Property testing

To test pubgrub, we employ a mix of unit tests, integration tests and property tests. Some unit tests are present for example in the version module to validate that the parsing of semantic versions is correct. Integration tests are located in the tests/ directory. Property tests are co-located both with unit tests and integration tests depending on required access to some private implementation details.


We have multiple example cases inside tests/ Those mainly come from dart documentation of the solver and are simple end-to-end examples for which we know the expected results. The first example called no_conflict is a simple case where the root package depends on one package which itself has a dependency to another package. The tests there compare the expected result with the solution of the solver for each of those examples. These were very useful when making progress on PubGrub implementation and can now also be referred to as example usage of the API.

Unit property testing

Property testing consists in defining invariants, generating random valid inputs for the tested functions, and verifying that the invariants hold for the results. Here are some examples extracted from the range module.

fn main() {
proptest! {
    fn negate_is_different(range in strategy()) {
        assert_ne!(range.negate(), range);

    fn double_negate_is_identity(range in strategy()) {
        assert_eq!(range.negate().negate(), range);

    fn negate_contains_opposite(range in strategy(), version in version_strat()) {
        assert_ne!(range.contains(&version), range.negate().contains(&version));

As you can see, the input of the testing function is specified in an unusual manner, using a function called a "strategy". This is the terminology used by the proptest crate and it simply is a way to describe how are randomly generated the values used as inputs to those property tests. Don't hesitate to have a look at the corresponding strategy() function defined just above the extracted code if you want to know more about that.

End-to-end property testing

Defining and testing properties for small units of code like ranges implementation is rather easy. Coming up with interesting properties for end-to-end testing such as results of full resolution is different. But the most difficult part is probably finding a "strategy" to generate random but valid registries of packages and dependencies. This is the work that has been done in tests/ for the registry_strategy() function.

The simplest implementation of registry_strategy() would be any::<Map<P, Map<V, Map<P, Range<V>>>>(), with some machinery to convert to an OfflineDependencyProvider. While this works, it would almost certainly generate unsolvable dependencies. Indeed random package names in dependencies have an almost null probability of being the same than existing package names.

Let's defer picking the dependencies until we have a list of available names. Luckily proptest has an Index type for this use case of picking something out of a list that has not yet been generated. This leaves us with any::Map<P, Map<V, Map<Index, Range<V>>>(), with more machinery to get the P for each index. While this works, the generated versions have very low probability of being the same than existing versions for a given package.

Let's also use Index to ensure our Ranges are relevant. To identify each Index we will name Ip the one for package names, and Ia and Ib the ones to define version ranges. This leaves us with any::Map<P, Map<V, Map<Ip, (Ia, Ib)>>(). The conversion from Map<Ip, (Ia, Ib)> to Map<P, Range<V>> is done by first picking a dependency P using Ip and then picking up two versions for that package with the Ia and Ib indices. We can then call Range::between(versions[Ia], versions[Ib].bump()) to build a range. If versions[Ib] < versions[Ia], we use Range::between(versions[Ib], versions[Ia].bump()) instead.

Now we finally have something that makes interesting registries! But not particularly realistic ones since almost all of them end up with packages that indirectly depend on themselves. PubGrub is designed to solve dependencies with at most one version per package, so that kind of circular dependencies will very often end up unsolvable.

To fix this lets make sure that we have a DAG, by having each package only depend on packages with a lower index. One solution is to represent dependencies in a side list Vec<(Ip, Id, (Ia, Ib))>. If Ip < Id then we switch them to maintain the acyclic nature of the graph. This is currently how we generate registries of dependencies, suggestions to improve are welcome!

Generating random registries of packages may produce cases where dependency resolution would take too long. For this reason, we introduced in the DependencyProvider trait definition a function called should_cancel which is called in the solver loop. By default it does nothing but can be overwritten such as in TimeoutDependencyProvider (defined in tests/, where the solver is stopped after a certain amount of time.

Once all this is setup, we have to come up with good properties. Here are some of these:

  • The solver should return the same result on multiple runs with the same input. That may seem trivial, but thinks like hashmaps do add some randomness. So that test ensures that we configured properly everything that could prevent reproducibility of the solver.
  • Changing the order in which valid package versions are tried should not change the existence of a solution or not. Indeed, some freedom is available for the dependency provider to pick which package and version to choose next. We must ensure that it cannot change the existence of solution for our implementation of the solver algorithm.
  • Removing a dependency cannot prevent existence of a solution. If a solution was found in a given situation, removing a dependency cannot get us in a situation where the solver does not find a solution anymore. Only adding dependencies should impact that.
  • Removing a package that does not appear in a solution cannot break that solution. Just as before, it should not impact the existence of a solution.