Creating your own XUnit Extension

So far, I have discussed XUnit and the XUnit Extensions but in this post I wanted to discuss how to create your own extensions.  Building your own custom extensions is a very useful as it can make your tests much more readable and maintainable. Especially if you have a lot of tasks which need to be performed before or after your tests are executed.

XUnit provides five main base classes which you can build your extensions upon. 


The Fact attribute is the main attribute used in XUnit to identify a method to execute and return the result of.  By creating a subclass of FactAttribute we can modify how the test runner should treat the method and allow for customisation. For example, the Theory attribute, which allows for data driven tests, is based on this attribute. The theory attribute customizes how the framework should execute the tests as it creates a separate test to execute based on each DataAttribute added to the test method – this is how can identify separate passing/failing tests.

If you want to create your own subclass of FactAttribute then the most common scenario will be to subclass from the FactAttribute class, and then override the EnumerateTestCommands method.  This is used to enumerate over the test commands system the test object and it returns an instance of ITestCommand per execution of a test method. By overriding this method, you take control of the test methods to be executed.

ITestCommand is the interface of test execution to be returned, which will be executed by the runner.  The interface has three items, a name property for the name of the test, a parameters property for all the properties of the test and a Execute method which accepts a testClass object.  The Execute method is called in order for the method to be executed. If you just want the standard test execution, then the base concrete class is TestCommand.

Let’s have a look at a real example.  Within the Samples project (downloadable from codeplex site) there is a RepeatAttribute class.  The attribute on a method would look like this:

public void RepeatingTestMethod()

The implementation of the attribute overrides the EnumerableTestCommands method, and for the repeatCount (set in constructor) it returns a new TestCommand object to be executed.

protected override IEnumerable EnumerateTestCommands(MethodInfo method)
    for (int index = 0; index < repeatCount; index++)
        yield return new TestCommand(method);

In summary, EnumerateTestCommands defines what tests to execute. ITestCommand allows you to define what happens then they are executed.


The BeforeAfterTestAttribute is a very interesting attribute which allows for a lot of interesting attributes.  This attribute allows us to hook into the execution of the tests before and after they have been executed.  Its very simply to implement aswell, BeforeAfterTestAttribute is an abstract class with two virtual methods – before and after.  Implement either or both in your attribute, add it to your test/fact and it will be executed.

Again, in the samples solution there is an example of how to use this. It includes a TracingSplicerAttribute which outputs the name.  The test looks like this:

[Fact, TracingSplicer]
public void TestThis()
    Console.WriteLine(“I’m inside the test!”);

The attribute code is this:

public class TracingSplicerAttribute : BeforeAfterTestAttribute
    public override void Before(MethodInfo methodUnderTest)
        Console.WriteLine(“Before : {0}.{1}”, methodUnderTest.DeclaringType.FullName, methodUnderTest.Name);

    public override void After(MethodInfo methodUnderTest)
        Console.WriteLine(“After : {0}.{1}”, methodUnderTest.DeclaringType.FullName, methodUnderTest.Name);

When executing the test, the output is:

Before : Example.TestThis
I’m inside the test!
After : Example.TestThis

This method allows for implementation of Rollback and RestoreDatabase (MbUnit) as they are required to be executed before and after the test but don’t interact with the actual execution.


The DataAttribute allows us to set data providers for use with the Theory attribute. DataAttribute is an abstract class which has a single method, IEnumerable GetData(MethodInfo methodUnderTest);.  This means that any data you want to use within your tests has to be returned as an object[] containing your different test values. The best implementation of this to look at is the OleDbDataAttribute.

public override IEnumerable< object[] > GetData(MethodInfo methodUnderTest)
    DataTable table = new DataTable();

    using (OleDbDataAdapter adapter = new OleDbDataAdapter(selectStatement, connectionString))

    foreach (DataRow row in table.Rows)
        yield return row.ItemArray;

This executes the database query and pulls everything into a DataTable in memory.  It then uses the ItemArray method which returns a object[] containing all the columns.  This together with the yield statement means every row is a separate test data set.  Remember the TheoryAttribute then takes each object[] returned and creates a TestCommand object which is a separate test execution.  The end result is a test execution object for each data item which the runner can then execute independently.

If you have a special testing scenario which requires data from a certain source then using this attribute could make your tests more streamlined and a lot easier to maintain without much effort in implementing the attribute.


This attribute allows us to decorate the test method with name/value pairs.  Within the EnumerateTestCommands method, you can access these attributes on the MethodInfo by using the GetCustomAttributes() method.  The samples provide us with a CategoryTraitAttribute

[Fact, Category(“Slow Test”)]
public void LongTest()

With the implementation just looking like this, where it hard codes the key “Category” as we know what the key will be. 

public class CategoryAttribute : TraitAttribute
    public CategoryAttribute(string category)
        : base(“Category”, category) {}

We can then use GetCustomAttributes to get type of CategoryAttribute attributes.


This attribute enables you to specify a different framework to execute the tests against, this is the base attribute for the RunWithNUnitAttribute.  If you are interested in this I recommend you download the xunitext source code (available from CodePlex) and look how the NUnit Attribute was implemented.

However, if you are really interested in creating an custom extension, I really recommend you download the source code to XUnit and XUnit Extensions to see how the existing attributes have been created.

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