Friday, July 6, 2012

Exploratory Testing, Management and Tools

Disclaimer: You wouldn't eat with a hammer and you wouldn't bang a nail in with a fork. Tools are options. They are a bag of tricks you keep by your side. A mechanic doesn't use the whole tool chest to check your breaks, and you shouldn't let software tools be your dogmatic methodology. Stay light, simple and efficient is my advice. Your own set of tools will be dependent on your own context. But if you want some more brushes in your paintpot here is a list of some exploratory and session-based management tools:

Second Disclaimer:

You will find a better list here:

Exploratory Testing & Management Tools

Note Taking

Paper and Pen

Paper & pen is flexible (in both senses), versatile, expressive, cheap, easily accessed, and useful. It stores well in a suitable filing system, it's portable, and generally ubiquitous. Plus it doesn't need a computer, or even electrical mains power or batteries to use. Not to be ignored.


A limited version of paper & pen for the computer! Your OS probably has an equivalent.

Rapid Reporter

Most ET practicioners have heard of this, in my experience. It is a "note taking application that aids in the reporting process of SBTM". It doesn't take up much real-estate, it sits always-on-top, and has a transparency slider, so it's very convenient to use. It's standalone (no installation), and outputs to the easy-to-parse CSV format. It's customisable, easy to control with the keyboard, and does its job very well, I highly recommend it.

Session Capture

Video Screen Recorders

Screenr, Camtasia, Hypercam

They all record everything you do, and if the disk space these videos use isn't an issue for you then they are a valuable asset. Once you have the video at hand you can answer those questions... Did it do that before? Did I click the button before or after? Why did it work the second time and not the first?...


After a couple of suggestions I downloaded qTrace. I've played only marginally with this so far but it's remarkably good. You boot it up, select the application to record, hit record, then start testing. When you hit stop it presents you with every action you performed, and these trace files can be saved. You can even specify the number of screens you want kept so that you can raise the processes as a bug, and the software interacts directly with many tracking systems including JIRA (ours).. although you need to pay a small fee for this (and to remove a small ad). It also saves a very useful table of environment information (OS, browser version, CPU, RAM, Available RAM, current user...).
It has facilities to force a screen capture, add a notes to the steps, blur out sensitive information on the page, add arrows/boxes/text to your screens, and more.
Together with good notes I consider this a very viable candidate for our ET sessions. One thing it doesn't seem to do is track timestamps, so these would have to go in your notes.

Other Useful Tools

Mindmap Tools

FreeMind, XMind, MindMeister

JIRA Plugin: Bonfire [£]

A good-looking JIRA plugin that sits in your browser and handles private or public test sessions, bug report templates and more. Worth a look if you're planning on using session-based management.

Any further suggestions please tweet me @kinofrost, letting me know if you'd like direct credit for it (defaults to "no" for reasons of privacy and spam).

Many thanks to the many testers of Twitter, and a very useful RT from Software Testing Club for the suggestions.