Flow Coverage

Increase your confidence in Flow checking

The coverage command provides a metric of the amount of checking that Flow has performed on each part of your code. A program with high Flow coverage should increase your confidence that Flow has detected any potential runtime errors.

The determining factor for this is the presence of any in the inferred type of each expression. An expression whose inferred type is any is considered uncovered, otherwise it is considered covered.

To see why this metric was chosen for determining Flow’s effectiveness, consider the example

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const one: any = 1;
one();

This code leads to a runtime type error, since we are attempting to perform a call on a number. Flow, however, does not flag an error here, because we have annotated variable one as any. Flow’s checking is effectively turned off whenever any is involved, so it will silently allow the call. The use of this unsafe type has rendered the type checker ineffective, and the coverage metric is here to surface this, by reporting all instances of one as uncovered.

Design Space

Which types should be “covered”?

What was described above is a rather coarse grained way to determine coverage. One could imagine a criterion that flags expressions as uncovered if any part of their type includes any, for example Array<any>. While there is value in a metric like this, the “uncovered” part of the type will typically be uncovered through various operations on values of this type. For example, in the code

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declare var arr: Array<any>;
arr.forEach(x => {});

the parameter x will be flagged as uncovered. Also, in practice, a strict criterion like this would be too noisy and rather expensive to compute on the fly.

Union types

An exception to this principle are union types: the type number | any is considered uncovered, even though technically any is not the top-level constructor. Unions merely encode an option among a set of other types. In that sense we are conservatively viewing an expression as uncovered, when at least one possible type of that expression causes limited checking. For example, in the code

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let x: number | any = 1;
x = "a";

Flow will let you assign anything to x, which reduces confidence in the use of x as a number. Thus x is considered uncovered.

The empty type

An interesting type from a coverage perspective is the empty type. This type roughly corresponds to dead code. As such checking around expressions with type empty is more relaxed, but for a good reason: this code will not be executed at runtime. Since it is a common practice to clean up such code, Flow coverage will also report code whose type is inferred to be empty, but distinguishes it from the case of any.

Command Line Use

To find out the coverage of a file foo.js with the following contents

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// @flow
function add(one: any, two: any): number {
  return one + two;
}

add(1, 2);

you can issue the following command

$ flow coverage file.js
Covered: 50.00% (5 of 10 expressions)

This output means that 5 out of the 10 nodes of this program were inferred to have type any. To see exactly which parts are uncovered you can also pass one of the following flags:

  • --color: This will print foo.js on the terminal with the uncovered locations in red color.
  • --json: This will list out all location spans that are uncovered under the tag "uncovered_locs".

Finally, as an example of dead code, consider the code

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function untypedAdd(one, two) {
  return one + two;
}

Note that function untypedAdd is never called, so one and two will be inferred to have type empty. In the colored version of this command these parts appear in blue color, and in the JSON version they are under the tag "empty_locs".

Use on multiple files

If you want to check coverage of multiple files at once, Flow offers the batch-coverage command:

$ flow batch-coverage dir/

will report coverage statistics for each file under dir/, as well as aggregate results.

Note that batch-coverage requires a non-lazy Flow server.


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