With Emacs 24 comes many changes, and one of the coolest changes is the addition of ERT, the Emacs Regression Test framework.

There are other ways of running tests on your Emacs Lisp code, but many of them were lacking for one reason or another. Mostly, error reporting was a problem, but ERT handles that excellently. ERT does have some warts, but it provides a great base for writing tests. Plus, it is now in Emacs proper, so it is basically the standard way to write tests now.

Acquiring and Set Up

I hope you are using Emacs 24. I have been using it for months, and I have not had problems with it. If you do have Emacs 24, then you already have ERT installed.

However, you may still be on a different version of Emacs. If so, you can acquire ERT from its old github page. Download these files and ensure that they are located somewhere in your load-path.

Either way, assuming you now have ERT, wherever you want to use it, include

(require 'ert)

to get Emacs to load it. You can include this in your .emacs, for example.

Getting Started

A basic test that shows the components to a test:

(ert-deftest my-first-project-test ()
  :tags '(my-first-project)
  (message "first test is running"))

Evaluate this and run it via M-x ert-run-tests-interactively. Enter (tag my-first-project) at the prompt, and press return. This will run the tests that are tagged with my-first-project.

Lets edit this test to include something the we should actually test.

(ert-deftest my-first-project-test ()
  :tags '(my-first-project)
  (should (equal (+ 1 1)

Here, we introduce the (should) macro. Whatever is returned via the forms within that macro should be non-nil. Otherwise, the test will fail and raise an error.

There are a few other should macros for you to use:

  • should-not raises an error if the forms do not return nil.
  • should-error is useful for testing that something does raise an erorr when we want it to. should-error also accepts a :type argument which allows us to be specific about the error.

Basically, that’s it. Ert comes with an info file that has more specifics about what is going on, but this is enough to get you started writing tests for your Emacs Lisp code.