Contributing to Catch2

Using Git(Hub)
Testing your changes
Writing documentation
Writing code

So you want to contribute something to Catch2? That's great! Whether it's a bug fix, a new feature, support for additional compilers - or just a fix to the documentation - all contributions are very welcome and very much appreciated. Of course so are bug reports, other comments, and questions, but generally it is a better idea to ask questions in our Discord, than in the issue tracker.

This page covers some guidelines and helpful tips for contributing to the codebase itself.

Using Git(Hub)

Ongoing development happens in the master branch for Catch2 v2, and in dev-v3 for the next major version, v3.

Commits should be small and atomic. A commit is atomic when, after it is applied, the codebase, tests and all, still works as expected. Small commits are also prefered, as they make later operations with git history, whether it is bisecting, reverting, or something else, easier.

When submitting a pull request please do not include changes to the single include. This means do not include them in your git commits!

When addressing review comments in a MR, please do not rebase/squash the commits immediately. Doing so makes it harder to review the new changes, slowing down the process of merging a MR. Instead, when addressing review comments, you should append new commits to the branch and only squash them into other commits when the MR is ready to be merged. We recommend creating new commits with git commit --fixup (or --squash) and then later squashing them with git rebase --autosquash to make things easier.

Testing your changes

Note: Running Catch2's tests requires Python3

Catch2 has multiple layers of tests that are then run as part of our CI. The most obvious one are the unit tests compiled into the SelfTest binary. These are then used in "Approval tests", which run (almost) all tests from SelfTest through a specific reporter and then compare the generated output with a known good output ("Baseline"). By default, new tests should be placed here.

However, not all tests can be written as plain unit tests. For example, checking that Catch2 orders tests randomly when asked to, and that this random ordering is subset-invariant, is better done as an integration test using an external check script. Catch2 integration tests are written using CTest, either as a direct command invocation + pass/fail regex, or by delegating the check to a Python script.

There are also two more kinds of tests, examples and "ExtraTests". Examples serve as a compilation test on the single-header distribution, and present a small and self-contained snippets of using Catch2 for writing tests. ExtraTests then are tests that either take a long time to run, or require separate compilation, e.g. because of testing compile time configuration options, and take a long time because of that.

Both of these are compiled against the single-header distribution of Catch2, and thus might require you to regenerate it manually. This is done by calling the script in scripts.

Examples and ExtraTests are not compiled by default. To compile them, add -DCATCH_BUILD_EXAMPLES=ON and -DCATCH_BUILD_EXTRA_TESTS=ON to the invocation of CMake configuration step.

Bringing this all together, the steps below should configure, build, and run all tests in the Debug compilation.

  1. Regenerate the single header distribution
$ cd Catch2
$ ./scripts/
  1. Configure the full test build
  1. Run the actual build
$ cmake --build debug-build
  1. Run the tests using CTest
$ cd debug-build
$ ctest -j 4 --output-on-failure -C Debug

Writing documentation

If you have added new feature to Catch2, it needs documentation, so that other people can use it as well. This section collects some technical information that you will need for updating Catch2's documentation, and possibly some generic advise as well.


First, the technicalities:

  • If you have introduced a new document, there is a simple template you should use. It provides you with the top anchor mentioned to link to (more below), and also with a backlink to the top of the documentation:
<a id="top"></a>
# Cool feature

Text that explains how to use the cool feature.


  • Crosslinks to different pages should target the top anchor, like this [link to contributing](

  • We introduced version tags to the documentation, which show users in which version a specific feature was introduced. This means that newly written documentation should be tagged with a placeholder, that will be replaced with the actual version upon release. There are 2 styles of placeholders used through the documentation, you should pick one that fits your text better (if in doubt, take a look at the existing version tags for other features).

    • > [Introduced](link-to-issue-or-PR) in Catch X.Y.Z - this placeholder is usually used after a section heading
    • > X (Y and Z) was [introduced](link-to-issue-or-PR) in Catch X.Y.Z
    • this placeholder is used when you need to tag a subpart of something, e.g. a list
  • For pages with more than 4 subheadings, we provide a table of contents (ToC) at the top of the page. Because GitHub markdown does not support automatic generation of ToC, it has to be handled semi-manually. Thus, if you've added a new subheading to some page, you should add it to the ToC. This can be done either manually, or by running the script in the scripts/ folder.


Now, for some content tips:

  • Usage examples are good. However, having large code snippets inline can make the documentation less readable, and so the inline snippets should be kept reasonably short. To provide more complex compilable examples, consider adding new .cpp file to examples/.

  • Don't be afraid to introduce new pages. The current documentation tends towards long pages, but a lot of that is caused by legacy, and we know that some of the pages are overly big and unfocused.

  • When adding information to an existing page, please try to keep your formatting, style and changes consistent with the rest of the page.

  • Any documentation has multiple different audiences, that desire different information from the text. The 3 basic user-types to try and cover are:

    • A beginner to Catch2, who requires closer guidance for the usage of Catch2.
    • Advanced user of Catch2, who want to customize their usage.
    • Experts, looking for full reference of Catch2's capabilities.

Writing code

If want to contribute code, this section contains some simple rules and tips on things like code formatting, code constructions to avoid, and so on.


To make code formatting simpler for the contributors, Catch2 provides its own config for clang-format. However, because it is currently impossible to replicate existing Catch2's formatting in clang-format, using it to reformat a whole file would cause massive diffs. To keep the size of your diffs reasonable, you should only use clang-format on the newly changed code.

Code constructs to watch out for

This section is a (sadly incomplete) listing of various constructs that are problematic and are not always caught by our CI infrastructure.

If you are throwing an exception, it should be done via CATCH_ERROR or CATCH_RUNTIME_ERROR in catch_enforce.h. These macros will handle the differences between compilation with or without exceptions for you. However, some platforms (IAR) also have problems with exceptions-related functions, such as std::current_exceptions. We do not have IAR in our CI, but luckily there should not be too many reasons to use these. However, if you do, they should be kept behind a CATCH_CONFIG_DISABLE_EXCEPTIONS macro.

Unqualified usage of functions from C's stdlib

If you are using a function from C's stdlib, please include the header as <cfoo> and call the function qualified. The common knowledge that there is no difference is wrong, QNX and VxWorks won't compile if you include the header as <cfoo> and call the function unqualified.


This project has a CoC. Please adhere to it while contributing to Catch2.

This documentation will always be in-progress as new information comes up, but we are trying to keep it as up to date as possible.


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