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Essential Test Tools

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People often ask me what I think is the best “Test Tool”.  I give them my usual less than concrete answer- “It depends.”  There are some – a few – that I personally like.  Sadly, there are a lot of bad ones.  In my opinion, there are more bad than good.  I recently finished a project with an exceptionally bad one.  I won’t name names here.  Sometimes I wonder if they have ever talked to an actual tester.  I’m hearing and seeing good things about the new test tools in Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2010, but I’ll withhold any judgement until I have had a chance to use it. 

There is one tool, however, that I absolutely cannot live without, and it’s not even a “test tool” – Microsoft Excel.

I have found Excel to be one of the most versatile pieces of software that I have ever used.  I’m always finding new and fascinating ways to use Excel to improve, and in many cases, accelerate my testing.  I have used it to manage defects, build and manage test cases, produce test metrics, compare expected results to actual results and report any differences, and much more!

I’ll expand more on using Excel in future entries, with more specific examples.  Until then I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you take a look at “Favorite Excel 2007 Tips & Tricks” by John Walkenbach (there is a book for the previous version of Excel as well).  It is by far the most used and most borrowed book in my test library.  Also, check out John’s Web site at http://spreadsheetpage.com/

Take a look – you won’t be disappointed!



  1. Hi,
    I have to say that Excel as a tool for testing is not particularly suitable even though you may have found it so. Your technical skills may allow you to maintain a complex spreadsheet, cross referencing items and so on, however the majority I believe would not be able to do this. Within projects typically shared across many testers I’d think it inevitable that in time they end up with a spreadsheet that is little more than a list of items with no audit trail and information poorly managed. Personally I always advise people to make life easier by using appropriate tools for the job in this case, test management products as it simply makes life easier. I think there has been a trend in moving away from Excel for some more traditional uses; apologies I dont know the article reference but I believe Jon Honeyball in PC Pro did some research into alternative products for his traditional Excel use and came up trumps with a few gem replacements and he was quite pleased.

  2. Cap'n Dave says:

    Thanks for your comments Jason!

    I’m bummed that Excel doesn’t work for you. I have no special Excel skills. We had no budget for tools. In this economy, who does? So, I read a few books and said to myself: “Self – this is really cool!” I learned all I could and have been able to do some really great things with Excel, from validating data to managing the entire test management process (including test metrics). It ended up being pretty simple actually. I know some folks who do amazing things with Excel – that’s not me! I’m a great stealer of other people’s ideas.

    Bottom line: a lot of companies won’t spend the big bucks needed to buy some fancy schmancy test tools (which tend to be more difficult to learn and use effectively than Excel).

    So, if it doesn’t work for you…don’t use it. But let’s not assume that your opinion applies to everyone. I admit, my solutions or tools will not work for all. No reason to kill the messenger :o)

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