Test execution

This section describes how the test suite structure created from the parsed test data is executed, how to continue executing a test case after failures, and how to stop the whole test execution gracefully.

Execution flow

Executed suites and tests

Test cases are always executed within a test suite. A test suite created from a `test case file`_ has tests directly, whereas suites created from directories__ have child test suites which either have tests or their own child suites. By default all the tests in an executed suite are run, but it is possible to `select tests`__ using options --test, --suite, --include and --exclude. Suites containing no tests are ignored.

The execution starts from the top-level test suite. If the suite has tests they are executed one-by-one, and if it has suites they are executed recursively in depth-first order. When an individual test case is executed, the keywords it contains are run in a sequence. Normally the execution of the current test ends if any of the keywords fails, but it is also possible to continue after failures. The exact execution order and how possible setups and teardowns affect the execution are discussed in the following sections.

Setups and teardowns

Setups and teardowns can be used on `test suite`__, `test case`__ and `user keyword`__ levels.

Suite setup

If a test suite has a setup, it is executed before its tests and child suites. If the suite setup passes, test execution continues normally. If it fails, all the test cases the suite and its child suites contain are marked failed. The tests and possible suite setups and teardowns in the child test suites are not executed.

Suite setups are often used for setting up the test environment. Because tests are not run if the suite setup fails, it is easy to use suite setups for verifying that the environment is in state in which the tests can be executed.

Suite teardown

If a test suite has a teardown, it is executed after all its test cases and child suites. Suite teardowns are executed regardless of the test status and even if the matching suite setup fails. If the suite teardown fails, all tests in the suite are marked failed afterwards in reports and logs.

Suite teardowns are mostly used for cleaning up the test environment after the execution. To ensure that all these tasks are done, all the keywords used in the teardown are executed even if some of them fail.

Test setup

Possible test setup is executed before the keywords of the test case. If the setup fails, the keywords are not executed. The main use for test setups is setting up the environment for that particular test case.

Test teardown

Possible test teardown is executed after the test case has been executed. It is executed regardless of the test status and also if test setup has failed.

Similarly as suite teardown, test teardowns are used mainly for cleanup activities. Also they are executed fully even if some of their keywords fail.

Keyword teardown

`User keywords`_ cannot have setups, but they can have teardowns that work exactly like other teardowns. Keyword teardowns are run after the keyword is executed otherwise, regardless the status, and they are executed fully even if some of their keywords fail.

Execution order

Test cases in a test suite are executed in the same order as they are defined in the test case file. Test suites inside a higher level test suite are executed in case-insensitive alphabetical order based on the file or directory name. If multiple files and/or directories are given from the command line, they are executed in the order they are given.

If there is a need to use certain test suite execution order inside a directory, it is possible to add prefixes like 01 and 02 into file and directory names. Such prefixes are not included in the generated test suite name if they are separated from the base name of the suite with two underscores:

01__my_suite.html -> My Suite
02__another_suite.html -> Another Suite

If the alphabetical ordering of test suites inside suites is problematic, a good workaround is giving them separately in the required order. This easily leads to overly long start-up commands, but `argument files`_ allow listing files nicely one file per line.

It is also possible to `randomize the execution order`__ using the --randomize option.

Passing execution

Typically test cases, setups and teardowns are considered passed if all keywords they contain are executed and none of them fail. From Robot Framework 2.8 onwards, it is also possible to use BuiltIn_ keywords Pass Execution and Pass Execution If to stop execution with PASS status and skip the remaining keywords.

How Pass Execution and Pass Execution If behave in different situations is explained below:

  • When used in any setup or teardown (suite, test or keyword), these keywords pass that setup or teardown. Possible teardowns of the started keywords are executed. Test execution or statuses are not affected otherwise.
  • When used in a test case outside setup or teardown, the keywords pass that particular test case. Possible test and keyword teardowns are executed.
  • Possible continuable failures that occur before these keyword are used, as well as failures in teardowns executed afterwards, will fail the execution.
  • It is mandatory to give an explanation message why execution was interrupted, and it is also possible to modify test case tags. For more details, and usage examples, see the `documentation of these keywords`__.

Passing execution in the middle of a test, setup or teardown should be used with care. In the worst case it leads to tests that skip all the parts that could actually uncover problems in the tested application. In cases where execution cannot continue do to external factors, it is often safer to fail the test case and make it `non-critical`__.

Continue on failure

Normally test cases are stopped immediately when any of their keywords fail. This behavior shortens test execution time and prevents subsequent keywords hanging or otherwise causing problems if the system under test is in unstable state. This has the drawback that often subsequent keywords would give more information about the state of the system. Hence Robot Framework offers several features to continue after failures.

Run Keyword And Ignore Error and Run Keyword And Expect Error keywords

BuiltIn_ keywords Run Keyword And Ignore Error and Run Keyword And Expect Error handle failures so that test execution is not terminated immediately. Though, using these keywords for this purpose often adds extra complexity to test cases, so the following features are worth considering to make continuing after failures easier.

Special failures from keywords

`Library keywords`_ report failures using exceptions, and it is possible to use special exceptions to tell the core framework that execution can continue regardless the failure. How these exceptions can be created is explained in the `test library API chapter`__.

When a test ends and there has been one or more continuable failure, the test will be marked failed. If there are more than one failure, all of them will be enumerated in the final error message:

Several failures occurred:

1) First error message.

2) Second error message ...

Test execution ends also if a normal failure occurs after continuable failures. Also in that case all the failures will be listed in the final error message.

The return value from failed keywords, possibly assigned to a variable, is always the Python None.

Run Keyword And Continue On Failure keyword

BuiltIn_ keyword Run Keyword And Continue On Failure allows converting any failure into a continuable failure. These failures are handled by the framework exactly the same way as continuable failures originating from library keywords.

Execution continues on teardowns automatically

To make it sure that all the cleanup activities are taken care of, the continue on failure mode is automatically on in test and suite teardowns. In practice this means that in teardowns all the keywords in all levels are always executed.

All top-level keywords are executed when tests have templates

When using `test templates`_, all the data rows are always executed to make it sure that all the different combinations are tested. In this usage continuing is limited to the top-level keywords, and inside them the execution ends normally if there are non-continuable failures.

Stopping test execution gracefully

Sometimes there is a need to stop the test execution before all the tests have finished, but so that logs and reports are created. Different ways how to accomplish this are explained below. In all these cases the remaining test cases are marked failed.

Starting from Robot Framework 2.9 the tests that are automatically failed get robot-exit tag and the generated report will include NOT robot-exit `combined tag pattern`__ to easily see those tests that were not skipped. Note that the test in which the exit happened does not get the robot-exit tag.

Pressing Ctrl-C

The execution is stopped when Ctrl-C is pressed in the console where the tests are running. When running the tests on Python, the execution is stopped immediately, but with Jython it ends only after the currently executing keyword ends.

If Ctrl-C is pressed again, the execution ends immediately and reports and logs are not created.

Using signals

On Unix-like machines it is possible to terminate test execution using signals INT and TERM. These signals can be sent from the command line using kill command, and sending signals can also be easily automated.

Signals have the same limitation on Jython as pressing Ctrl-C. Similarly also the second signal stops the execution forcefully.

Using keywords

The execution can be stopped also by the executed keywords. There is a separate Fatal Error BuiltIn_ keyword for this purpose, and custom keywords can use `fatal exceptions`__ when they fail.

Stopping when first test case fails

If option --exitonfailure is used, test execution stops immediately if any `critical test`_ fails. Also the remaining tests are marked as failed.

Stopping on parsing or execution error

Robot Framework separates failures caused by failing keywords from errors caused by, for example, invalid settings or failed test library imports. By default these errors are reported as `test execution errors`__, but errors themselves do not fail tests or affect execution otherwise. If --exitonerror option is used, however, all such errors are considered fatal and execution stopped so that remaining tests are marked failed. With parsing errors encountered before execution even starts, this means that no tests are actually run.


--exitonerror is new in Robot Framework 2.8.6.

Handling teardowns

By default teardowns of the tests and suites that have been started are executed even if the test execution is stopped using one of the methods above. This allows clean-up activities to be run regardless how execution ends.

It is also possible to skip teardowns when execution is stopped by using --skipteardownonexit option. This can be useful if, for example, clean-up tasks take a lot of time.