Elegant Lua unit testing.

What's busted, precious?

busted is a unit testing framework with a focus on being easy to use. busted works with lua >= 5.1, moonscript, terra, and LuaJIT >= 2.0.0.

busted test specs read naturally without being too verbose. You can even chain asserts and negations, such as assert.not.equals. Nest blocks of tests with contextual descriptions using describe, and add tags to blocks so you can run arbitrary groups of tests.

An extensible assert library allows you to extend and craft your own assert functions specific to your case with method chaining. A modular output library lets you add on your own output format, along with the default pretty and plain terminal output, JSON with and without streaming, and TAP-compatible output that allows you to run busted specs within most CI servers. You can even register phrases for internationaliation with custom or built-in language packs.

describe("Busted unit testing framework", function()
  describe("should be awesome", function()
    it("should be easy to use", function()

    it("should have lots of features", function()
      -- deep check comparisons!
      assert.are.same({ table = "great"}, { table = "great" })

      -- or check by reference!
      assert.are_not.equal({ table = "great"}, { table = "great"})

      assert.truthy("this is a string") -- truthy: not false or nil

      assert.True(1 == 1)
      assert.is_true(1 == 1)

      assert.has_error(function() error("Wat") end, "Wat")

    it("should provide some shortcuts to common functions", function()
      assert.are.unique({{ thing = 1 }, { thing = 2 }, { thing = 3 }})

    it("should have mocks and spies for functional tests", function()
      local thing = require("thing_module")
      spy.on(thing, "greet")

busted test.lua



Install busted through Luarocks. Depending on your environment, you can apt-get luarocks, brew install luarocks, or otherwise get it from luarocks.org. The latest busted release will always be available on Moonrocks, but is also uploaded frequently to luarocks. Optionally follow the instructions on Moonrocks, and then run luarocks install busted to install the library and CLI.

You can also install the latest or a branch by cloning the busted repository, and running luarocks make from the directory.

CLI: Running Busted

Usage: busted [OPTIONS]  [ROOT]
  ROOT                  test script file/folder. Folders will be
                        traversed for any file that matches the
                        --pattern option. (optional, default: spec)

  --version             prints the program's version and exits
  -o, --output=LIBRARY  output library to load (default: utf_terminal)
  -d, --cwd=cwd         path to current working directory (default: ./)
  -p, --pattern=pattern only run test files matching the Lua pattern
                        (default: _spec)
  -t, --tags=tags       only run tests with these #tags
  --exclude-tags=tags   do not run tests with these #tags, takes
                        precedence over --tags
  -m, --lpath=path      optional path to be prefixed to the Lua module
                        search path (default:
  --cpath=path          optional path to be prefixed to the Lua C module
                        search path (default:
  -r, --run=run         config to run from .busted file
  --lang=LANG           language for error messages (default: en)
  -c, --coverage        do code coverage analysis (requires 'LuaCov' to
                        be installed)
  -v, --verbose         verbose output of errors
  -s, --enable-sound    executes 'say' command if available
  --suppress-pending    suppress 'pending' test output
  --defer-print         defer print to when test suite is complete

Predefined Busted Tasks

Busted 1.6 added a concept of "tasks", or predefined busted configuration options. You can create a .busted file in the root, which is automatically loaded if it exists. Default options are run if no task is specified. You can add any argument available in the CLI (listed above), using the long name. (Use verbose = true, not v = true.) Any arguments you specify will override those set in the task. An example .busted file might look like:

return {
  default = {
    verbose = true
  apiUnit = {
    tags = "api",
    ROOT = "spec/unit"
    verbose = true

This allows you to run busted --run=apiUnit, which will run the equivalent of busted --tags=api --verbose spec/unit. If you only run busted, it will run the equivalent of busted --verbose.

Defining Tests

Set up your tests using describe and it blocks. These take a description (to be used for output) and a callback (which either defines more blocks or contains the tests themselves. Describe blocks can have more decribe blocks nested. You can also use the functions before_each and after_each to define functions that should be run before any nested tests, and setup and teardown for functions that should be run before and after the describe block.

You can also use the pending method to leave a placerholder for a test you plan on writing later.

Tag your tests with #hashtags to run specific tests. When you run busted from the command line, add the -t flag to run a given tag. Seperate tags by commas to run more than one tag.

Describe: Context blocks

Describe takes a title and a callback, and can be nested. You can also use context as an alias if you like.

describe("a test", function()
  -- tests go here

describe("a nested block", function()
  describe("can have many describes", function()
    -- tests

  -- more tests pertaining to the top level

Describe: Tagging Tests

Tag tests using #tags, and run using the -t flag to only run that test.

describe("a test #tag", function()
  -- tests go here

describe("a nested block #another", function()
  describe("can have many describes", function()
    -- tests

  -- more tests pertaining to the top level
busted ./test.lua -t="tag"

This runs the first group of tests, but not the second.

busted ./test.lua -t="tag,another"

This runs both groups.

You can also exclude tests that use tags with the --exclude-tags flag. This can be useful, for example, if tests using a certain tag take a long time to run and you want busted to skip them. This would run all tests except the second group in the example above.

busted ./test.lua --exclude-tags="another"

If you use -t, --tags and --exclude-tags together then --exclude-tags always takes precedence.

describe("a test with two tags #one #two", function ()
  -- tests
busted ./test.lua --tags="one" --exclude-tags="two"

Both tags refer to the same test but busted will not run it since --exclude-tags takes precedence.

busted ./test.lua --tags="one" --exclude-tags="one"

It is ok for different tags to refer to the same tests, but using the exact same tag name with --tags and --exclude-tags at the same time is an error.

Randomizing Tests

You can cause nested tests and describes to be randomized by calling randomize().

describe("a test #tag", function()

  it("runs a test", function() end)
  it("runs another test", function() end)

It: Defining tests

An it block takes a title and a callback. Tests fail if an uncaptured error is thrown (assert functions throw errors for failed tests).

describe("busted", function()
  it("has tests", function()
    local obj1 = { test = "yes" }
    local obj2 = { test = "yes" }
    assert.same(obj1, obj2)

Before Each & After Each; Setup & Teardown

before_each runs before each child test, and after_each (you guessed it) runs after. setup runs first in a describe block, and teardown runs last in a describe block.

describe("busted", function()
  local obj1, obj2
  local util

    util = require("util")

    util = nil

    obj1 = { test = "yes" }
    obj2 = { test = "yes" }

  it("sets up vars with the before_each", function()
    obj2 = { test = "no" }
    assert.are_not.same(obj1, obj2)

  it("sets up vars with the before_each", function()
    -- obj2 is reset thanks to the before_each
    assert.same(obj1, obj2)

  describe("nested", function()
    it("also runs the before_each here", function()
      -- if this describe also had a before_each, it would run
      -- both, starting with the parents'. You can go n-deep.

finally is also available as a lighter alternative that avoids setting upvalues.

it('checks file contents',function()
  local f = io.popen('stupid_process')

  -- ensure that once test has finished f:close() is called
  -- independent of test outcome
  finally(function() f:close() end)

  it('does a thing', function()
    -- do things with f


Pending functions are placeholders for tests you plan to write (or fix) later.

describe("busted pending tests", function()
  pending("I should finish this test later")


Asserts are the core of busted- they're what you use to actually write your tests. Asserts in busted work by chaining a mod value by using is or is_not, followed by the assert you wish to use. It's easy to extend busted and add your own asserts by building an assert with a commmon signature and registering it.

Busted uses the luassert library to provide the assertions. Note that some of the assertion/modifiers are Lua keywords ( true, false, nil, function, and not) and they cannot be used using '.' chaining because that results in compilation errors. Instead chain using '_' (underscore) or use one or more capitals in the reserved word, whatever your coding style prefers.

Is & Is Not

is and is_not flips the expected value of the assertion; if is_not is used, the assertion fails if it doesn't throw an error. are, are_not, has_no, was, and, was_not are aliased as well to appease your grammar sensibilities. is and its aliases are always optional.

describe("some assertions", function()
  it("tests positive assertions", function()
    assert.is_true(true)  -- Lua keyword chained with _
    assert.True(true)     -- Lua keyword using a capital
    assert.are.equal(1, 1)
    assert.has.errors(function() error("this should fail") end)

  it("tests negative assertions", function()
    assert.are_not.equals(1, "1")
    assert.has_no.errors(function() end)


Equals takes 1-n arguments and checks if they are the same instance. This is equivalent to calling object1 == object2.

describe("some asserts", function()
  it("checks if they're equals", function()
    local expected = 1
    local obj = expected

    assert.are.equals(expected, obj)


Same takes 1-n arguments and checks if they are they are similar by doing a deep compare.

describe("some asserts", function()
  it("checks if they're the same", function()
    local expected = { name = "Jack" }
    local obj = { name = "Jack" }

    assert.are.same(expected, obj)

True & Truthy; False & Falsy

true evaluates if the value is the boolean true; truthy checks if it's non-false and non-nil (as if you passed it into a boolean expression in Lua. false and falsy are the opposite; false checks for the boolean false, falsy checks for false or nil.

describe("some asserts", function()
  it("checks true", function()

  it("checks false", function()


Makes sure an error exception is fired that you expect.

describe("some asserts", function()
  it("should throw an error", function()
    assert.has_error(function() error("Yup,  it errored") end)
    assert.has_no.errors(function() end)

  it("should throw the error we expect", function()
    local errfn = function()
      error("DB CONN ERROR")

    assert.has_error(errfn, "DB CONN ERROR")

Extending Your Own Assertions

Add in your own assertions to reuse commonly written code. You can register error message keys for both positive (is) and negative (is_not) cases for multilingual compatibility as well ("en" by default.)

local s = require("say")

local function has_property(state, arguments)
  local has_key = false

  if not type(arguments[1]) == "table" or #arguments ~= 2 then
    return false

  for key, value in pairs(arguments[1]) do
    if key == arguments[2] then
      has_key = true

  return has_key

say:set("assertion.has_property.positive", "Expected %s \nto have property: %s")
say:set("assertion.has_property.negative", "Expected %s \nto not have property: %s")
assert:register("assertion", "has_property", has_property, "assertion.has_property.positive", "assertion.has_property.negative")

describe("my table", function()
  it("has a name property", function()
    assert.has_property({ name = "Jack" }, "name")

Spies, Stubs, & Mocks

Spies are essentially wrappers around functions that keep track of data about how the function was called, and by default calls the function. Stubs are the same as spies, except they return immediately without calling the function. mock(table, stub) returns a table whose functions have been wrapped in spies or stubs.


Spies contain two methods: on and new. spy.on(table, method_name) does an in-place replacement of a table's method, and when the original method is called, it registers what it was called with and then calls the original function.

describe("spies", function()
  it("registers a new spy as a callback", function()
    local s = spy.new(function() end)

    s(1, 2, 3)
    s(4, 5, 6)

    assert.spy(s).was.called(2) -- twice!
    assert.spy(s).was.called_with(1, 2, 3) -- checks the history

  it("replaces an original function", function()
    local t = {
      greet = function(msg) print(msg) end

    local s = spy.on(t, "greet")

    t.greet("Hey!") -- prints 'Hey!'

    t.greet:revert()  -- reverts the stub
    t.greet("Hello!") -- prints 'Hello!', will not pass through the spy


Stubs act similarly to spies, except they do not call the function they replace. This is useful for testing things like data layers.

describe("stubs", function()
  it("replaces an original function", function()
    local t = {
      greet = function(msg) print(msg) end

    stub(t, "greet")

    t.greet("Hey!") -- DOES NOT print 'Hey!'

    t.greet:revert()  -- reverts the stub
    t.greet("Hey!") -- DOES print 'Hey!'


Mocks are tables whose functions have been wrapped in spies, or optionally stubs. This is useful for checking execution chains. Wrapping is recursive, so wrapping functions in sub-tables as well.

describe("mocks", function()
  it("replaces a table with spies", function()
    local t = {
      thing = function(msg) print(msg) end

    local m = mock(t) -- mocks the table with spies, so it will print


  it("replaces a table with stubs", function()
    local t = {
      thing = function(msg) print(msg) end

    local m = mock(t, true) -- mocks the table with stubs, so it will not print


Async Tests

Sometimes you need to write tests that work with asynchronous calls such as when dealing with HTTP requests, threads, or database calls. Call async() at the top of an it to specify that your test should wait, and call done() to complete a test.

describe('API integration tests', function()
  it('loads user data', function()

    local user_id = 1

      -- do things
      assert.are.equal(user_id, data.id)


Before Busted executes any tests it will define a global describe that can be used to expose private elements only in case of testing.

-- a new module with private elements to be tested
local mymodule = {}
local private_element = {"this", "is", "private"}

function mymodule:display()
  print(string.concat(private_element, " "))

-- export locals for test
if describe then
  -- setup test alias for private elements using a modified name
  mymodule._private_element = private_element

return mymodule

In the test specs it can be tested;

local mymodule = require("mymodule")

describe("Going to test a private element", function()

  it("tests the length of the table", function()
    assert.is.equal(#mymodule._private_element, 3)


Output Types

Busted supports several output types by default, and it's easy to extend busted to include your own output types.

UTF and Coloring: Pretty Terminal Output with utf_terminal

Uses ansicolors and utf to display a concise but informative output.


Clean output with plain_terminal

Uses safe characters and no coloring.


JSON for integration with json output

Useful for streaming or loading all results at once with the --defer-print flag.


TAP for use with CI systems

TAP is an agnostic protocol used by most automated testing suites.


Registering Your Own Output Type

If you pass the -o flag a path instead of a name (such as in busted spec -o thing.lua, it will look in that path to load the output file. Check out the existing output files for examples. It should have a signature like:

-- custom_output.lua

local output = function()
  return {
    header = function(context_tree)
      -- return if you want to write something specific at the top of the output

    footer = function(context_tree)
      --  return if you want to write something specific at the bottom of the output

    formatted_status = function(statuses, options, ms)
      -- displays at the end of the test. options contains options passed
      -- into the busted CLI, and ms is the ms spent running the tests.
      -- statuses is a list of test statuses after being run. You usually
      -- only return if options.defer_print.

    currently_executing = function(test_status, options)
      -- Fired off if options.defer_print is not true. You probably want to
      -- io.write() a status and then io.flush() to write it to output.

return output


Moonscript is a dynamic scripting language that compiles to Lua. Busted supports Moonscript natively without any additional compilation steps, and will redirect line numbers to show the proper line numbers for failing tests.

-- source: moonscript_spec.moon
describe "moonscript tests", ->
  it "runs", ->
    assert.are.equal true, true

  it "fails", ->
    assert.error(-> assert.are.equal false, true)

describe "async moonscript tests", ->
  it "runs async tests", () ->

    some_asynchronous_call(guard ->
      assert.is_true true


Busted supports English (en), Arabic (ar), French (fr), Dutch (nl), Russian (ru), German (de), Japanese (ja), Chinese (zh), and Ukranian (ua) by default. Check out the existing language packs and send in a pull request.

Busted supports adding in new languages easily. Pass a --lang parameter to choose one of the built-in languages, or a path to a lua file to run containing your own language. Don't forget to submit languages in pull requests as you make them! Check out the existing language packs to see a template for what you should replace. Copy any of the existing files. It uses the say string key/value store for registration.

Examples: busted spec --lang=ar or busted spec --lang=se.lua

Shell Completion

You can download shell completion packs from the ./completions folder of the Github repository.


You can help! It's as easy as submitting a suggestion or issue, or check out the code for yourself and submit your changes in a pull request. We could especially use help with translations - check out the src/languages folder in busted and luassert to see if you can help.

busted has a big list of contributors and we welcome contributions from all!