The standard documentation formatter for RSpec does not show how long each test executes. This information is available in the HTML formatter, though, so I thought it could be available in others. Turns out this is true.

Inside the formatter, the example variable has a method called execution_result that is a Hash. One of the hash keys is :run_time, which is the milliseconds the test took to run, just what we wanted.

Creating the custom formatter

The simplest thing in our case is to subclass the documentation formatter, and replace the reporting functions. stopwatch_formatter.rb does this.

Changing the output

The only two methods of DocumentationFormatter we need to look at are:

  • failure_output
  • passed_output

since these are the only ones that reporting duration on makes sense. (Pending tests don’t take any time.)

In this case, I merely copied the methods from the documentation formatter, and added the duration from example.execution_results[:run_time] to the output. (I did add a bit of formatting, but that’s trivial.)

require 'rspec/core/formatters/documentation_formatter'

class StopwatchFormatter < RSpec::Core::Formatters::DocumentationFormatter

  DURATION_FORMAT = "%-80s | Duration: %7.5f ms"

  def failure_output(example, exception)
    failure_color(DURATION_FORMAT % ["#{current_indentation}#{example.description.strip} (FAILED - #{next_failure_index})", example.execution_result[:run_time]])

  def passed_output(example)
    success_color(DURATION_FORMAT % ["#{current_indentation}#{example.description.strip}", example.execution_result[:run_time]])


Sample output:

/Users/tamara/.rubies/ruby-2.0.0-p427/bin/ruby -S rspec ./spec/lib/stopwatch_formatter_spec.rb

  this will pass                                                                 | Duration: 0.00099 ms
  this will fail (FAILED - 1)                                                    | Duration: 0.00010 ms


  1) StopwatchFormatter this will fail
     Failure/Error: false.should be_true
       expected: true value
            got: false
     # ./spec/lib/stopwatch_formatter_spec.rb:8:in `block (2 levels) in <top (required)>'

Finished in 0.00146 seconds
2 examples, 1 failure

Failed examples:

rspec ./spec/lib/stopwatch_formatter_spec.rb:7 # StopwatchFormatter this will fail
/Users/tamara/.rubies/ruby-2.0.0-p427/bin/ruby -S rspec ./spec/lib/stopwatch_formatter_spec.rb failed

Using the custom formatter

rspec needs to load the code for your custom formatter. The easiest thing is to simply require it on the rspec command line, and specify the class name as the formatter:

    rspec -r /path/to/stopwatch_formatter.rb --format StopwatchFormatter ...

Getting the formatter

You can get stopwatch_formatter from rubygems:

gem install stopwatch_formatter

or put it in your Gemfile:

gem 'stopwatch_formatter', :group => [:development, :test]

and bundle install as usual. You can specify to use the stopwatch formatter in a few ways:


If you use rake, and run rspec from within it, you can simply add the SPEC_OPTS variable to your run:

rake SPEC_OPTS='-f StopwatchFormatter'


A more convenient method is to put the formatter inside the .rspec file:

--format StopwatchFormatter

then you can just run:


(assuming spec is one of you default tasks.)


If you want a more permanent solution, you can configure the formatter inside the spec/spec_helper.rb file:

require 'stopwatch_formatter'
RSpec.configure {|c| c.add_formatter StopwatchFormatter }

This last rather permanently adds the stopwatch formatter to your runs, so if you specify another formatter on the command line or in .rspec, you’ll end up with that output and the stopwatch output, so this isn’t really recommended.

Getting the formatter, contributing, and all that

  1. Fork the github repository at
  2. Create a new branch for your changes.
  3. Commit your changes and push to the branch on your fork. Please rebase.
  4. Issue a pull request via Github.