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This project is a simple hack to make CodeIgniter 3.x work seamlessly with PHPUnit. It aims to provide a way to use PHPUnit's standard methodologies for automating tests with CodeIgniter framework, which is notoriously test-unfriendly.

If you are looking for CodeIgniter 2.x support, see branch/tag 2.x.

Start Testing

The files provided here can just be overwritten on top of an existing, vanilla CI application. PHPUnit's phpunit.xml will sit besides your application's index.php, and hacked CI's system/core files should overwrite the vanilla CI ones.

After that, just put your own tests in application/tests folder. Utility classes CITestCase.php and CIDatabaseTestCase.php are provided to be used instead of PHPUnit_Framework_TestCase, but you can use PHPUnit's standard classes as well.

As an example, a unit test for CI's Email helper would be as follows:

class EmailHelperTest extends PHPUnit_Framework_TestCase
    private $CI;
	public static function setUpBeforeClass()
		$CI =& get_instance();
	public function testEmailValidation()

Just use PHPUnit's command line tool at your application root directory:

$> phpunit

How it Works

PHPUnit Config XML

The idea is to use CodeIgniter's own bootstrap file to bootstrap PHPUnit tests, as PHPUnit XML config file allows. So, we'll let CI start its framework as usual, complete with configuration and auto-loading as your application wants. We do this by using a base phpunit.xml:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
<phpunit bootstrap="application/tests/bootstrap.php">
		<testsuite name="TestSuite">
		<const name="PHPUNIT_TEST" value="1" />
		<server name="REMOTE_ADDR" value="" />
			<directory suffix=".php">system</directory>
			<!--directory suffix=".php">application/libraries</directory-->

What this config file is doing:

  1. Telling to use a custom bootstrap file
  2. Telling PHPUnit to look for tests under application/tests
  3. Creating a constant for a PHPUnit runtime test environment, PHPUNIT_TEST. This will be used to hack into CI bootstrap behaviour.
  4. Providing a $_SERVER['REMOTE_ADDR'] default value so CI's security checks won't break.
  5. For code coverage analysis, we're filtering out CI system directory, and optionally your application/libraries directory (if you uncomment that line).

Hacking CI system files

CodeIgniter 3.x needs fewer hacks than its predecessor. There's only a few checks to be made, and our PHPUNIT_TEST config variable is there to help with that.

In fact, if you use Hook: Display Override ($hook['display_override'] in application/config/config.php), there's no need to hack system/core/CodeIgniter.php; and if you don't use PHPUnit's command line arguments, neither system/core/URI.php.

CI will start by autoloading our custom bootstrap file, reading config files, and most importantly, load your default Controller, since it has no routing information (no URI or CLI parameters). This is actually useful, since this is what makes $CI =& get_instance() possible in our tests.



Line 531 changed to:

if ($EXT->call_hook('display_override') === FALSE && !defined('PHPUNIT_TEST'))

Prevent CI from outputting things before our tests.


Lines 109 to 114 changed to:

// If it's a PHPUnit test, ignore all command line arguments
if (defined('PHPUNIT_TEST')) {
    $uri = '';
// If it's a CLI request, ignore the configuration
else if (is_cli())

This extra check for PHPUnit CLI environment makes sure CI ignores phpunit command line arguments not intended to be parsed by CI.

Testing your Controllers

Testing Controllers are not straightfoward as Models, Libraries or Helpers in CodeIgniter, because CI has tightly coupled dependencies with classes like Session, Cookies, Caches and Input. It is beyond scope of this manual to teach how to (re)write CI applications with dependency injection in mind, but if you have testable controllers, you can load them in tests by changing the $CI variable:


class MyTestController extends CITestCase
public function testHome()
	$this->requireController('Home'); // assuming you have a applications/controllers/Home.php
	$CI = new Home();

About Redirects and URL Parameters

When run from the CLI with PHPUnit, your CI application won't have any information about URL parameters. This is means your controller's methods won't have their arguments filled magically by parsing your URL, so you have to pass them as if they're a common method:


class MyTestController extends CITestCase
public function testHomeShowUser()
	$this->requireController('Home'); // assuming you have a applications/controllers/Home.php
	$CI = new Home();

That also implies you shouldn't rely on any URL-based utility method when testing from PHPUnit: base_url(), redirect(), uri_string(), and other functions from URL Helper, since they could either break your test or behave unpredictably. If you need to work around that, make use of helpers like is_cli().

Bootstrap will call your default route once

CI needs to bootstrap itself to be able to run, and since PHP is usually run from a HTTP request, this means CI loads itself up and expects a route to follow, dictated by whatever URL was requested. PHPUnit won't supply that information, so CI will call your default route once, before any test is run. You should take special care of your default route then, because if it isn't testable (doing a redirect, making difficult database queries, etc), it could mean your tests will break before starting. Ideally, your default route should be light and fast.

Tips for Testing

Using provided CITestCase class

The CITestCase file extends PHPUnit's PHPUnit_Framework_TestCase and provides a few common use cases for CodeIgniter tests, most importantly, loading controllers files (since there isn't a URL Router to load them for you).

The example given before would be changed to:


class MyTest extends CITestCase
	public function setUp()
	public function testEmailValidation()

It provides a property $this->CI with the default controller loaded. You can use it just as you'd use $this inside a controller.

Using provided CIDatabaseTestCase class

The CIDatabaseTestCase file extends PHPUnit's PHPUnit_Extensions_Database_TestCase and provides database assertions.

The example given before would be changed to:


class MyDatabaseTest extends CIDatabaseTestCase
	public function setUp()
    public function testContactsQty()
        $qty = $this->CI->contactmodel->getContactsQty();
        $this->assertEquals($qty, $this->db->getRowCount('contacts'));

It provides a property $this->CI with the default controller loaded, and another $this->db as a wrapper to a PHPUnit_Extensions_Database_DB_IDatabaseConnection.

Considerations about this database connection: it uses your application's database config file to initiate a PDO "fixture" from your real database. In other words, it is not a fixture, but a quick way for you to make assertions in your real database. As it is, you must define a setUp() call in your methods, or it will use PHPUnit's default database logic to truncate it after every test.

Make sure you understand PHPUnit's Database Manual completely before you use this database connection, and change it to your needs.

Set $db['default']['db_debug'] to FALSE

If you set $db['default']['db_debug'] = TRUE, every error your test encounters will output database information and end the script. It is better to throw Exceptions and let your test handle it.

Avoid die() and exit()

If you use them, they'll interrupt testing, as they end PHP execution. That's why show_error() and show_404() were changed to throw Exception, which are much easier to test.

Change your environment to 'testing'

In CodeIgniter index.php, you can change the application environment from 'development' to 'production' or 'testing', which primarily avoid error_reporting() outputs from PHP. If you let error_reporting() output, you won't be able to use PHPUnit strict mode, and you'll have a hard time testing your own outputs.

Test show_error() and show_404() using Exceptions

You can benefit from the hacks made at bootstrap.php by making this kind of tests:

 * @expectedException           PHPUnit_Framework_Exception
 * @expectedExceptionCode       403
 * @expectedExceptionMessage    forbidden
public function testCreateNullName()
    // this should call show_error('forbidden', 403)


3.0.2 (2015-10-15):

  • Support for DSN-based database hosts

3.0.1 (2015-06-23):

  • Improved README about Controllers (see #32)

3.0.0 (2015-05-15):

  • CI 3.0.0 is official, so CI3 branch is now master
  • Core folder renamed to mirror vanilla CI
  • Bootstrap tests with fewer hacks
  • Improved utility classes
  • New tests
  • Updated phpunit.xml
  • Updated README

3.0 (2015-02-09):

  • Initial support for CI 3.x.
  • Merged from #22. (Thanks @feryardiant)
  • README changed to reflect 3.x hacks.

2.0 (2015-02-09):

  • Old CI 2.x support will now be called "2.0" version tag.
  • README improvements.

1.4.2 (2014-07-25):

  • README fixes

1.4.1 (2014-07-09):

  • Small fix in autoload filepath

1.4 (2014-07-09):

  • Added a hack to tests\bootstrap.php to autoload controllers inside subfolders (see #8)

1.3 (2014-06-16):

  • Added a hack to URI.php to ignore phpunit command line arguments. (Thanks @ryan5500)

1.2.1 (2014-06-16):

1.2 (2014-01-24):

  • Fixed a critical bug. Previous hack in Utf8.php is fundamental.
  • Reverting changes in phpunit.xml.
  • Reverting changes in README.

1.1 (2014-01-21):

  • Reduced number of system/core file hacks needed (only 1 now)
  • New bootstrap file (hacks into system/core/Common.php)
  • Improved phpunit.xml (creates global $CFG so system/core/Utf8.php doesn't need hacking)
  • Ensured compatibility with CI 2.1.4, probably compatible with all 2.1.x versions
  • Updated README

1.0 (2013-04-03):

  • Initial version
  • Compatible with CI 2.1.3


Hack to make CodeIgniter work with PHPUnit.



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