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Source-based Code Coverage
.. contents::
This document explains how to use clang's source-based code coverage feature.
It's called "source-based" because it operates on AST and preprocessor
information directly. This allows it to generate very precise coverage data.
Clang ships two other code coverage implementations:
* :doc:`SanitizerCoverage` - A low-overhead tool meant for use alongside the
various sanitizers. It can provide up to edge-level coverage.
* gcov - A GCC-compatible coverage implementation which operates on DebugInfo.
This is enabled by ``-ftest-coverage`` or ``--coverage``.
From this point onwards "code coverage" will refer to the source-based kind.
The code coverage workflow
The code coverage workflow consists of three main steps:
* Compiling with coverage enabled.
* Running the instrumented program.
* Creating coverage reports.
The next few sections work through a complete, copy-'n-paste friendly example
based on this program:
.. code-block:: cpp
% cat <<EOF >
#define BAR(x) ((x) || (x))
template <typename T> void foo(T x) {
for (unsigned I = 0; I < 10; ++I) { BAR(I); }
int main() {
return 0;
Compiling with coverage enabled
To compile code with coverage enabled, pass ``-fprofile-instr-generate
-fcoverage-mapping`` to the compiler:
.. code-block:: console
# Step 1: Compile with coverage enabled.
% clang++ -fprofile-instr-generate -fcoverage-mapping -o foo
Note that linking together code with and without coverage instrumentation is
supported. Uninstrumented code simply won't be accounted for in reports.
Running the instrumented program
The next step is to run the instrumented program. When the program exits it
will write a **raw profile** to the path specified by the ``LLVM_PROFILE_FILE``
environment variable. If that variable does not exist, the profile is written
to ``default.profraw`` in the current directory of the program. If
``LLVM_PROFILE_FILE`` contains a path to a non-existent directory, the missing
directory structure will be created. Additionally, the following special
**pattern strings** are rewritten:
* "%p" expands out to the process ID.
* "%h" expands out to the hostname of the machine running the program.
* "%t" expands out to the value of the ``TMPDIR`` environment variable. On
Darwin, this is typically set to a temporary scratch directory.
* "%Nm" expands out to the instrumented binary's signature. When this pattern
is specified, the runtime creates a pool of N raw profiles which are used for
on-line profile merging. The runtime takes care of selecting a raw profile
from the pool, locking it, and updating it before the program exits. If N is
not specified (i.e the pattern is "%m"), it's assumed that ``N = 1``. N must
be between 1 and 9. The merge pool specifier can only occur once per filename
* "%c" expands out to nothing, but enables a mode in which profile counter
updates are continuously synced to a file. This means that if the
instrumented program crashes, or is killed by a signal, perfect coverage
information can still be recovered. Continuous mode does not support value
profiling for PGO, and is only supported on Darwin at the moment. Support for
Linux may be mostly complete but requires testing, and support for Windows
may require more extensive changes: please get involved if you are interested
in porting this feature.
.. code-block:: console
# Step 2: Run the program.
% LLVM_PROFILE_FILE="foo.profraw" ./foo
Note that continuous mode is also used on Fuchsia where it's the only supported
mode, but the implementation is different. The Darwin and Linux implementation
relies on padding and the ability to map a file over the existing memory
mapping which is generally only available on POSIX systems and isn't suitable
for other platforms.
On Fuchsia, we rely on the ability to relocate counters at runtime using a
level of indirection. On every counter access, we add a bias to the counter
address. This bias is stored in ``__llvm_profile_counter_bias`` symbol that's
provided by the profile runtime and is initially set to zero, meaning no
relocation. The runtime can map the profile into memory at arbitrary locations,
and set bias to the offset between the original and the new counter location,
at which point every subsequent counter access will be to the new location,
which allows updating profile directly akin to the continuous mode.
The advantage of this approach is that doesn't require any special OS support.
The disadvantage is the extra overhead due to additional instructions required
for each counter access (overhead both in terms of binary size and performance)
plus duplication of counters (i.e. one copy in the binary itself and another
copy that's mapped into memory). This implementation can be also enabled for
other platforms by passing the ``-runtime-counter-relocation`` option to the
backend during compilation.
.. code-block:: console
% clang++ -fprofile-instr-generate -fcoverage-mapping -mllvm -runtime-counter-relocation -o foo
Creating coverage reports
Raw profiles have to be **indexed** before they can be used to generate
coverage reports. This is done using the "merge" tool in ``llvm-profdata``
(which can combine multiple raw profiles and index them at the same time):
.. code-block:: console
# Step 3(a): Index the raw profile.
% llvm-profdata merge -sparse foo.profraw -o foo.profdata
There are multiple different ways to render coverage reports. The simplest
option is to generate a line-oriented report:
.. code-block:: console
# Step 3(b): Create a line-oriented coverage report.
% llvm-cov show ./foo -instr-profile=foo.profdata
This report includes a summary view as well as dedicated sub-views for
templated functions and their instantiations. For our example program, we get
distinct views for ``foo<int>(...)`` and ``foo<float>(...)``. If
``-show-line-counts-or-regions`` is enabled, ``llvm-cov`` displays sub-line
region counts (even in macro expansions):
.. code-block:: none
1| 20|#define BAR(x) ((x) || (x))
^20 ^2
2| 2|template <typename T> void foo(T x) {
3| 22| for (unsigned I = 0; I < 10; ++I) { BAR(I); }
^22 ^20 ^20^20
4| 2|}
| void foo<int>(int):
| 2| 1|template <typename T> void foo(T x) {
| 3| 11| for (unsigned I = 0; I < 10; ++I) { BAR(I); }
| ^11 ^10 ^10^10
| 4| 1|}
| void foo<float>(int):
| 2| 1|template <typename T> void foo(T x) {
| 3| 11| for (unsigned I = 0; I < 10; ++I) { BAR(I); }
| ^11 ^10 ^10^10
| 4| 1|}
If ``--show-branches=count`` and ``--show-expansions`` are also enabled, the
sub-views will show detailed branch coverage information in addition to the
region counts:
.. code-block:: none
| void foo<float>(int):
| 2| 1|template <typename T> void foo(T x) {
| 3| 11| for (unsigned I = 0; I < 10; ++I) { BAR(I); }
| ^11 ^10 ^10^10
| ------------------
| | | 1| 10|#define BAR(x) ((x) || (x))
| | | ^10 ^1
| | | ------------------
| | | | Branch (1:17): [True: 9, False: 1]
| | | | Branch (1:24): [True: 0, False: 1]
| | | ------------------
| ------------------
| | Branch (3:23): [True: 10, False: 1]
| ------------------
| 4| 1|}
To generate a file-level summary of coverage statistics instead of a
line-oriented report, try:
.. code-block:: console
# Step 3(c): Create a coverage summary.
% llvm-cov report ./foo -instr-profile=foo.profdata
Filename Regions Missed Regions Cover Functions Missed Functions Executed Lines Missed Lines Cover Branches Missed Branches Cover
/tmp/ 13 0 100.00% 3 0 100.00% 13 0 100.00% 12 2 83.33%
TOTAL 13 0 100.00% 3 0 100.00% 13 0 100.00% 12 2 83.33%
The ``llvm-cov`` tool supports specifying a custom demangler, writing out
reports in a directory structure, and generating html reports. For the full
list of options, please refer to the `command guide
A few final notes:
* The ``-sparse`` flag is optional but can result in dramatically smaller
indexed profiles. This option should not be used if the indexed profile will
be reused for PGO.
* Raw profiles can be discarded after they are indexed. Advanced use of the
profile runtime library allows an instrumented program to merge profiling
information directly into an existing raw profile on disk. The details are
out of scope.
* The ``llvm-profdata`` tool can be used to merge together multiple raw or
indexed profiles. To combine profiling data from multiple runs of a program,
try e.g:
.. code-block:: console
% llvm-profdata merge -sparse foo1.profraw foo2.profdata -o foo3.profdata
Exporting coverage data
Coverage data can be exported into JSON using the ``llvm-cov export``
sub-command. There is a comprehensive reference which defines the structure of
the exported data at a high level in the llvm-cov source code.
Interpreting reports
There are five statistics tracked in a coverage summary:
* Function coverage is the percentage of functions which have been executed at
least once. A function is considered to be executed if any of its
instantiations are executed.
* Instantiation coverage is the percentage of function instantiations which
have been executed at least once. Template functions and static inline
functions from headers are two kinds of functions which may have multiple
instantiations. This statistic is hidden by default in reports, but can be
enabled via the ``-show-instantiation-summary`` option.
* Line coverage is the percentage of code lines which have been executed at
least once. Only executable lines within function bodies are considered to be
code lines.
* Region coverage is the percentage of code regions which have been executed at
least once. A code region may span multiple lines (e.g in a large function
body with no control flow). However, it's also possible for a single line to
contain multiple code regions (e.g in "return x || y && z").
* Branch coverage is the percentage of "true" and "false" branches that have
been taken at least once. Each branch is tied to individual conditions in the
source code that may each evaluate to either "true" or "false". These
conditions may comprise larger boolean expressions linked by boolean logical
operators. For example, "x = (y == 2) || (z < 10)" is a boolean expression
that is comprised of two individual conditions, each of which evaluates to
either true or false, producing four total branch outcomes.
Of these five statistics, function coverage is usually the least granular while
branch coverage is the most granular. 100% branch coverage for a function
implies 100% region coverage for a function. The project-wide totals for each
statistic are listed in the summary.
Format compatibility guarantees
* There are no backwards or forwards compatibility guarantees for the raw
profile format. Raw profiles may be dependent on the specific compiler
revision used to generate them. It's inadvisable to store raw profiles for
long periods of time.
* Tools must retain **backwards** compatibility with indexed profile formats.
These formats are not forwards-compatible: i.e, a tool which uses format
version X will not be able to understand format version (X+k).
* Tools must also retain **backwards** compatibility with the format of the
coverage mappings emitted into instrumented binaries. These formats are not
* The JSON coverage export format has a (major, minor, patch) version triple.
Only a major version increment indicates a backwards-incompatible change. A
minor version increment is for added functionality, and patch version
increments are for bugfixes.
Impact of llvm optimizations on coverage reports
llvm optimizations (such as inlining or CFG simplification) should have no
impact on coverage report quality. This is due to the fact that the mapping
from source regions to profile counters is immutable, and is generated before
the llvm optimizer kicks in. The optimizer can't prove that profile counter
instrumentation is safe to delete (because it's not: it affects the profile the
program emits), and so leaves it alone.
Note that this coverage feature does not rely on information that can degrade
during the course of optimization, such as debug info line tables.
Using the profiling runtime without static initializers
By default the compiler runtime uses a static initializer to determine the
profile output path and to register a writer function. To collect profiles
without using static initializers, do this manually:
* Export a ``int __llvm_profile_runtime`` symbol from each instrumented shared
library and executable. When the linker finds a definition of this symbol, it
knows to skip loading the object which contains the profiling runtime's
static initializer.
* Forward-declare ``void __llvm_profile_initialize_file(void)`` and call it
once from each instrumented executable. This function parses
``LLVM_PROFILE_FILE``, sets the output path, and truncates any existing files
at that path. To get the same behavior without truncating existing files,
pass a filename pattern string to ``void __llvm_profile_set_filename(char
*)``. These calls can be placed anywhere so long as they precede all calls
to ``__llvm_profile_write_file``.
* Forward-declare ``int __llvm_profile_write_file(void)`` and call it to write
out a profile. This function returns 0 when it succeeds, and a non-zero value
otherwise. Calling this function multiple times appends profile data to an
existing on-disk raw profile.
In C++ files, declare these as ``extern "C"``.
Using the profiling runtime without a filesystem
The profiling runtime also supports freestanding environments that lack a
filesystem. The runtime ships as a static archive that's structured to make
dependencies on a hosted environment optional, depending on what features
the client application uses.
The first step is to export ``__llvm_profile_runtime``, as above, to disable
the default static initializers. Instead of calling the ``*_file()`` APIs
described above, use the following to save the profile directly to a buffer
under your control:
* Forward-declare ``uint64_t __llvm_profile_get_size_for_buffer(void)`` and
call it to determine the size of the profile. You'll need to allocate a
buffer of this size.
* Forward-declare ``int __llvm_profile_write_buffer(char *Buffer)`` and call it
to copy the current counters to ``Buffer``, which is expected to already be
allocated and big enough for the profile.
* Optionally, forward-declare ``void __llvm_profile_reset_counters(void)`` and
call it to reset the counters before entering a specific section to be
profiled. This is only useful if there is some setup that should be excluded
from the profile.
In C++ files, declare these as ``extern "C"``.
Collecting coverage reports for the llvm project
To prepare a coverage report for llvm (and any of its sub-projects), add
``-DLLVM_BUILD_INSTRUMENTED_COVERAGE=On`` to the cmake configuration. Raw
profiles will be written to ``$BUILD_DIR/profiles/``. To prepare an html
report, run ``llvm/utils/``.
To specify an alternate directory for raw profiles, use
``-DLLVM_PROFILE_DATA_DIR``. To change the size of the profile merge pool, use
Drawbacks and limitations
* Prior to version 2.26, the GNU binutils BFD linker is not able link programs
compiled with ``-fcoverage-mapping`` in its ``--gc-sections`` mode. Possible
workarounds include disabling ``--gc-sections``, upgrading to a newer version
of BFD, or using the Gold linker.
* Code coverage does not handle unpredictable changes in control flow or stack
unwinding in the presence of exceptions precisely. Consider the following
.. code-block:: cpp
int f() {
return 0;
If the call to ``may_throw()`` propagates an exception into ``f``, the code
coverage tool may mark the ``return`` statement as executed even though it is
not. A call to ``longjmp()`` can have similar effects.
Clang implementation details
This section may be of interest to those wishing to understand or improve
the clang code coverage implementation.
Gap regions
Gap regions are source regions with counts. A reporting tool cannot set a line
execution count to the count from a gap region unless that region is the only
one on a line.
Gap regions are used to eliminate unnatural artifacts in coverage reports, such
as red "unexecuted" highlights present at the end of an otherwise covered line,
or blue "executed" highlights present at the start of a line that is otherwise
not executed.
Branch regions
When viewing branch coverage details in source-based file-level sub-views using
``--show-branches``, it is recommended that users show all macro expansions
(using option ``--show-expansions``) since macros may contain hidden branch
conditions. The coverage summary report will always include these macro-based
boolean expressions in the overall branch coverage count for a function or
source file.
Branch coverage is not tracked for constant folded branch conditions since
branches are not generated for these cases. In the source-based file-level
sub-view, these branches will simply be shown as ``[Folded - Ignored]`` so that
users are informed about what happened.
Branch coverage is tied directly to branch-generating conditions in the source
code. Users should not see hidden branches that aren't actually tied to the
source code.
Switch statements
The region mapping for a switch body consists of a gap region that covers the
entire body (starting from the '{' in 'switch (...) {', and terminating where the
last case ends). This gap region has a zero count: this causes "gap" areas in
between case statements, which contain no executable code, to appear uncovered.
When a switch case is visited, the parent region is extended: if the parent
region has no start location, its start location becomes the start of the case.
This is used to support switch statements without a ``CompoundStmt`` body, in
which the switch body and the single case share a count.
For switches with ``CompoundStmt`` bodies, a new region is created at the start
of each switch case.
Branch regions are also generated for each switch case, including the default
case. If there is no explicitly defined default case in the source code, a
branch region is generated to correspond to the implicit default case that is
generated by the compiler. The implicit branch region is tied to the line and
column number of the switch statement condition since no source code for the
implicit case exists.