I've been maintaining a number of Perl software packages recently. There's SReview, my video review and transcoding system of which I split off Media::Convert a while back; and as of about a year ago, I've also added PtLink, an RSS aggregator (with future plans for more than just that).

All these come with extensive test suites which can help me ensure that things continue to work properly when I play with things; and all of these are hosted on salsa.debian.org, Debian's gitlab instance. Since we're there anyway, I configured GitLab CI/CD to run a full test suite of all the software, so that I can't forget, and also so that I know sooner rather than later when things start breaking.

GitLab has extensive support for various test-related reports, and while it took a while to be able to enable all of them, I'm happy to report that today, my perl test suites generate all three possible reports. They are:

  • The coverage regex, which captures the total reported coverage for all modules of the software; it will show the test coverage on the right-hand side of the job page (as in this example), and it will show what the delta in that number is in merge request summaries (as in this example
  • The JUnit report, which tells GitLab in detail which tests were run, what their result was, and how long the test took (as in this example)
  • The cobertura report, which tells GitLab which lines in the software were ran in the test suite; it will show up coverage of affected lines in merge requests, but nothing more. Unfortunately, I can't show an example here, as the information seems to be no longer available once the merge request has been merged.

Additionally, I also store the native perl Devel::Cover report as job artifacts, as they show some information that GitLab does not.

It's important to recognize that not all data is useful. For instance, the JUnit report allows for a test name and for details of the test. However, the module that generates the JUnit report from TAP test suites does not make a distinction here; both the test name and the test details are reported as the same. Additionally, the time a test took is measured as the time between the end of the previous test and the end of the current one; there is no "start" marker in the TAP protocol.

That being said, it's still useful to see all the available information in GitLab. And it's not even all that hard to do:

  stage: test
  image: perl:latest
  coverage: '/^Total.* (\d+.\d+)$/'
    - cpanm ExtUtils::Depends Devel::Cover TAP::Harness::JUnit Devel::Cover::Report::Cobertura
    - cpanm --notest --installdeps .
    - perl Makefile.PL
    - cover -delete
    - HARNESS_PERL_SWITCHES='-MDevel::Cover' prove -v -l -s --harness TAP::Harness::JUnit
    - cover
    - cover -report cobertura
    - cover_db
      junit: junit_output.xml
        path: cover_db/cobertura.xml
        coverage_format: cobertura

Let's expand on that a bit.

The first three lines should be clear for anyone who's used GitLab CI/CD in the past. We create a job called test; we start it in the test stage, and we run it in the perl:latest docker image. Nothing spectacular here.

The coverage line contains a regular expression. This is applied by GitLab to the output of the job; if it matches, then the first bracket match is extracted, and whatever that contains is assumed to contain the code coverage percentage for the code; it will be reported as such in the GitLab UI for the job that was ran, and graphs may be drawn to show how the coverage changes over time. Additionally, merge requests will show the delta in the code coverage, which may help deciding whether to accept a merge request. This regular expression will match on a line of that the cover program will generate on standard output.

The before_script section installs various perl modules we'll need later on. First, we intall ExtUtils::Depends. My code uses ExtUtils::MakeMaker, which ExtUtils::Depends depends on (no pun intended); obviously, if your perl code doesn't use that, then you don't need to install it. The next three modules -- Devel::Cover, TAP::Harness::JUnit and Devel::Cover::Report::Cobertura are necessary for the reports, and you should include them if you want to copy what I'm doing.

Next, we install declared dependencies, which is probably a good idea for you as well, and then we run perl Makefile.PL, which will generate the Makefile. If you don't use ExtUtils::MakeMaker, update that part to do what your build system uses. That should be fairly straightforward.

You'll notice that we don't actually use the Makefile. This is because we only want to run the test suite, which in our case (since these are PurePerl modules) doesn't require us to build the software first. One might consider that this makes the call of perl Makefile.PL useless, but I think it's a useful test regardless; if that fails, then obviously we did something wrong and shouldn't even try to go further.

The actual tests are run inside a script snippet, as is usual for GitLab. However we do a bit more than you would normally expect; this is required for the reports that we want to generate. Let's unpack what we do there:

cover -delete

This deletes any coverage database that might exist (e.g., due to caching or some such). We don't actually expect any coverage database, but it doesn't hurt.


This tells the TAP harness that we want it to load the Devel::Cover addon, which can generate code coverage statistics. It stores that in the cover_db directory, and allows you to generate all kinds of reports on the code coverage later (but we don't do that here, yet).

prove -v -l -s

Runs the actual test suite, with verbose output, shuffling (aka, randomizing) the test suite, and adding the lib directory to perl's include path. This works for us, again, because we don't actually need to compile anything; if you do, then -b (for blib) may be required.

ExtUtils::MakeMaker creates a test target in its Makefile, and usually this is how you invoke the test suite. However, it's not the only way to do so, and indeed if you want to generate a JUnit XML report then you can't do that. Instead, in that case, you need to use the prove, so that you can tell it to load the TAP::Harness::JUnit module by way of the --harness option, which will then generate the JUnit XML report. By default, the JUnit XML report is generated in a file junit_output.xml. It's possible to customize the filename for this report, but GitLab doesn't care and neither do I, so I don't. Uploading the JUnit XML format tells GitLab which tests were run and

Finally, we invoke the cover script twice to generate two coverage reports; once we generate the default report (which generates HTML files with detailed information on all the code that was triggered in your test suite), and once with the -report cobertura parameter, which generates the cobertura XML format.

Once we've generated all our reports, we then need to upload them to GitLab in the right way. The native perl report, which is in the cover_db directory, is uploaded as a regular job artifact, which we can then look at through a web browser, and the two XML reports are uploaded in the correct way for their respective formats.

All in all, I find that doing this makes it easier to understand how my code is tested, and why things go wrong when they do.