15 August 2008

Using Google Testing Framework in your Xcode Projects

Google has recently released open source project called the Google Testing Framework (blog post, project site), or gtest for short. This post will explain how you'll be able to use this unit testing framework in your own Mac OS X projects. This tutorial, which is also posted here, begins by quickly explaining what to do for experienced users, then go into depth about each step with additional explanation below. Finally, there is an example project that uses gtest that you can download to get started.

Quick Start

Here is the quick guide for using gtest in your Xcode project.

  • Download the source from the website using this command: svn checkout http://googletest.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/ googletest-read-only
  • Open up the gtest.xcodeproj in the googletest-read-only/xcode/ directory and build the gtest.framework.
  • Create a new "Shell Tool" target in your Xcode project called something like "UnitTests"
  • Add the gtest.framework to your project and add it to the "Link Binary with Libraries" build phase of "UnitTests"
  • Add your unit test source code to the "Compile Sources" build phase of "UnitTests"
  • Edit the "UnitTests" exectable and add an environment variable "DYLD_FRAMEWORK_PATH" with the value of the relative path to the framework containing the gtest.framework.
  • Build and Go

Now, I'll go into depth to each of these steps, describing in more detail how to complete it and mentioning some variations.

Get the Source

Currently, the gtest.framework discussed here isn't available in a tagged release of gtest, it is only available in the trunk. As explained at the gtest svn site, you can get the code from anonymous SVN with this command:

svn checkout http://googletest.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/ googletest-read-only

Alternatively, if you are working with Subversion in your own code base, you can add gtest as an external dependency to your own Subversion repository. By following this approach, everyone that checks out your svn repository will also receive a copy of gtest (a specific version, if you wish) without having to check it out explicitly. This makes the set up of your project simpler and reduces the copied code in the repository.

To use svn:externals, figure out where you would like to have the external source reside. I choose to put the external source inside the trunk, because I want it to be part of the branch when I make a release. However, keeping it outside the trunk in a version-tagged directory called something like third-party/gtest/1.0.1, is another option. Then, use svn propedit svn:externals _directory_ to set the property on a directory that will contain the code. The directory that receives the svn:externals property must already be in the repository.

The command svn propedit will bring up your Subversion editor, making editing the long, (potentially multi-line) property simpler. This same method can be used to out a tagged branch, by using the appropriate URL (e.g. http://googletest.googlecode.com/svn/tags/release-1.0.1). Additionally, the svn:externals property allows the specification of a particular revision with the -r_##_ option (e.g. externals/src/googletest -r60 http://googletest.googlecode.com/svn/trunk).

Here is an example of using the svn:externals properties on the trunk (read via svn propget) of a project. This value checks out a copy of gtest into the trunk/externals/src/googletest/ directory.

[Computer:svn] user$ svn propget svn:externals trunk
externals/src/googletest http://googletest.googlecode.com/svn/trunk

Add the Framework to Your Project

The next step is to add the gtest framework to your own project. I'll describe the two most common ways below.

  • Option 1 — The simplest way to add gtest to your own project, is to open gtest.xcodeproj (found in the xcode/ directory of the gtest trunk) and build the framework manually. Then, add the built framework into your project using the "Add->Existing Framework..." from the context menu or "Project->Add..." from the main menu. The gtest.framework is relocatable and contains the headers and object code that you'll need to make tests. This method requires rebuilding every time you upgrade gtest in your project. How often that is, depends on you.
  • Option 2 — If you are going to be living off the trunk of gtest, incorporating its latest features into your unit tests (or are a gtest developer yourself). You'll want to rebuild the framework every time the source updates. to do this, you'll need to add the gtest.xcodeproj file to you project. Then, from the build products that are revealed by the projects disclosure triangle, you can find the gtest.framework which can be added to your targets (discussed below).

Make a Test Target

To start writing tests, make a new "Shell Tool" target. This target template is available under BSD, Cocoa, or Carbon. Add your unit test source code to the "Compile Sources" build phase of the target.

Next, you'll want to add gtest.framework in two different ways, depending upon which option you chose above.

  • Option 1 — During compilation, Xcode will need to know that you are linking against the gtest.framework. Add the gtest.framework to the "Link Binary with Libraries" build phase of your test target. This will include the gtest headers in your header search path, and will tell the linker where to find the library.
  • Option 2 — If your working out of the trunk, you'll also want to add gtest.framework to your "Link Binary with Libraries" build phase of your test target. In addition, you'll want. to add the gtest.framework as a dependency to your own target. This way, Xcode will make sure that gtest.framework is up to date, every time your build your target. In addition, if you don't share build directories with gtest, you'll have to copy the gtest.framework into your own build products directory using a "Run Script" build phase.

Set Up the Executable Run Environment

Since the unit test executable is a shell tool, it doesn't have a bundle with a Contents/Frameworks directory, in which to place gtest.framework. Instead, the dynamic linker must be told at runtime to search for the framework in another location. This can be accomplished by setting the "DYLD_FRAMEWORK_PATH" environment variable in the "Edit Active Executable ..." Arguments tab, under "Variables to be set in the environment:". The path for this value is the path (relative or absolute) of the directory containing the gtest.framework.

If you haven't set up the DYLD_FRAMEWORK_PATH, correctly, you might get a message like this:

[Session started at 2008-08-15 06:23:57 -0600.]
    dyld: Library not loaded: @loader_path/../Frameworks/gtest.framework/Versions/A/gtest
      Referenced from: /Users/username/Documents/Sandbox/sidelight/svn/trunk/samplecode/gTestExample/build/Debug/WidgetFrameworkTest
      Reason: image not found

To correct this problem, got to the direcotry containing the executable named in "Referenced from:" value in the error message above. Then, with the terminal in this location, find the relative path to the directory containing the gtest.framework. That is the value you'll need to set as the DYLD_FRAMEWORK_PATH.

Build and Go

Now, when you click "Build and Go", the test will be executed. Dumping out something like this:

[Session started at 2008-08-06 06:36:13 -0600.]
[==========] Running 2 tests from 1 test case.
[----------] Global test environment set-up.
[----------] 2 tests from WidgetInitializerTest
[ RUN      ] WidgetInitializerTest.TestConstructor
[       OK ] WidgetInitializerTest.TestConstructor
[ RUN      ] WidgetInitializerTest.TestConversion
[       OK ] WidgetInitializerTest.TestConversion
[----------] Global test environment tear-down
[==========] 2 tests from 1 test case ran.
[  PASSED  ] 2 tests.

The Debugger has exited with status 0.  


I've included an example project in the sidelight project called gtestSample. It is a self contained example (including the svn:externals property) that you can check out using:

svn checkout http://sidelight.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/samplecode/gtestSample  gtestSample

Next, build the gtest.framework included in the externals directory of the gtestSample. The WidgetFramework.xcodeproj builds a simple C++ framework and uses gtest to test its only class. Note: The WidgetFramework.xcodeproj expects the gtest.framework to be built in its own project directory.


Unit testing is a valuable way to ensure your data model stays valid even during rapid development or refactoring. The Google Testing Framework is a great unit testing framework for C and C++ which integrates well with an Xcode development environment.

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