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proposal: Go 2: prohibit in-package tests from extending a package's API #29258
Currently in-package tests are free to add exported identifiers to the package that they are testing.
This makes tooling harder, because any given package can have several possible variants,
Consider the following example:
It's as if tests exist in a closely related but different version of the universe in which every package might not be quite the same as its usual version. And that version is potentially different for every package.
This "parallel universe" property of testing makes Go types harder to reason about and the Go tooling less efficient, because it's not possible to type-check a package once and for all in the general case.
Where does this problem come from?
Currently in Go, test code can be internal to a package, extending that package for the duration of the test and allowing the test code access to unexported identifiers within the package, or it can be external, with access to exported identifiers only. A hybrid approach is also possible, where tests are largely external, but some package-internal test code, often in an
It's the final case that is problematic, because external test code is free to depend on other packages which themselves depend on the package being tested which has been extended with extra test code.
All three approaches are common in existing Go code.
I believe that any solution to this issue should continue to support almost all existing code (including the possibility of automatic code migration with
I propose that it should not be possible to write tests in the same package as that being tested. That is, all tests must be in the external test package (e.g.
A test file can use a special form of import statement to request access to unexported identifiers from the package being tested. If they use this special form, code within that file (only) may access unexported identifiers within the package without compiler errors.
A possible (straw man) spelling for the syntax is:
That is, import the package in the current directory.
This form is currently invalid because relative import paths are not allowed, and "." is not a valid package name by itself, so wouldn't overlap with existing import path syntax. As there is only one package that can be imported in this way, there is no ambiguity problem. It also satisfies issue 29036, as the imported package name can be automatically derived from the current file's package identifier by stripping the
Another possibility might be to add an extra keyword, recognized only within an import block; for example:
Whatever the form for the special import syntax, this solution seems to solve the initial problem. It allows both all-internal tests (always use
I believe that it should also be possible to automatically convert almost all existing code to the new rules. Some care would need to be taken to rename symbols that appear in both internal and external test code, but that's not an hard issue to solve. Perhaps that issue is rare enough that manual intervention could be required. More investigation is needed to see how common it is.
As an example, some test code that exposes selected functionality to external tests might look like this:
Other possible solutions
We could disallow all tests that rely on direct access to unexported identifiers i.e. allow external tests only. This is an attractive option for some, but the change would be very disruptive for much code. I do not believe that it would be possible to migrate existing internal tests automatically, so I think this possibility is excluded.
We could continue to allow both internal and external tests, but treat internal test code as being in its own package, with access allowed to the tested package's unexported identifiers (and all symbols from the package available in global scope), but otherwise separate from it. External tests could use some kind of special import syntax (for example
We could prohibit internal test code from defining methods on types defined by the testing package. This solves some of the more obvious problems with the current situation, but the "parallel universe" issue is still present, and tooling probably would not become significantly simpler.
How are tests any different from build tags in general here? If this is a problem, shouldn't we also disallow having different APIs under different sets of build tags? How would
i.e. I agree that you can solve the test-portion of this, but I don't think you ever can get to a point where you have any guarantees of this kind for tooling.
Tests are different from build tags in general because there are no build tags for tests (deliberately).
With a given set of build tags, anything might change, but that's inevitable, given the way that build tags work. The test thing just adds another dimension to that. Even if you do know the set of build tags, you can't precompile a given package.
Consider this: with a given build environment (including tags), it is currently not possible to have a simple map from each package to type-checked information on that package.
With this proposal, that would be possible, making it easier to reason about and write tools that use that information.
I was referring to the lined out problems of the current situations - tooling doesn't know what is and isn't part of the API because it depends on how you call the Go tool. If your tool relies on that knowledge, and that knowledge is principally unavailable because of build tags, how does this proposal actually solve anything? Your tool still won't be able to provide any better correctness guarantees.
APIs defined in test-files can not be used by importers (as you point out,
I honestly don't understand the problem you are trying to solve here. Or rather: I understand the problem and I suffered from it before, but I don't see why tests specifically should be addressed, while I consider the build-tag problems to be far more severe.
(BTW: A way to address the build-tag problem would be to disallow exported declarations in files guarded by build tags. But I'm not totally sure you'd want to)
I'd definitely be in favor of disallowing exported identifiers in test files.
For build tags, I wish that were possible, because it seems like a bad design to have different APIs for different platforms, but at the same time, then you have APIs that essentially lie about what they support for some platforms.
I wish there were a solution for godoc that could merge all APIs for a package and indicate which are platform-specific.
I do like the idea of keeping a package sealed off from testing code, so that the package is the package, and there's none of this kind of wacky thing where when you test, now the package has different code in it. Adding code to the code that you're testing at test time seems like a fantastically bad idea in general. By definition, then you're not actually testing the production code.
At the same time, I find internal tests to be immensely useful in my own work, providing fast, reliable, focused assurances that the code does what I expect it to do without having to change the API to do that testing.
Like Axel, I'm not sure about the real benefit here. It sounds like it's intended to make tooling faster and simpler, which I am all for, but are tests really a problem?
I'd like to hear more about the problem this is solving and what the benefits are.
This proposal still allows you to write tests that access internal package details. I'm not sure what you're driving at here.
There is one exception to this:
FWIW, a case where I actually added exported methods in tests to existing types is convenience helpers for constructing nested data structures. So, for example, I have a binary tree implementation and implement
Lastly: If we don't want to reduce the utility of testing (i.e. still allow accessing internal identifiers), ISTM that this would require a language change - the prohibition of accessing unexported identifiers of foreign packages is part of the language and the compiler would need to both generate the necessary symbols when compiling the package-under-test and know to allow accessing unexported identifiers in certain situations. This would also mean, that we'd have to think about how this affect third-party build tools (e.g. bazel, gb…). It definitely makes this not much of a simplification (quite the opposite). Note, that the current (tooling-only) mechanism to access unexported identifiers from a
Such a map can't be keyed just by (importPath, isTest, buildTags) tuple, because test isn't a bool - it's a vector. It's more like (importPath, packageUnderTest, buildTags) - i.e. each package can have an indefinite number of versions, not just two.
To demonstrate, consider the following module:
Note that Test in c2_test.go and Test in b2_test.go both expect different results.
When run in the example module directory, this prints:
Note that there are three versions of
If I was writing some vet-like tool that relied on type information, this complicates matters; for example, which versions of
That's an interesting example. Effectively a circular import after all. Weird, but makes sense :)
I would argue: The one that is the root of the analysis. I.e. running
Alright, I see how this would simplify one use case for tools :) Still am of the opinion it's not worth the downside of having to either limit testing to exported APIs or having to change the language.
Yes, the compiler would need to generate unexported symbols when the package has tests that use the
And, yes, the compiler would need to know that unexported symbols could be accessed in this particular case, and that is indeed a language change. Personally I think that's better than the current somewhat hacky (and problematic in the larger view of things) situation, but yours is definitely a valid perspective - there is a trade-off here.
I'm not sure. It might well end up simplifying things in those tools too. I wouldn't rush to conclusions here.
Note that it isn't just one use case. It's the way that the whole model works.
Anyone that wants to use the
@rogpeppe This proposal seems to have a few problems:
Tools that work on code (API compatibility checkers, symbol rename) must be go tag (including test tag) aware.
Or you will run into further "problems" like this down the line. Yes, it will be more complicated, and will probably involve significant changes to a parser lexer to handle for many tools. But I think it would be great to handle Rename Symbol across multiple mutually exclusive build tags.
Could you give some concrete examples? I can't think of a single test I've ever interacted with that would break.
It is unique to tests in that the API of the package can change without changing the build configuration — that is, without changing the
@bcmills I must be misunderstanding something then, or there is some background context I'm missing.
The first sentence under "Proposed Solution" says:
I regularly have tests in
This sounds like a definition thing. But in my mind, testing is just another build configuration.
However, the crux of my issue is I think the following is a poor solution:
This shouldn't be necessary for tools to setup in the first place. Secondly, it is possible by defining a test flag as a part of the build environment, though granted it does at least double the number of configurations needed, but certainly possible.
From the sound of it, I'm probably missing a bunch of context. But the premises of this need continues to concern me.
To get an idea of the extent of this issue in a real situation, I looked at a portion of an existing code base to see what the impact of the current scheme is. I looked at the apiserver subdirectory inside github.com/juju/juju.
Inside that directory, there are 121 packages comprising 159317 lines of code in total, of which 54% is testing code. It takes 6m55s for me to run
The duplication count due to internal test packages is quite high. Here's the list of packages and their duplication counts (how many versions of that package are required when building tests): http://paste.ubuntu.com/p/Pg5sggZpTp/
In total there are 172 extra packages. If we multiply the number of lines of code in each package by its duplication count (a crude measure, but perhaps a plausible proxy measure for the extra work done in the compiler), we see that an extra 263730 lines of code are used. If we include that as part of the original count, we get 423047 lines, or 2.65 times the original line count.
This it seems to me that the current scheme may be responsible for a significant amount of extra compilation time on larger projects.
More measurement would be needed to see how much time and/or memory this might actually save, but perhaps it might go some way towards reducing the overall overhead of running tests.
PS I tried the same thing on the whole juju code base. Some of the packages have duplication counts of up to 35 when the whole module is considered, and the total extra package count is 2382 (there are 621 packages in the code base itself).
Not every piece of testing code, but yes, it would require that all internal test code be changed so that identifiers become appropriately package-qualified. With a few relatively rare exceptions (for example the trick that @Merovius uses above), I believe this could be done automatically. It might arguably lead to a net-positive gain in code readability afterwards.
There are solutions that wouldn't require so much churn (for example the second suggestion under "Other possible solutions" in the proposal would only need changes to code that accesses internal test identifiers from external test code), but the model becomes more complex when it could become simpler.
The proposal isn't about code breakage. It's about overall simplification of the Go compilation model.
There's no such thing as a "test tag". Whether you're testing is orthogonal to the current set of tags.
As I hope I've made clear in my replies above, you can't just use a single test flag - the number of configurations can be indefinitely high (which is why we have up to 15 copies of a given package in the real-world example above).
FWIW for duplication during tests the issue isn't only defining new APIs in
It's not 100% clear, but I assume you want to forbid
FWIW, I'm not saying that we should do this, but another way to address all of these issues is to make
Yes, that's the proposal. I thought that should have been clear from: "I propose that it should not be possible to write tests in the same package as that being tested. That is, all tests must be in the external test package (e.g. foo_test to test package foo)."
Yup. Why would it need to?
That's definitely a possibility, but then with the test tag on, all internal test APIs would be exposed to all packages. That makes them part of the public API, which is probably not desirable.
In go/packages, this currently means multiplying the loading and typechecking work most of the time. Not only because of the _test.go files and their extra dependencies, but also because we need to load and typecheck internal test packages. However, most queries are geared towards non-test code, so it's best not to assume that the user wants to include test code. This way, the tool is simpler and faster by default. It's also worth noting that most static analysis tools already skip tests by default. Reduces 'go test' time from ~2.4s to ~0.4s on my laptop. We might want to reconsider the performance cost if golang/go#29258 is implemented, or if gogrep starts being used with a language server.
I agree you are technically correct, there is not "test tag". But currently for the purposes of build caching, the test flag is an input into the cache key. I understand your primary motivation is to change this so tests compile independently of the rest of the package.
Have you done analysis on how allowing a
That's exactly my point. Thank you.
Currently, the number of build configurations can be indefinitely high in the current
So is the problem the various combinations that build tags and the test flag can be combined to get different symbols and
I intend to not argue further on this point, I think my points been made. Thank you for listening, I hope I wasn't too long winded.
I guess the problem is that a build tag applies to a complete call of a tool (you have to provide them in packages.Config), whereas the test-"flag" applies only to specific packages. If you start an analysis (or
That's why I mentioned above that making
One thing that IMO makes this somewhat more confusing is the semantics of the packages-API.
So, ISTM that we could at least document explicitly, that if you want the "every passed package its own analysis" semantics, you should range over the returned slice, whereas if you want the "anything in the transitive closure of dependencies" semantics, you should pass the slice to
 Modifying Rog's example:
Another thing I just thought of.
In the example I gave above, just building all the test binaries without running any tests took a long time (almost 7 minutes). I could imagine that as an optimisation, the Go compiler could potentially build several packages' tests into a single binary to speed up overall build overhead. This would be hard currently with many versions of the same package, but much more straightforward with the proposed scheme, where there's only one package for any given set of build tags.
As a very rough estimation of some potential savings from this approach, we can estimate that the current time-per-test-binary-build is about 14s (6m55s for 121 packages parallelized over 4 processors). if we crudely assume that a single binary takes 12% longer to build (it adds 121 more packages to the 995 packages used by all packages being tested), then the overall build time would drop from 6m55s to ~15s.
I'm sure the saving wouldn't be as great as that, but i suspect it could be considerable
First, this makes the tool way faster, as most developers write tests within the same package. This greatly slows down package loading, as we must load each package twice. If golang/go#29258 is ever accepted and implemented, that cost might be reduced. Second, most warnings within test files are not very useful. Even if most aren't false positives, it's common for developers to not care as much about test code quality. Finally, loading the tests can lead to different results, as test files can also use the functions which may or may not give warnings. More often than not, the developer cares about how non-test functions are used from within non-test code. For all these reasons, disable test loading by default. It can still be enabled manually.
@ainar-g You can still implement
(disclaimer: I don't use