Testing API

The Testing API allows Visual Studio Code extensions to discover tests in the workspace and publish results. Users can execute tests in the Test Explorer view, from decorations, and inside commands. With these new APIs, Visual Studio Code supports richer displays of outputs and diffs than was previously possible.

Note: The Testing API is available in VS Code version 1.59 and higher.


There are two test providers maintained by the VS Code team:

Discovering tests

Tests are provided by the TestController, which requires a globally unique ID and human-readable label to create:

const controller = vscode.tests.createTestController(
  'Hello World Tests'

To publish tests, you add TestItems as children to the controller's items collection. TestItems are the foundation of the test API in the TestItem interface, and are a generic type that can describe a test case, suite, or tree item as it exists in code. They can, in turn, have children themselves, forming a hierarchy. For example, here's a simplified version of how the sample test extension creates tests:

parseMarkdown(content, {
  onTest: (range, numberA, mathOperator, numberB, expectedValue) => {
    // If this is a top-level test, add it to its parent's children. If not,
    // add it to the controller's top level items.
    const collection = parent ? parent.children : controller.items;
    // Create a new ID that's unique among the parent's children:
    const id = [numberA, mathOperator, numberB, expectedValue].join('  ');

    // Finally, create the test item:
    const test = controller.createTestItem(id, data.getLabel(), item.uri);
    test.range = range;
  // ...

Similar to Diagnostics, it's mostly up to the extension to control when tests are discovered. A simple extension might watch the entire workspace and parse all tests in all files at activation. However, parsing everything immediately may be slow for large workspaces. Instead, you can do two things:

  1. Actively discover tests for a file when it's opened in the editor, by watching vscode.workspace.onDidOpenTextDocument.
  2. Setting item.canResolveChildren = true and setting the controller.resolveHandler. The resolveHandler is called if the user takes an action to demand tests be discovered, such as by expanding an item in the Test Explorer.

Here's how this strategy might look in an extension that parses files lazily:

// First, create the `resolveHandler`. This may initially be called with
// "undefined" to ask for all tests in the workspace to be discovered, usually
// when the user opens the Test Explorer for the first time.
controller.resolveHandler = async test => {
  if (!test) {
    await discoverAllFilesInWorkspace();
  } else {
    await parseTestsInFileContents(test);

// When text documents are open, parse tests in them.
// We could also listen to document changes to re-parse unsaved changes:
vscode.workspace.onDidChangeTextDocument(e => parseTestsInDocument(e.document));

// In this function, we'll get the file TestItem if we've already found it,
// otherwise we'll create it with `canResolveChildren = true` to indicate it
// can be passed to the `controller.resolveHandler` to gets its children.
function getOrCreateFile(uri: vscode.Uri) {
  const existing = controller.items.get(uri.toString());
  if (existing) {
    return existing;

  const file = controller.createTestItem(uri.toString(), uri.path.split('/').pop()!, uri);
  file.canResolveChildren = true;
  return file;

function parseTestsInDocument(e: vscode.TextDocument) {
  if (e.uri.scheme === 'file' && e.uri.path.endsWith('.md')) {
    parseTestsInFileContents(getOrCreateFile(e.uri), e.getText());

async function parseTestsInFileContents(file: vscode.TestItem, contents?: string) {
  // If a document is open, VS Code already knows its contents. If this is being
  // called from the resolveHandler when a document isn't open, we'll need to
  // read them from disk ourselves.
  if (contents === undefined) {
    const rawContent = await vscode.workspace.fs.readFile(file.uri);
    contents = new TextDecoder().decode(rawContent);

  // some custom logic to fill in test.children from the contents...

The implementation of discoverAllFilesInWorkspace can be built using VS Code' existing file watching functionality. When the resolveHandler is called, you should continue watching for changes so that the data in the Test Explorer stays up to date.

async function discoverAllFilesInWorkspace() {
  if (!vscode.workspace.workspaceFolders) {
    return []; // handle the case of no open folders

  return Promise.all(
    vscode.workspace.workspaceFolders.map(async workspaceFolder => {
      const pattern = new vscode.RelativePattern(workspaceFolder, '**/*.md');
      const watcher = vscode.workspace.createFileSystemWatcher(pattern);

      // When files are created, make sure there's a corresponding "file" node in the tree
      watcher.onDidCreate(uri => getOrCreateFile(uri));
      // When files change, re-parse them. Note that you could optimize this so
      // that you only re-parse children that have been resolved in the past.
      watcher.onDidChange(uri => parseTestsInFileContents(getOrCreateFile(uri)));
      // And, finally, delete TestItems for removed files. This is simple, since
      // we use the URI as the TestItem's ID.
      watcher.onDidDelete(uri => controller.items.delete(uri.toString()));

      for (const file of await vscode.workspace.findFiles(pattern)) {

      return watcher;

The TestItem interface is simple and doesn't have room for custom data. If you need to associate extra information with a TestItem, you can use a WeakMap:

const testData = new WeakMap<vscode.TestItem, MyCustomData>();

// to associate data:
const item = controller.createTestItem(id, label);
testData.set(item, new MyCustomData());

// to get it back later:
const myData = testData.get(item);

It's guaranteed that the TestItem instances passed to all TestController-related methods will be the same as the ones originally created from createTestItem, so you can be sure that getting the item from the testData map will work.

For this example, let's just store the type of each item:

enum ItemType {

const testData = new WeakMap<vscode.TestItem, ItemType>();

const getType = (testItem: vscode.TestItem) => testData.get(testItem)!;

Running tests

Tests are executed through TestRunProfiles. Each profile belongs to a specific execution kind: run, debug, or coverage. Most test extensions will have at most one profile in each of these groups, but more are allowed. For example, if your extension runs tests on multiple platforms, you could have one profile for each combination of platform and kind. Each profile has a runHandler, which is invoked when a run of that type is requested.

function runHandler(
  shouldDebug: boolean,
  request: vscode.TestRunRequest,
  token: vscode.CancellationToken
) {
  // todo

const runProfile = controller.createRunProfile(
  (request, token) => {
    runHandler(false, request, token);

const debugProfile = controller.createRunProfile(
  (request, token) => {
    runHandler(true, request, token);

The runHandler should call controller.createTestRun at least once, passing through the original request. The request contains the tests to include in the test run (which is omitted if the user asked to run all tests) and possibly tests to exclude from the run. The extension should use the resulting TestRun object to update the state of tests involved in the run. For example:

async function runHandler(
  shouldDebug: boolean,
  request: vscode.TestRunRequest,
  token: vscode.CancellationToken
) {
  const run = controller.createTestRun(request);
  const queue: vscode.TestItem[] = [];

  // Loop through all included tests, or all known tests, and add them to our queue
  if (request.include) {
    request.include.forEach(test => queue.push(test));
  } else {
    controller.items.forEach(test => queue.push(test));

  // For every test that was queued, try to run it. Call run.passed() or run.failed().
  // The `TestMessage` can contain extra information, like a failing location or
  // a diff output. But here we'll just give it a textual message.
  while (queue.length > 0 && !token.isCancellationRequested) {
    const test = queue.pop()!;

    // Skip tests the user asked to exclude
    if (request.exclude?.includes(test)) {

    switch (getType(test)) {
      case ItemType.File:
        // If we're running a file and don't know what it contains yet, parse it now
        if (test.children.size === 0) {
          await parseTestsInFileContents(test);
      case ItemType.TestCase:
        // Otherwise, just run the test case. Note that we don't need to manually
        // set the state of parent tests; they'll be set automatically.
        const start = Date.now();
        try {
          await assertTestPasses(test);
          run.passed(test, Date.now() - start);
        } catch (e) {
          run.failed(test, new vscode.TestMessage(e.message), Date.now() - start);

    test.children.forEach(test => queue.push(test));

  // Make sure to end the run after all tests have been executed:

In addition to the runHandler, you can set a configureHandler on the TestRunProfile. If present, VS Code will have UI to allow the user to configure the test run, and call the handler when they do so. From here, you can open files, show a Quick Pick, or do whatever is appropriate for your test framework.

VS Code intentionally handles test configuration differently than debug or task configuration. These are traditionally editor or IDE-centric features, and are configured in special files in the .vscode folder. However, tests have traditionally been executed from the command line, and most test frameworks have existing configuration strategies. Therefore, in VS Code, we avoid duplication of configuration and instead leave it up to extensions to handle.

Test Output

In addition to the messages passed to TestRun.failed or TestRun.errored, you can append generic output using run.appendOutput(str). This output can be displayed in a terminal using the Test: Show Output and through various buttons in the UI, such as the terminal icon in the Test Explorer view.

Because the string is rendered in a terminal, you can use the full set of ANSI codes, including the styles available in the ansi-styles npm package. Bear in mind that, because it is in a terminal, lines must be wrapped using CRLF (\r\n), not just LF (\n), which may be the default output from some tools.

Test Tags

Sometime tests can only be run under certain configurations, or not at all. For these use cases, you can use Test Tags. TestRunProfiles can optionally have a tag associated with them and, if they do, only tests that have that tag can be run under the profile. Once again, if there is no eligible profile to run, debug, or gather coverage from a specific test, those options will not be shown in the UI.

// Create a new tag with an ID of "runnable"
const runnableTag = new TestTag('runnable');

// Assign it to a profile. Now this profile can only execute tests with that tag.
runProfile.tag = runnableTag;

// Add the "runnable" tag to all applicable tests.
for (const test of getAllRunnableTests()) {
  test.tags = [...test.tags, runnableTag];

Users can also filter by tags in the Test Explorer UI.

Publish-only controllers

The presence of run profiles is optional. A controller is allowed to create tests, call createTestRun outside of the runHandler, and update tests' states in the run without having a profile. The common use case for this are controllers who load their results from an external source, like CI or summary files.

In this case, these controllers should usually pass the optional name argument to createTestRun, and false for the persist argument. Passing false here instructs VS Code not to retain the test result, like it would for runs in the editor, since these results can be reloaded from an external source externally.

const controller = vscode.tests.createTestController(
  'Coverage File Tests'

vscode.commands.registerCommand('myExtension.loadTestResultFile', async file => {
  const info = await readFile(file);

  // set the controller items to those read from the file:

  // create your own custom test run, then you can immediately set the state of
  // items in the run and end it to publish results:
  const run = controller.createTestRun(
    new vscode.TestRunRequest(),
  for (const result of info) {
    if (result.passed) {
    } else {
      run.failed(result.item, new vscode.TestMessage(result.message));

Migrating from the Test Explorer UI

If you have an existing extension using the Test Explorer UI, we suggest you migrate to the native experience for additional features and efficiency. We've put together a repo with an example migration of the Test Adapter sample in its Git history. You can view each step by selecting the commit name, starting from [1] Create a native TestController.

In summary, the general steps are:

  1. Instead of retrieving and registering a TestAdapter with the Test Explorer UI's TestHub, call const controller = vscode.tests.createTestController(...).

  2. Rather than firing testAdapter.tests when you discover or rediscover tests, instead create and push tests into controller.items, for example by calling controller.items.replace with an array of discovered tests that are created by calling vscode.test.createTestItem. Note that, as tests change, you can mutate properties on the test item and update their children, and changes will be reflected automatically in VS Code's UI.

  3. To load tests initially, instead of waiting for a testAdapter.load() method call, set controller.resolveHandler = () => { /* discover tests */ }. See more information around how test discovery works in Discovering Tests.

  4. To run tests, you should create a Run Profile with a handler function that calls const run = controller.createTestRun(request). Instead of firing a testStates event, pass TestItems to methods on the run to update their state.

Additional contribution points

The testing/item/context menu contribution point may be used to add menu items to Tests in the Test Explorer view. Place menu items in the inline group to have them inline. All other menu item groups will be displayed in a context menu accessible using the mouse right-click.

Additional context keys are available in the when clauses of your menu items: testId, controllerId, and testItemHasUri. For more complex when scenarios, where you want actions to be optionally available for different Test Items, consider using the in conditional operator.

If you want to reveal a test in the Explorer, you can pass the test to the command vscode.commands.executeCommand('vscode.revealTestInExplorer', testItem).