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Descartes: A Mutation Engine for PIT

Build Status Coverage Status Maven Central

What is Descartes?

Descartes evaluates the capability of your test suite to detect bugs using extreme mutation testing.

Descartes is a mutation engine plugin for PIT which implements extreme mutation operators as proposed in the paper Will my tests tell me if I break this code?.

Quick start with Maven

To target a Maven project, PIT has to be configured and Descartes should be declared as a dependency and as the mutation engine to use. In the pom.xml file include the following:

<plugin>
  <groupId>org.pitest</groupId>
  <artifactId>pitest-maven</artifactId>
  <version>1.4.0</version>
  <configuration>
    <mutationEngine>descartes</mutationEngine>
  </configuration>
  <dependencies>
    <dependency>
      <groupId>eu.stamp-project</groupId>
      <artifactId>descartes</artifactId>
      <version>1.2.4</version>
    </dependency>
  </dependencies>
</plugin>

Then, execute the regular mutation coverage goal in the folder of the project under test:

cd my-project-under-test
mvn clean package # ensures clean state
mvn org.pitest:pitest-maven:mutationCoverage -DmutationEngine=descartes

For more information and other options, see section "Running Descartes on your project".

Table of contents

How does Descartes work?

Mutation testing

Mutation testing allows you to verify if your test suites can detect possible bugs. Mutation testing does it by introducing small changes or faults into the original program. These modified versions are called mutants. A good test suite should able to kill or detect a mutant. Read more. Traditional mutation testing works at the instruction level, e.g., replacing ">" by "<=", so the number of generated mutants is huge, as the time required to check the entire test suite. That's why the authors of Will my tests tell me if I break this code? proposed an Extreme Mutation strategy, which works at the method level.

Extreme Mutation Testing

In Extreme Mutation testing, the whole logic of a method under test is eliminated. All statements in a void method are removed. In other case the body is replaced by a return statement. With this approach, a smaller number of mutants is generated. Code from the authors can be found in their GitHub repository.

The goal of Descartes is to bring an effective implementation of this kind of mutation operator into the world of PIT and check its performance in real world projects.

Mutation operators

The goal of extreme mutation operators is to replace the body of a method by one simple return instruction or just remove all instructions if is possible. The tool supports the following mutation operators:

void mutation operator

This operator accepts a void method and removes all the instructions on its body. For example, with the following class as input:

class A {

  int field = 3;

  public void Method(int inc) {
    field += 3;
  }

}

the mutation operator will generate:

class A {

  int field = 3;

  public void Method(int inc) { }

}

null mutation operator

This operator accepts a method with a reference return type and replaces all instructions with return null. For example, using the following class as input:

class A {
    public A clone() {
        return new A();
    }
}

this operator will generate:

class A {
    public A clone() {
        return null;
    }
}

empty mutation operator

This is a special operator which targets methods that return arrays. It replaces the entire body with a return statement that produces an empty array of the corresponding type. For example, the following class:

class A {
  public int[] getRange(int count) {
    int[] result = new int[count];
    for(int i=0; i < count; i++) {
      result[i] = i;
    }
    return result;
  }
}

will become:

class A {
  public int[] getRange(int count) {
    return new int[];
  }
}

Constant mutation operator

This operator accepts any method with primitive or String return type. It replaces the method body with a single instruction returning a defined constant. For example, if the integer constant 3 is specified, then for the following class:

class A {
    int field;

    public int getAbsField() {
        if(field >= 0)
            return field;
        return -field;
    }

this operator will generate:

class A {
    int field;

    public int getAbsField() {
        return 3;
    }
}

Stop Methods

Descartes avoids some methods that are generally not interesting and may introduce false positives such as simple getters, simple setters, empty void methods or methods returning constant values, delegation patterns as well as deprecated and compiler generated methods. Those methods are automatically detected by inspecting their code. A complete list of examples can be found here. The exclusion of stop methods can be configured. For more details see section: "Running Descartes on your project".

Descartes Output

PIT reporting extensions work with Descartes and include XML, CSV and HTML format. The HTML format is rather convinient since it also shows the line coverage. Descartes also provides two new reporting extensions:

  • a general reporting extension supporting JSON files. It works also with Gregor, the default mutation engine for PIT. To use just set JSON as report format for PIT.
  • a reporting extension designed for Descartes that generates a JSON file with information about pseudo and partially tested methods. To use just set METHOD as report format for PIT.
  • Descartes can generate a human readable report containing only the list of methods with testing issues by using the ISSUES format.

For more details on how to use and configure these reporting extensions please check section: "Running Descartes on your project".

Running Descartes on your project

Stable releases of Descartes are available from Maven Central.

Installing and building from source

In a terminal clone the repository:

git clone https://github.com/STAMP-project/pitest-descartes.git

switch to the cloned folder:

cd  pitest-descartes

and install Descartes using the regular Apache Maven commands:

mvn install

After installing the package, PIT should be able to find the Descartes mutation engine.

Usage

Descartes is a plugin for PIT so they have to be used together. PIT integrates with majors test and build tools such as Maven, Ant and Gradle.

Maven

Then, configure PIT for the project and specify descartes as the engine inside a mutationEngine tag in the pom.xml file.

<plugin>
  <groupId>org.pitest</groupId>
  <artifactId>pitest-maven</artifactId>
  <version>1.4.0</version>
  <configuration>
    <mutationEngine>descartes</mutationEngine>
  </configuration>
  <dependencies>
    <dependency>
      <groupId>eu.stamp-project</groupId>
      <artifactId>descartes</artifactId>
      <version>1.2.4</version>
    </dependency>
  </dependencies>
</plugin>

With PIT and Descartes configured, just run the regular mutation coverage goal in the folder of the project under test:

cd my-project-under-test
mvn clean package # ensures clean state
mvn org.pitest:pitest-maven:mutationCoverage -DmutationEngine=descartes
Specifying operators

The operators to be used must be specified in the pom.xml. Each operator identifier should be added to the mutators element inside the configuration element. void and null operators are identified by void and null respectively. For the constant mutation operator, the values can be specified using the regular literal notation used in a Java program. For example true, 1, 2L, 3.0f, 4.0, 'a', "literal", represent boolean, int, long, float, double, char, string constants. Negative values and binary, octal and hexadecimal bases for integer constants are also supported as stated by the language specification. In order to specify a byte or short value, a cast-like notation can be used: (short) -1, (byte)0x1A.

The following configuration:

<mutators>
    <mutator>void</mutator>
    <mutator>4</mutator>
    <mutator>"some string"</mutator>
    <mutator>false</mutator>
</mutators>

will instruct the tool to use the void operator and the constant operator will replace the body of every int returning method with return 4; and will use "some string" and false for every string and boolean method. If no operator is specified, the tool will use void and null by default. Which is equivalent to:

<mutators>
    <mutator>void</mutator>
    <mutator>null</mutator>
</mutators>

If no operator is specified Descartes will use the following configuration:

<mutators>
  <mutator>void</mutator>
  <mutator>null</mutator>
  <mutator>true</mutator>
  <mutator>false</mutator>
  <mutator>empty</mutator>
  <mutator>0</mutator>
  <mutator>1</mutator>
  <mutator>(byte)0</mutator>
  <mutator>(byte)1</mutator>
  <mutator>(short)0</mutator>
  <mutator>(short)1</mutator>
  <mutator>0L</mutator>
  <mutator>1L</mutator>
  <mutator>0.0</mutator>
  <mutator>1.0</mutator>
  <mutator>0.0f</mutator>
  <mutator>1.0f</mutator>
  <mutator>'\40'</mutator>
  <mutator>'A'</mutator>
  <mutator>""</mutator>
  <mutator>"A"</mutator>
</mutators>

All the goals defined by the pitest-maven plugin should run in the same way without any issues, see http://pitest.org/quickstart/maven/.

Configuring stop methods

To configure the stop methods under consideration Descartes provide a STOP_METHODS feature. This feature is enabled by default. The parameter exclude can be used to prevent certain methods to be treated as stop methods and bring them back to the analysis. This parameter can take any of the following values:

exclude Method description Example
empty void methods with no instruction. public void m() {}
enum Methods generated by the compiler to support enum types (values and valueOf).
to_string toString methods.
hash_code hashCode methods.
deprecated Methods annotated with @Deprecated or belonging to a class with the same annotation. @Deprecated public void m() {...}
synthetic Methods generated by the compiler.
getter Simple getters. public int getAge() { return this.age; }
setter Simple setters. public void setAge(int value) { this.age = value; }
constant Methods returning a literal constant. public double getPI() { return 3.14; }
delegate Methods implementing simple delegation. public int sum(int[] a, int i, int j) {return this.adder(a, i, j); }
clinit Static class initializers.

So, for example, if we don't want to exclude deprecated methods and mutate them the following snippet should be added under the configuration element:

<features>
  <feature>
  <!-- This will allow descartes to mutate deprecated methods -->
    +STOP_METHODS(except[deprecated])
  </feature>
</features>

More than one group can be excluded at the same time:

<features>
  <feature>
  <!-- This will allow descartes to mutate toString and enum generated methods -->
    +STOP_METHODS(except[to_string] except[enum])
  </feature>
</features>

The feature can be completely disabled:

<features>
  <feature>
  <!--No method is considered as a stop method and therefore all of them will be mutated -->
    -STOP_METHODS()
  </feature>
</features>
Configuring reports

As said before, there are several reporting options provided by Descartes:

  • JSON for a general mutation testing report using that file format. It can be used with Gregor.
  • METHODS that produces a methods.json file with the list of all methods analyzed and categorized according to the mutation testing result.
  • ISSUES a human readable report containing only the methods with testing issues.

They can be configured and combined as regular PIT report formats:

<plugin>
  <groupId>org.pitest</groupId>
  <artifactId>pitest-maven</artifactId>
  <version>1.4.0</version>
  <configuration>
    <outputFormats>
      <value>JSON</value>
      <value>METHODS</value>
      <value>ISSUES</value>
    </outputFormats>
  </configuration>
    <dependencies>
    <dependency>
      <groupId>eu.stamp-project</groupId>
      <artifactId>descartes</artifactId>
      <version>1.2.4</version>
    </dependency>
  </dependencies>
</plugin>

Gradle

Follow the instructions to set up PIT for a project that uses Gradle. In the build.gradle file add the local Maven repository to the buildscript block and set a pitest configuration element inside the same block. In the dependencies block put the artifact information:

pitest 'eu.stamp-project:descartes:1.2.4'

then specify descartes in the mutationEngine option inside the plugin configuration. An example of the final configuration could be:

buildscript {
  repositories {
    mavenCentral()
    mavenLocal()
  }

  configurations.maybeCreate("pitest")

  dependencies {
    classpath 'info.solidsoft.gradle.pitest:gradle-pitest-plugin:1.3.0'
    pitest 'eu.stamp-project:descartes:1.2.4'
  }
}

apply plugin: "info.solidsoft.pitest"

pitest {
  mutationEngine = "descartes"
  pitestVersion = "1.4.0"
}

The pitestVersion property has to be specified to avoid version issues with the default version shipped with the gradle plugin. At last, run the pitest task for the project under test.

gradle pitest

Running from the command line

Descartes can be used when invoking PIT from the command line. To do this, follow the instructions for running PIT, include Descartes in the classpath specification and add --mutationEngine=descartes.

Maven repository

Compiled modules are available from a custom Maven repository. Detailed instructions can be found here.

More...

Performance

A comparison on the number of mutants created and execution time between Descartes and Gregor, the default mutation engine for PITest is available here.

External Links

Articles mentioning Descartes:

License

Descartes is published under LGPL-3.0 (see LICENSE.md for further details).

Funding

Descartes is partially funded by research project STAMP (European Commission - H2020) STAMP - European Commission - H2020