Avocado utilities have a certain default behavior based on educated, reasonable (we hope) guesses about how users like to use their systems. Of course, different people will have different needs and/or dislike our defaults, and that’s why a configuration system is in place to help with those cases

The Avocado config file format is based on the (informal) INI file ‘specification’, that is implemented by Python’s ConfigParser. The format is simple and straightforward, composed by sections, that contain a number of keys and values. Take for example a basic Avocado config file:

base_dir = /var/lib/avocado
test_dir = /usr/share/doc/avocado/tests
data_dir = /var/lib/avocado/data
logs_dir = ~/avocado/job-results

The datadir.paths section contains a number of keys, all of them related to directories used by the test runner. The base_dir is the base directory to other important Avocado directories, such as log, data and test directories. You can also choose to set those other important directories by means of the variables test_dir, data_dir and logs_dir. You can do this by simply editing the config files available.

Config file parsing order

Avocado starts by parsing what it calls system wide config file, that is shipped to all Avocado users on a system wide directory, /etc/avocado/avocado.conf. Then it’ll verify if there’s a local user config file, that is located usually in ~/.config/avocado/avocado.conf. The order of the parsing matters, so the system wide file is parsed, then the user config file is parsed last, so that the user can override values at will. There is another directory that will be scanned by extra config files, /etc/avocado/conf.d. This directory may contain plugin config files, and extra additional config files that the system administrator/avocado developers might judge necessary to put there.

Please note that for base directories, if you chose a directory that can’t be properly used by Avocado (some directories require read access, others, read and write access), Avocado will fall back to some defaults. So if your regular user wants to write logs to /root/avocado/logs, Avocado will not use that directory, since it can’t write files to that place. A new location, by default ~/avocado/job-results will be selected instead.

The order of files described in this section is only valid if avocado was installed in the system. For people using avocado from git repos (usually avocado developers), that did not install it in the system, keep in mind that avocado will read the config files present in the git repos, and will ignore the system wide config files. Running avocado config will let you know which files are actually being used.

Plugin config files

Plugins can also be configured by config files. In order to not disturb the main Avocado config file, those plugins, if they wish so, may install additional config files to /etc/avocado/conf.d/[pluginname].conf, that will be parsed after the system wide config file. Users can override those values as well at the local config file level. Considering the config for the hypothethical plugin salad:

base = ceasar
dressing = ceasar

If you want, you may change dressing in your config file by simply adding a [salad.core] new section in your local config file, and set a different value for dressing there.

Parsing order recap

So the file parsing order is:

  • /etc/avocado/avocado.conf
  • /etc/avocado/conf.d/*.conf
  • ~/.config/avocado/avocado.conf

In this order, meaning that what you set on your local config file may override what’s defined in the system wide files.


Please note that if avocado is running from git repos, those files will be ignored in favor of in tree configuration files. This is something that would normally only affect people developing avocado, and if you are in doubt, avocado config will tell you exactly which files are being used in any given situation.


When avocado runs inside virtualenv than path for global config files is also changed. For example, avocado.conf comes from the virual-env path venv/etc/avocado/avocado.conf.

Order of precedence for values used in tests

Since you can use the config system to alter behavior and values used in tests (think paths to test programs, for example), we established the following order of precedence for variables (from least precedence to most):

  • default value (from library or test code)
  • global config file
  • local (user) config file
  • command line switch
  • test parameters

So the least important value comes from the library or test code default, going all the way up to the test parameters system.

Config plugin

A configuration plugin is provided for users that wish to quickly see what’s defined in all sections of their Avocado configuration, after all the files are parsed in their correct resolution order. Example:

$ avocado config
Config files read (in order):

    Section.Key     Value
    runner.base_dir /var/lib/avocado
    runner.test_dir /usr/share/doc/avocado/tests
    runner.data_dir /var/lib/avocado/data
    runner.logs_dir ~/avocado/job-results

The command also shows the order in which your config files were parsed, giving you a better understanding of what’s going on. The Section.Key nomenclature was inspired in git config --list output.

Avocado Data Directories

When running tests, we are frequently looking to:

  • Locate tests
  • Write logs to a given location
  • Grab files that will be useful for tests, such as ISO files or VM disk images

Avocado has a module dedicated to find those paths, to avoid cumbersome path manipulation magic that people had to do in previous test frameworks [1].

If you want to list all relevant directories for your test, you can use avocado config –datadir command to list those directories. Executing it will give you an output similar to the one seen below:

$ avocado config --datadir
Config files read (in order):

Avocado replaces config dirs that can't be accessed
with sensible defaults. Please edit your local config
file to customize values

Avocado Data Directories:
    base  $HOME/avocado
    tests $HOME/Code/avocado/examples/tests
    data  $HOME/avocado/data
    logs  $HOME/avocado/job-results

Note that, while Avocado will do its best to use the config values you provide in the config file, if it can’t write values to the locations provided, it will fall back to (we hope) reasonable defaults, and we notify the user about that in the output of the command.

The relevant API documentation and meaning of each of those data directories is in avocado.core.data_dir, so it’s highly recommended you take a look.

You may set your preferred data dirs by setting them in the Avocado config files. The only exception for important data dirs here is the Avocado tmp dir, used to place temporary files used by tests. That directory will be in normal circumstances /var/tmp/avocado_XXXXX, (where XXXXX is in actuality a random string) securely created on /var/tmp/, unless the user has the $TMPDIR environment variable set, since that is customary among unix programs.

The next section of the documentation explains how you can see and set config values that modify the behavior for the Avocado utilities and plugins.

[1]For example, autotest.