Exploratory Software Testing: Tips, Tricks, Tours, and Techniques to Guide Test Design

Exploratory Software Testing: Tips, Tricks, Tours, and Techniques to Guide Test Design

by James A. Whittaker

How to Find and Fix the Killer Software Bugs that Evade Conventional Testing

In Exploratory Software Testing, renowned software testing expert James Whittaker reveals the real causes of today’s most serious, well-hidden software bugs--and introduces powerful new “exploratory” techniques for finding and correcting

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How to Find and Fix the Killer Software Bugs that Evade Conventional Testing

In Exploratory Software Testing, renowned software testing expert James Whittaker reveals the real causes of today’s most serious, well-hidden software bugs--and introduces powerful new “exploratory” techniques for finding and correcting them.

Drawing on nearly two decades of experience working at the cutting edge of testing with Google, Microsoft, and other top software organizations, Whittaker introduces innovative new processes for manual testing that are repeatable, prescriptive, teachable, and extremely effective. Whittaker defines both in-the-small techniques for individual testers and in-the-large techniques to supercharge test teams. He also introduces a hybrid strategy for injecting exploratory concepts into traditional scripted testing. You’ll learn when to use each, and how to use them all successfully.

Concise, entertaining, and actionable, this book introduces robust techniques that have been used extensively by real testers on shipping software, illuminating their actual experiences with these techniques, and the results they’ve achieved. Writing for testers, QA specialists, developers, program managers, and architects alike, Whittaker answers crucial questions such as:

• Why do some bugs remain invisible to automated testing--and how can I uncover them?

• What techniques will help me consistently discover and eliminate “show stopper” bugs?

• How do I make manual testing more effective--and less boring and unpleasant?

• What’s the most effective high-level test strategy for each project?

• Which inputs should I test when I can’t test them all?

• Which test cases will provide the best feature coverage?

• How can I get better results by combining exploratory testing with traditional script or scenario-based testing?

• How do I reflect feedback from the development process, such as code changes?

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Meet the Author

James Whittaker has spent his career in software testing and has left his mark on many aspects of the discipline. He was a pioneer in the field of model-based testing, where his Ph.D. dissertation from the University of Tennessee stands as a standard reference on the subject. His work in fault injection produced the highly acclaimed runtime fault injection tool Holodeck, and he was an early thought leader in security and penetration testing. He is also well regarded as a teacher and presenter, and has won numerous best paper and best presentation awards at international conferences. While a professor at Florida Tech, his teaching of software testing attracted dozens of sponsors from both industry and world governments, and his students were highly sought after for their depth of technical knowledge in testing.

Dr. Whittaker is the author of How to Break Software and its series follow- ups How to Break Software Security (with Hugh Thompson) and How to Break Web Software (with Mike Andrews). After ten years as a professor, he joined Microsoft in 2006 and left in 2009 to join Google as the Director of Test Engineering for the Kirkland and Seattle offices. He lives in Woodinville, Washington, and is working toward a day when software just works.

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Alan Page xv

Preface xvii

Chapter 1 The Case for Software Quality 1

The Magic of Software 1

The Failure of Software 4

Conclusion 9

Exercises 9

Chapter 2 The Case for Manual Testing 11

The Origin of Software Bugs 11

Preventing and Detecting Bugs 12

Manual Testing 14

Conclusion 19

Exercises 20

Chapter 3 Exploratory Testing in the Small 21

So You Want to Test Software? 21

Testing Is About Varying Things 23

User Input 23

What You Need to Know About User Input 24

How to Test User Input 25

State 32

What You Need to Know About Software State 32

How to Test Software State 33

Code Paths 35

User Data 36

Environment 36

Conclusion 37

Exercises 38

Chapter 4 Exploratory Testing in the Large 39

Exploring Software 39

The Tourist Metaphor 41

“Touring” Tests 43

Tours of the Business District 45

Tours Through the Historical District 51

Tours Through the Entertainment District 52

Tours Through the Tourist District 55

Tours Through the Hotel District 58

Tours Through the Seedy District 60

Putting the Tours to Use 62

Conclusion 63

Exercises 64

Chapter 5 Hybrid Exploratory Testing Techniques 65

Scenarios and Exploration 65

Applying Scenario-Based Exploratory Testing 67

Introducing Variation Through Scenario Operators 68

Inserting Steps 68

Removing Steps 69

Replacing Steps 70

Repeating Steps 70

Data Substitution 70

Environment Substitution 71

Introducing Variation Through Tours 72

The Money Tour 73

The Landmark Tour 73

The Intellectual Tour 73

The Back Alley Tour 73

The Obsessive-Compulsive Tour 73

The All-Nighter Tour 74

The Saboteur 74

The Collector’s Tour 74

The Supermodel Tour 74

The Supporting Actor Tour 74

The Rained-Out Tour 75

The Tour-Crasher Tour 75

Conclusion 75

Exercises 76

Chapter 6 Exploratory Testing in Practice 77

The Touring Test 77

Touring the Dynamics AX Client 78

Useful Tours for Exploration 79

The Collector’s Tour and Bugs as Souvenirs 81

Tour Tips 84

Using Tours to Find Bugs 86

Testing a Test Case Management Solution 86

The Rained-Out Tour 87

The Saboteur 88

The FedEx Tour 89

The TOGOF Tour 90

The Practice of Tours in Windows Mobile Devices 90

My Approach/Philosophy to Testing 91

Interesting Bugs Found Using Tours 92

Example of the Saboteur 94

Example of the Supermodel Tour 94

The Practice of Tours in Windows Media Player 97

Windows Media Player 97

The Garbage Collector’s Tour 97

The Supermodel Tour 100

The Intellectual Tour 100

The Intellectual Tour: Boundary Subtour 102

The Parking Lot Tour and the Practice of Tours in Visual Studio Team System Test Edition 103

Tours in Sprints 103

Parking Lot Tour 105

Test Planning and Managing with Tours 106

Defining the Landscape 106

Planning with Tours 107

Letting the Tours Run 109

Analysis of Tour Results 109

Making the Call: Milestone/Release 110

In Practice 110

Conclusion 111

Exercises 111

Chapter 7 Touring and Testing’s Primary Pain Points 113

The Five Pain Points of Software Testing 113

Aimlessness 114

Define What Needs to Be Tested 115

Determine When to Test 115

Determine How to Test 116

Repetitiveness 116

Know What Testing Has Already Occurred 117

Understand When to Inject Variation 117

Transiency 118

Monotony 119

Memorylessness 120

Conclusion 121

Exercises 122

Chapter 8 The Future of Software Testing 123

Welcome to the Future 123

The Heads-Up Display for Testers 124

“Testipedia” 126

Test Case Reuse 127

Test Atoms and Test Molecules 128

Virtualization of Test Assets 129

Visualization 129

Testing in the Future 132

Post-Release Testing 134

Conclusion 134

Exercises 135

Appendix A Building a Successful Career in Testing 137

How Did You Get into Testing? 137

Back to the Future 138

The Ascent 139

The Summit 140

The Descent 142

Appendix B A Selection of JW’s Professorial “Blog” 143

Teach Me Something 143

Software’s Ten Commandments 143

1. Thou Shalt Pummel Thine App with Multitudes of Input 145

2. Thou Shalt Covet Thy Neighbor’s Apps 145

3. Thou Shalt Seek Thee Out the Wise Oracle 146

4. Thou Shalt Not Worship Irreproducible Failures 146

5. Thou Shalt Honor Thy Model and Automation 146

6. Thou Shalt Hold Thy Developers Sins Against Them 147

7. Thou Shalt Revel in App Murder (Celebrate the BSOD) 147

8. Thou Shalt Keep Holy the Sabbath (Release) 148

9. Thou Shalt Covet Thy Developer’s Source Code 148

Testing Error Code 149

Will the Real Professional Testers Please Step Forward 151

The Common Denominators I Found Are (In No Particular Order) 152

My Advice Can Be Summarized as Follows 53

Strike Three, Time for a New Batter 154

Formal Methods 154

Tools 155

Process Improvement 156

The Fourth Proposal 156

Software Testing as an Art, a Craft and a Discipline 157

Restoring Respect to the Software Industry 160

The Well-Intentioned but Off-Target Past 160

Moving On to Better Ideas 161

A Process for Analyzing Security Holes and Quality Problems 161

Appendix C An Annotated Transcript of JW’s Microsoft Blog 165

Into the Blogoshere 165

July 2008 166

Before We Begin 166

PEST (Pub Exploration and Software Testing) 167

Measuring Testers 168

Prevention Versus Cure (Part 1) 169

Users and Johns 170

Ode to the Manual Tester 171

Prevention Versus Cure (Part 2) 173

Hail Europe! 174

The Poetry of Testing 175

Prevention Versus Cure (Part 3) 176

Back to Testing 177

August 2008 178

Prevention Versus Cure (Part 4) 179

If Microsoft Is So Good at Testing, Why Does Your Software Still Suck? 180

Prevention Versus Cure (Part 5) 183

Freestyle Exploratory Testing 183

Scenario-Based Exploratory Testing 183

Strategy-Based Exploratory Testing 184

Feedback-Based Exploratory Testing 184

The Future of Testing (Part 1) 184

The Future of Testing (Part 2) 186

September 2008 188

On Certification 188

The Future of Testing (Part 3) 189

The Future of Testing (Part 4) 191

The Future of Testing (Part 5) 192

October 2008 193

The Future of Testing (Part 6) 194

The Future of Testing (Part 7) 195

The Future of Testing (Part 8) 196

Speaking of Google 198

Manual Versus Automated Testing Again 198

November 2008 199

Software Tester Wanted 200

Keeping Testers in Test 200

December 2008 201

Google Versus Microsoft and the Dev:Test Ratio Debate 201

January 2009 202

The Zune Issue 203

Exploratory Testing Explained 204

Test Case Reuse 205

More About Test Case Reuse 206

I’m Back 207

Of Moles and Tainted Peanuts 208

Index 211

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