Importing correctly with pytest

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I just got set up to use pytest with Python 2.6. It has worked well so far with the exception of handling “import” statements: I can’t seem to get pytest to respond to imports in the same way that my program does.

My directory structure is as follows:


To run, I call python from src/.

In, I import both vector and region with

from geom.region import Region
from geom.vector import Vector

In, I import region with

from geom.region import Region

These all work fine when I run the code in a standard run. However, when I call “py.test” from src/, it consistently exits with import errors.

Some Problems and My Solution Attempts

My first problem was that, when running “test/”, py.test could not “import” directly. I solved this by using the “imp” tool. In “”:

import imp
util = imp.load_source("util", "")

This works great for many files. It also seems to imply that when pytest is running “path/test/” to test “path/”, it is based in the directory “path”.

However, this fails for “”. Pytest can find and import the vector module, but it cannot locate any of vector‘s imports. The following imports (from “”) both fail when using pytest:

from geom.region import *
from region import *

These both give errors of the form

ImportError: No module named [geom.region / region]

I don’t know what to do next to solve this problem; my understanding of imports in Python is limited.

What is the proper way to handle imports when using pytest?

Edit: Extremely Hacky Solution

In, I changed the import statement from

from geom.region import Region

to simply

from region import Region

This makes the import relative to the directory of “”.

Next, in “test/”, I add the directory of “” to the path as follows:

import sys, os

This enables Python to find “../” from “geom/test/”.

This works, but it seems extremely problematic because I am adding a ton of new directories to the path. What I’m looking for is either

1) An import strategy that is compatible with pytest, or

2) An option in pytest that makes it compatible with my import strategy

So I am leaving this question open for answers of these kinds.

The issue here is that Pytest walks the filesystem to discover files that contain tests, but then needs to generate a module name that will cause import to load that file. (Remember, files are not modules.)

Pytest comes up with this test package name by finding the first directory at or above the level of the file that does not include an file and declaring that the “basedir” for the module tree containing a module generated from this file. It then adds the basedir to sys.path and imports using the module name that will find that file relative to the basedir.

There are some implications of this of which you should beware:

  1. The basepath may not match your intended basepath in which case the module will have a name that doesn’t match what you would normally use. E.g., what you think of as geom.test.test_vector will actually be named just test_vector during the Pytest run because it found no in src/geom/test/ and so added that directory to sys.path.

  2. You may run into module naming collisions if two files in different directories have the same name. For example, lacking files anywhere, adding geom/test/ will conflict with test/ because both are loaded as import, with both test/ and geom/test/ in the path.

The system you’re using here, without explicit modules, is having Python create implicit namespace packages for your directories. (A package is a module with submodules.) Ideally we’d configure Pytest with a path from which it would also generate this, but it doesn’t seem to know how to do that.

The easiest solution here is simply to add empty files to all of the subdirectories under src/; this will cause Pytest to import everything using package/module names that start with directory names under src/.

The question How do I Pytest a project using PEP 420 namespace packages? discusses other solutions to this.

import looks in the following directories to find a module:

  1. The home directory of the program. This is the directory of your root script. When you are running pytest your home directory is where it is installed (/usr/local/bin probably). No matter that you are running it from your src directory because the location of your pytest determines your home directory. That is the reason why it doesn’t find the modules.
  2. PYTHONPATH. This is an environment variable. You can set it from the command line of your operating system. In Linux/Unix systems you can do this by executing: ‘export PYTHONPATH=/your/custom/path‘ If you wanted Python to find your modules from the test directory you should include the src path in this variable.
  3. The standard libraries directory. This is the directory where all your libraries are installed.
  4. There is a less common option using a pth file.

sys.path is the result of combining the home directory, PYTHONPATH and the standard libraries directory. What you are doing, modifying sys.path is correct. It is something I do regularly. You could try using PYTHONPATH if you don’t like messing with sys.path

If you include an file inside your tests directory, then when the program is looking to set a home directory it will walk ‘upwards’ until it finds one that does not contain an init file. In this case src/.

From here you can import by saying :

from geom.region import *

you must also make sure that you have an init file in any other subdirectories, such as the other nested test directory

I was wondering what to do about this problem too. After reading this post, and playing around a bit, I figured out an elegant solution. I created a file called “” and put the following code in it:

import sys, os

I put this file in the top-level directory (such as src). When pytest is run from the top-level directory, it will run all test files including this one since the file is prefixed with “test”. There are no tests in the file, but it is still run since it begins with “test”.

The code will append the current directory name of the file to the system path within the test environment. This will be done only once, so there are not a bunch of things added to the path.

Then, from within any test function, you can import modules relative to that top-level folder (such as import geom.region) and it knows where to find it since the src directory was added to the path.

If you want to run a single test file (such as instead of all the files, you would use:

pytest test\

This runs both the test_setup and test_util code so that the test_setup code can still be used.

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