Attribute Hierarchy

jnm2 edited this page Jun 14, 2017 · 3 revisions


This technical note describes the inheritance hierarchy used for attributes in NUnit. It applies to the built-in attributes and may also be used as a guide for where to place custom attributes in the hierarchy. However, use of these attributes as base classes is entirely optional for custom attributes, as all functionality is accessed through the implemented interfaces.

Essentially, we use attribute inheritance to define the "what" of an attribute... that is, what it primarily is and what it primarily is used for. The actual functionality of an attribute is defined by the use of interfaces.

For information on interfaces used by NUnit attributes, see Attribute Interfaces.

Abstract Attribute Classes

The base of the hierarchy is formed by a number of abstract classes. They generally incorporate no code.


All NUnit attributes inherit directly or indirectly from NUnitAttribute. Its only purpose is to allow easy selection of all NUnit attributes on a member. If a custom attribute does not fit under any of the other attribute classes, you may derive it directly from NUnitAttribute.


TestFixtureBuilderAttribute is the base class for any attribute that knows how to build a test fixture of some kind from a provided class. In this context, a test fixture means any test that is based on a user class.

NUnit includes the following attributes derived from TestFixtureBuilderAttribute:

  • TestFixtureAttribute
  • SetUpFixtureAttribute.

Derived classes that build fixtures should implement the IFixtureBuilder interface. TestFixtureBuilderAttribute does not implement this interface itself since future versions of NUnit may introduce additional interfaces that build fixtures. Therefore, the choice of interface is left to the derived class.


TestCaseBuilderAttribute is the base class for any attribute that knows how to build a test case from a given method. Test cases may be simple (without arguments) or parameterized (taking arguments) and are always based on a MethodInfo.

NUnit includes the following attributes derived from TestCaseBuilderAttribute:`

  • CombiningStrategyAttribute
    • CombinatorialAttribute
    • PairwiseAttribute
    • SequentialAttribute
  • TestAttribute
  • TestCaseAttribute
  • TestCaseSourceAttribute
  • TheoryAttribute

As with TestFixtureBuilderAttribute, the choice of a specific interface to implement is left to the derived class. Custom classes that build test cases should implement one of the interfaces designed for the purpose: ISimpleTestCaseBuilder or ITestCaseBuilder. Further interfaces may be defined in the future. In addition, any builder that is intended to cause a non-attributed class to be used as an NUnit TestFixture should implement IImplyFixture.


IncludeExcludeAttribute is the base class for any attributes used to decide whether to include a test in the current run or exclude it based on the string properties Include, Exclude and Reason. The abstract base simply makes these properties available to the derived class, which is responsible for taking action on them.

NUnit currently defines two attributes that derive from IncludeExcludeAttribute:

  • CultureAttribute
  • PlatformAttribute

These two attributes implement IApplyToTest and set the RunState of the test based on interpreting the arguments and the current environment. Custom classes derived from IncludeExcludeAttribute should do the same thing.

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