not fixed yet. In order to be able to commit it to the main repository we need make sure it’s skipped during make test.


  • A skip means that you expect your test to pass only if some conditions are met, otherwise pytest should skip running the test altogether. Common examples are skipping windows-only tests on non-windows platforms, or skipping tests that depend on an external resource which is not available at the moment (for example a database).

  • A xfail means that you expect a test to fail for some reason. A common example is a test for a feature not yet implemented, or a bug not yet fixed. When a test passes despite being expected to fail (marked with pytest.mark.xfail), it’s an xpass and will be reported in the test summary.

One of the important differences between the two is that skip doesn’t run the test, and xfail does. So if the code that’s buggy causes some bad state that will affect other tests, do not use xfail.


  • Here is how to skip whole test unconditionally:

@unittest.skip("this bug needs to be fixed")
def test_feature_x():

or via pytest:

@pytest.mark.skip(reason="this bug needs to be fixed")

or the xfail way:

def test_feature_x():
  • Here is how to skip a test based on some internal check inside the test:

def test_feature_x():
    if not has_something():
        pytest.skip("unsupported configuration")

or the whole module:

import pytest
if not pytest.config.getoption("--custom-flag"):
    pytest.skip("--custom-flag is missing, skipping tests", allow_module_level=True)

or the xfail way:

def test_feature_x():
    pytest.xfail("expected to fail until bug XYZ is fixed")
  • Here is how to skip all tests in a module if some import is missing:

docutils = pytest.importorskip("docutils", minversion="0.3")
  • Skip a test based on a condition:

@pytest.mark.skipif(sys.version_info < (3,6), reason="requires python3.6 or higher")
def test_feature_x():


@unittest.skipIf(torch_device == "cpu", "Can't do half precision")
def test_feature_x():

or skip the whole module:

@pytest.mark.skipif(sys.platform == 'win32', reason="does not run on windows")
class TestClass():
    def test_feature_x(self):

More details, example and ways are here.

Slow tests¶

The library of tests is ever-growing, and some of the tests take minutes to run, therefore we can’t afford waiting for an hour for the test suite to complete on CI. Therefore, with some exceptions for essential tests, slow tests should be marked as in the example below:

from transformers.testing_utils import slow
def test_integration_foo():

Once a test is marked as @slow, to run such tests set RUN_SLOW=1 env var, e.g.:

RUN_SLOW=1 pytest tests

Some decorators like @parameterized rewrite test names, therefore @slow and the rest of the skip decorators @require_* have to be listed last for them to work correctly. Here is an example of the correct usage:

def test_integration_foo():

As explained at the beginning of this document, slow tests get to run on a scheduled basis, rather than in PRs CI checks. So it’s possible that some problems will be missed during a PR submission and get merged. Such problems will get caught during the next scheduled CI job. But it also means that it’s important to run the slow tests on your machine before submitting the PR.

Here is a rough decision making mechanism for choosing which tests should be marked as slow:

If the test is focused on one of the library’s internal components (e.g., modeling files, tokenization files, pipelines), then we should run that test in the non-slow test suite. If it’s focused on an other aspect of the library, such as the documentation or the examples, then we should run these tests in the slow test suite. And then, to refine this approach we should have exceptions:

  • All tests that need to download a heavy set of weights or a dataset that is larger than ~50MB (e.g., model or tokenizer integration tests, pipeline integration tests) should be set to slow. If you’re adding a new model, you should create and upload to the hub a tiny version of it (with random weights) for integration tests. This is discussed in the following paragraphs.

  • All tests that need to do a training not specifically optimized to be fast should be set to slow.

  • We can introduce exceptions if some of these should-be-non-slow tests are excruciatingly slow, and set them to @slow. Auto-modeling tests, which save and load large files to disk, are a good example of tests that are marked as @slow.

  • If a test completes under 1 second on CI (including downloads if any) then it should be a normal test regardless.

Collectively, all the non-slow tests need to cover entirely the different internals, while remaining fast. For example, a significant coverage can be achieved by testing with specially created tiny models with random weights. Such models have the very minimal number of layers (e.g., 2), vocab size (e.g., 1000), etc. Then the @slow tests can use large slow models to do qualitative testing. To see the use of these simply look for tiny models with:

grep tiny tests examples

Here is a an example of a script that created the tiny model stas/tiny-wmt19-en-de. You can easily adjust it to your specific model’s architecture.

It’s easy to measure the run-time incorrectly if for example there is an overheard of downloading a huge model, but if you test it locally the downloaded files would be cached and thus the download time not measured. Hence check the execution speed report in CI logs instead (the output of pytest --durations=0 tests).

That report is also useful to find slow outliers that aren’t marked as such, or which need to be re-written to be fast. If you notice that the test suite starts getting slow on CI, the top listing of this report will show the slowest tests.

Testing the stdout/stderr output¶

In order to test functions that write to stdout and/or stderr, the test can access those streams using the pytest’s capsys system. Here is how this is accomplished:

import sys
def print_to_stdout(s): print(s)
def print_to_stderr(s): sys.stderr.write(s)
def test_result_and_stdout(capsys):
    msg = "Hello"
    out, err = capsys.readouterr() # consume the captured output streams
    # optional: if you want to replay the consumed streams:
    # test:
    assert msg in out
    assert msg in err

And, of course, most of the time, stderr will come as a part of an exception, so try/except has to be used in such a case:

def raise_exception(msg): raise ValueError(msg)
def test_something_exception():
    msg = "Not a good value"
    error = ''
    except Exception as e:
        error = str(e)
        assert msg in error, f"{msg} is in the exception:\n{error}"

Another approach to capturing stdout is via contextlib.redirect_stdout:

from io import StringIO
from contextlib import redirect_stdout
def print_to_stdout(s): print(s)
def test_result_and_stdout():
    msg = "Hello"
    buffer = StringIO()
    with redirect_stdout(buffer):
    out = buffer.getvalue()
    # optional: if you want to replay the consumed streams:
    # test:
    assert msg in out

An important potential issue with capturing stdout is that it may contain \r characters that in normal print reset everything that has been printed so far. There is no problem with pytest, but with pytest -s these characters get included in the buffer, so to be able to have the test run with and without -s, you have to make an extra cleanup to the captured output, using re.sub(r'~.*\r', '', buf, 0, re.M).

But, then we have a helper context manager wrapper to automatically take care of it all, regardless of whether it has some \r’s in it or not, so it’s a simple:

from transformers.testing_utils import CaptureStdout
with CaptureStdout() as cs:

Here is a full test example:

from transformers.testing_utils import CaptureStdout
msg = "Secret message\r"
final = "Hello World"
with CaptureStdout() as cs:
    print(msg + final)
assert cs.out == final+"\n", f"captured: {cs.out}, expecting {final}"

If you’d like to capture stderr use the CaptureStderr class instead:

from transformers.testing_utils import CaptureStderr
with CaptureStderr() as cs:

If you need to capture both streams at once, use the parent CaptureStd class:

from transformers.testing_utils import CaptureStd
with CaptureStd() as cs:
print(cs.err, cs.out)

Capturing logger stream¶

If you need to validate the output of a logger, you can use CaptureLogger:

from transformers import logging
from transformers.testing_utils import CaptureLogger

msg = "Testing 1, 2, 3"
logger = logging.get_logger("transformers.models.bart.tokenization_bart")
with CaptureLogger(logger) as cl:
assert cl.out, msg+"\n"

Testing with environment variables¶

If you want to test the impact of environment variables for a specific test you can use a helper decorator transformers.testing_utils.mockenv

from transformers.testing_utils import mockenv
class HfArgumentParserTest(unittest.TestCase):
    def test_env_override(self):
        env_level_str = os.getenv("TRANSFORMERS_VERBOSITY", None)

At times an external program needs to be called, which requires setting PYTHONPATH in os.environ to include multiple local paths. A helper class transformers.test_utils.TestCasePlus comes to help:

from transformers.testing_utils import TestCasePlus
class EnvExampleTest(TestCasePlus):
    def test_external_prog(self):
        env = self.get_env()
        # now call the external program, passing ``env`` to it

Depending on whether the test file was under the tests test suite or examples it’ll correctly set up env[PYTHONPATH] to include one of these two directories, and also the src directory to ensure the testing is done against the current repo, and finally with whatever env[PYTHONPATH] was already set to before the test was called if anything.

This helper method creates a copy of the os.environ object, so the original remains intact.

Getting reproducible results¶

In some situations you may want to remove randomness for your tests. To get identical reproducable results set, you will need to fix the seed:

seed = 42

# python RNG
import random

# pytorch RNGs
import torch
torch.backends.cudnn.deterministic = True
if torch.cuda.is_available(): torch.cuda.manual_seed_all(seed)

# numpy RNG
import numpy as np

# tf RNG

Debugging tests¶

To start a debugger at the point of the warning, do this:

pytest tests/test_logging.py -W error::UserWarning --pdb

Testing Experimental CI Features¶

Testing CI features can be potentially problematic as it can interfere with the normal CI functioning. Therefore if a new CI feature is to be added, it should be done as following.

  1. Create a new dedicated job that tests what needs to be tested

  2. The new job must always succeed so that it gives us a green âś“ (details below).

  3. Let it run for some days to see that a variety of different PR types get to run on it (user fork branches, non-forked branches, branches originating from github.com UI direct file edit, various forced pushes, etc. - there are so many) while monitoring the experimental job’s logs (not the overall job green as it’s purposefully always green)

  4. When it’s clear that everything is solid, then merge the new changes into existing jobs.

That way experiments on CI functionality itself won’t interfere with the normal workflow.

Now how can we make the job always succeed while the new CI feature is being developed?

Some CIs, like TravisCI support ignore-step-failure and will report the overall job as successful, but CircleCI and Github Actions as of this writing don’t support that.

So the following workaround can be used:

  1. set +euo pipefail at the beginning of the run command to suppress most potential failures in the bash script.

  2. the last command must be a success: echo "done" or just true will do

Here is an example:

- run:
    name: run CI experiment
    command: |
        set +euo pipefail
        echo "setting run-all-despite-any-errors-mode"
        echo "but bash continues to run"
        # emulate another failure
        # but the last command must be a success
        echo "during experiment do not remove: reporting success to CI, even if there were failures"

For simple commands you could also do:

cmd_that_may_fail || true

Of course, once satisfied with the results, integrate the experimental step or job with the rest of the normal jobs, while removing set +euo pipefail or any other things you may have added to ensure that the experimental job doesn’t interfere with the normal CI functioning.

This whole process would have been much easier if we only could set something like allow-failure for the experimental step, and let it fail without impacting the overall status of PRs. But as mentioned earlier CircleCI and Github Actions don’t support it at the moment.

You can vote for this feature and see where it is at at these CI-specific threads: