Long live the spreadsheet

One of the problems that most testers have faced is planning and tracking the testing that we do.  The solution that we have traditionally come up with for this is called a Test Case. Over the years we have also come up with many different test case management tools and templates.  Recently I (re)discovered one of the most powerful test case tools out there: the spreadsheet.

One of my colleagues at work has been experimenting with  distributed group exploratory testing sessions and as part of this he created a spreadsheet template (in google docs) for collaboratively tracking issues found in the group exploratory session.  Cool idea right?  Well I was working on testing a feature and I decided to use one of these spreadsheet templates to track stuff that I was finding and I was once again reminded that sometimes the most powerful tools are the simple tried and true ones.

I think many testers realize that there are flaws in the standard approach to test cases.  Creating test cases up front (that then rapidly go out of date) and trying to think about everything before hand has a lot of inefficiencies, but what do we do instead?  How do we approach test cases?  Using a simple spreadsheet has actually been working very well for me.  The way it works is we have a column for the submitter’s name,one for the description of the issue, and another to categorize the type of problem. The category column is probably the most powerful part of it.  If you have something you are confused about, just write it down and set the category to Question.  If you have UX feedback set the category to UX Feedback.  If it is a defect set the category to Defect and if it is a future testing idea, set the category to New Test Idea.

Using this approach allows for a lot of low cost and yet powerful tracking and filtering of the testing being done, and – in Google sheets at least – allows you to easily pull in relevant people by tagging them in a comment.  This approach also allows you to quickly get ideas down without causing too much of a disruption in the flow of your testing while giving you a record to come back to later and follow up on things with. It can also be setup to give you a pretty quick summary of the status of the feature as well.  So before you fork over the money for an expensive test case management tool, give the good ole spreadsheet a try.  It’s not perfect (For examples screenshots are a bit tricky), but it can be very effect at a very low cost.



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