Testing CKAN

If you’re a CKAN developer, if you’re developing an extension for CKAN, or if you’re just installing CKAN from source, you should make sure that CKAN’s tests pass for your copy of CKAN. This section explains how to run CKAN’s tests.

CKAN’s testsuite contains automated tests for both the back-end (Python) and the front-end (JavaScript). In addition, the correct functionality of the complete front-end (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) on all supported browsers should be tested manually.

Back-end tests

Most of CKAN’s testsuite is for the backend Python code.

Install additional dependencies

Some additional dependencies are needed to run the tests. Make sure you’ve created a config file at /etc/ckan/default/development.ini, then activate your virtual environment:

. /usr/lib/ckan/default/bin/activate

Install nose and other test-specific CKAN dependencies into your virtual environment:

Changed in version 2.1: In CKAN 2.0 and earlier the requirements file was called pip-requirements-test.txt, not dev-requirements.txt as below.

pip install -r /usr/lib/ckan/default/src/ckan/dev-requirements.txt

Set up the test databases

Changed in version 2.1: Previously PostgreSQL tests used the databases defined in your development.ini file, instead of using their own test databases.

Create test databases:

sudo -u postgres createdb -O ckan_default ckan_test -E utf-8
sudo -u postgres createdb -O ckan_default datastore_test -E utf-8
paster datastore set-permissions -c test-core.ini | sudo -u postgres psql

This database connection is specified in the test-core.ini file by the sqlalchemy.url parameter.

You should also make sure that the Redis database configured in test-core.ini is different from your production database.

Run the tests

To run CKAN’s tests using PostgreSQL as the database, you have to give the --with-pylons=test-core.ini option on the command line. This command will run the tests for CKAN core and for the core extensions:

nosetests --ckan --with-pylons=test-core.ini ckan ckanext

The speed of the PostgreSQL tests can be improved by running PostgreSQL in memory and turning off durability, as described in the PostgreSQL documentation.

By default the tests will keep the database between test runs. If you wish to drop and reinitialize the database before the run you can use the reset-db option:

nosetests --ckan --reset-db --with-pylons=test-core.ini ckan

Migration testing

If you’re a CKAN developer or extension developer and your new code requires a change to CKAN’s model, you’ll need to write a migration script. To ensure that the migration script itself gets tested, you should run the tests with the --ckan-migration option, for example:

nosetests --ckan --ckan-migration --with-pylons=test-core.ini ckan ckanext

By default tests are run using the model defined in ckan/model. With the --ckan-migration option the tests will run using a database that has been created by running the migration scripts in ckan/migration, which is how the database is created and upgraded in production.


A common error when wanting to run tests against a particular database is to change sqlalchemy.url in test.ini or test-core.ini. The problem is that these are versioned files and people have checked in these by mistake, creating problems for other developers.

Common error messages


nose.config.ConfigError: Error reading config file 'setup.cfg': no such option 'with-pylons'

This error can result when you run nosetests for two reasons:

  1. Pylons nose plugin failed to run. If this is the case, then within a couple of lines of running nosetests you’ll see this warning: Unable to load plugin pylons followed by an error message. Fix the error here first`.

  2. The Python module ‘Pylons’ is not installed into you Python environment. Confirm this with:

    python -c "import pylons"


OperationalError: (OperationalError) no such function: plainto_tsquery ...
This error usually results from running a test which involves search functionality, which requires using a PostgreSQL database, but another (such as SQLite) is configured. The particular test is either missing a @search_related decorator or there is a mixup with the test configuration files leading to the wrong database being used.


nosetests: error: no such option: --ckan

Nose is either unable to find ckan/ckan_nose_plugin.py in the python environment it is running in, or there is an error loading it. If there is an error, this will surface it:

nosetests --version

There are a few things to try to remedy this:

Commonly this is because the nosetests isn’t running in the python environment. You need to have nose actually installed in the python environment. To see which you are running, do this:

which nosetests

If you have activated the environment and this still reports /usr/bin/nosetests then you need to:

pip install --ignore-installed nose

If nose --version still fails, ensure that ckan is installed in your environment:

cd /usr/lib/ckan/default/src/ckan
python setup.py develop

One final check - the version of nose should be at least 1.0. Check with:

pip freeze | grep -i nose

Front-end tests

Front-end testing consists of both automated tests (for the JavaScript code) and manual tests (for the complete front-end consisting of HTML, CSS and JavaScript).

Automated JavaScript tests

The JS tests are written using the Mocha test framework and run via PhantomJS. First you need to install the necessary packages:

sudo apt-get install npm nodejs-legacy
sudo npm install -g mocha-phantomjs@3.5.0 phantomjs@~1.9.1

To run the tests, make sure that a test server is running:

. /usr/lib/ckan/default/bin/activate
paster serve test-core.ini

Once the test server is running switch to another terminal and execute the tests:

mocha-phantomjs http://localhost:5000/base/test/index.html

Manual tests

All new CKAN features should be coded so that they work in the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer: 11, 10, 9 & 8
  • Firefox: Latest + previous version
  • Chrome: Latest + previous version

These browsers are determined by whatever has >= 1% share with the latest months data from: http://data.gov.uk/data/site-usage

Install browser virtual machines

In order to test in all the needed browsers you’ll need access to all the above browser versions. Firefox and Chrome should be easy whatever platform you are on. Internet Explorer is a little trickier. You’ll need Virtual Machines.

We suggest you use https://github.com/xdissent/ievms to get your Internet Explorer virtual machines.

Testing methodology

Firstly we have a primer page. If you’ve touched any of the core front-end code you’ll need to check if the primer is rendering correctly. The primer is located at: http://localhost:5000/testing/primer

Secondly whilst writing a new feature you should endeavour to test in at least in your core browser and an alternative browser as often as you can.

Thirdly you should fully test all new features that have a front-end element in all browsers before making your pull request into CKAN master.

Common front-end pitfalls & their fixes

Here’s a few of the most common front end bugs and a list of their fixes.

Reserved JS keywords

Since IE has a stricter language definition in JS it really doesn’t like you using JS reserved keywords method names, variables, etc... This is a good list of keywords not to use in your JavaScript:


/* These are bad */
var a = {
  default: 1,
  delete: function() {}

/* These are good */
var a = {
  default_value: 1,
  remove: function() {}

Unclosed JS arrays / objects

Internet Explorer doesn’t like it’s JS to have unclosed JS objects and arrays. For example:

/* These are bad */
var a = {
  b: 'c',
var a = ['b', 'c', ];

/* These are good */
var a = {
  c: 'c'
var a = ['b', 'c'];