Test Design Studio 4.5 Released

We are pleased to announce that Test Design Studio 4.5 is now generally available and can be downloaded here.  Much like version 4.0, this release continues our journey to modernize the application by shifting away from .NET Windows Forms toward Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF).  While there is still a lot to migrate, we have completed the migration of all Tool Windows to WPF.

 

Release Highlights

WPF Conversion

As noted in the introduction, several windows were converted to WPF for this release.  Those include:

  1. Find and Replace tool window
  2. Find Results tool window
  3. Object Browser tool window
  4. Bookmarks tool window
  5. Solution Explorer tool window
  6. Task List tool window
  7. ALM Version History dialog

The end goal is to convert the entire application to WPF as that platform provides more flexible UI options and will better support hi-dpi monitors that are becoming more common today.

Search Solution Explorer

The WPF update enabled us to implement one of our favorite new features of this release, Search Solution Explorer.  This feature adds a search box at the top of solution explorer.  As you type, the entries in Solution Explorer are filter to only include the items that match your filter.  In projects with a lot of files, this can help you quickly navigate to the file you are looking for.

The picture below shows a side-by-side view of a project open in Solution Explorer.  On the right, the search term “check” has been entered in the “Search Solution Explorer” box, and the content of Solution Explorer has been filtered to only show items containing the text “check”

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Error List Column Updates

The error list now supports two new columns of data, Code and Path.  Description and File were also updated as noted below.

The Code, which is used to identify a code analysis rule, was previously displayed as part of the description, but has now been separated for display in a dedicated column.  Not only does this make it easier to sort, the value of the code is now hyperlinked to help about the particular code if you are unsure why Test Design Studio is making a recommendation.

The File column previously displayed the full path of a the file.  This has now been separated into two columns, Path and File.  The Path will display the folder location, while File now only displays the name of the file.  This helps reduce visual clutter when file path is not important, and can also make it easier to sort errors independently by either location or file name.

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Object Browser Parameter Details

VBScript does not support overloads directly in the language, but many of the built-in functions provided by VBScript do.  When the Object Browser would repeat these overloaded methods, it was not clear which entry matched which overload.

The member list has now been updated to show the type of data passed as parameters to each method call.  As seen in the picture below, it makes it easier to determine which overloaded method matches a particular parameter signature, and the faded color of the data helps keep emphasis on the function name itself.

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Task List Filter to Active File

This feature has been available on the Error List tool window for a while, so this release brings “Filter to Active File” to the Task List tool window as well.  When activated, the Task List will only show entries that are related to the currently selected file.  This allows you to stay focused on the file at hand.

Output Window Provider Filtering and Output Buffering

The Output tool window provides a method for various parts of the application to provide textual feedback about a process.  There is a drop-down to select which output you want to see.  New in this release, we now only show entries in the drop-down list that are actually providing content in the current.  The first time a provider publishes content, it will also become the active selection to make sure that content is easily seen.

Some output providers, like the one used when generating documentation, produce a lot of detail in the output window.  Updating the UI with the new output could cause poor performance.  We are now buffering the output so that instead of pushing updates on each new line, we are building a buffer of lines and only push updates about once a second.  That may not sound like much, but Documenter could easily produce many lines of output a second.  With the new buffered approach, content is still updated in near-real-time but without the performance penalties.

Open Help from Options

Test Design Studio has a lot of options to allow the end user to customize the application experience, and sometimes those options need a little explaining.  A new “Help” button has been added to the Options dialog to allow you to open the Help file to the corresponding topic.

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Cache COM References

Test Design Studio has long supported the ability to parse a COM library and provide rich IntelliSense when editing files.  Unfortunately, some of the larger libraries can take a long time to fully parse.  After a library is parsed, that data is now cached in a temporary folder for future use.  On subsequent launches of the application, the cached data can be read significantly faster than returning to the original COM library.  This greatly improves the time needed to launch a new instance of the application.

Documenter Improvements

Built-in references rarely change, yet the Test Design Studio documenter was generating HTML pages for members of the built-in references every time you generated documentation with that option.  This easily exploded the amount of time it took to generate documentation.  These generated files are now cached as they are generated.  On future documentation updates, any previously generated cache file will be used instead of re-creating the file.

We also identified a scenario where the XML data used to provide details about a project would duplicate some information for each project.  This resulted in files that were larger than they needed to be, and could result in OutOfMemory exceptions when processing the data.  Any data that can be shared between projects is now shared to reduce the file size.

Test Design Studio 4.0 Released

We are pleased to announce that Test Design Studio 4.0 is now generally available and can be downloaded here.

Splash.TDS4_thumb[4]

This release continues our push to re-architect and modernize the back end code of the application while also moving the front-end away from Windows Forms and toward Windows Presentation Foundation with a modern look-and-feel.  The tool windows for Output, Server Explorer, and Toolbox were all converted in this release.  Even the splash screen saw the first update since v2 with a flatter design.

Release Highlights

The following are some highlights from the 4.0 release

Naming Conventions

We’re very excited about this feature.  So excited, in fact, that it gets its own blog post!

Floating Document Windows

Those with multiple monitors know how convenient it can be to float your tool windows on a secondary monitor while leaving Test Design Studio on a primary monitor, but document windows were also bound to the main window.  Not anymore!  You can now drag the document tab outside of the main window to float it, or simply right-click the document tab and select ‘Floating’.  When combined with the long-standing ability to dock document windows side-by-side in the main part of the application, you now have a new tool to customize your view to see exactly what you want and where you want to see it.

Disable Code Analysis Rule from Context Menu

We love the code analysis feature, but sometimes a rule just isn’t a good fit for your organization.  You no longer have to dig through the options dialog to find the rule you want to turn off.  If it shows up in the Error List and you don’t want to see it, simply right-click and turn it off.  You can always turn it back on from the original Options dialog.

ALM Updates

Sometimes it’s the little things.  Many users were confused about how to get Test Design Studio connected to ALM or, even worse, didn’t know the feature was available.  The Server Explorer tool window, when not connected to ALM, should remove all doubt about the capability and how to get started:

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We even redesigned the login screen with a friendly reminder that you must register the ALM Client for the integration to work properly:

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We also removed the special feature called “Offline Mode”.  This was a carry over from functionality prior to TDS 3 where server connections were managed very differently, and it created a confusing interface.  You no longer have to enter “Offline Mode” to work with any files offline.  If you’re not connected to ALM, you’ll be in offline mode.  Simple as that!  We even added the option to have your credentials stored so that your ALM connection is automatically restored every time you launch TDS.

Now TDS even scans a project before you open it to look for any ALM files and will prompt you to connect to ALM before opening (with the option to cancel) so that you are not presented with errors opening the files.

Customer Upgrades

All customers with an active maintenance agreement will receive this upgrade at no change.  Users with a Seat License will need a new serial number for this version and it will begin with "TDS40-".  Users with a Concurrent License will not need to modify their License Server, but will need a new client license file to use along with the new version.

Please contact support@patterson-consulting.net if you are ready to upgrade and have not already received your new license.

New Feature - Naming Conventions

The feature we’re most excited about with TDS 4.0 is support for naming conventions.  Most of us work on teams that contribute to the same code base.  It is important that the unified product of that team’s effort be presented consistently no matter who contributed the code.  Choosing to name variables or functions a certain way can make your framework more cohesive and easier to use by everyone.

By default, Test Design Studio comes pre-configured for the most basic naming conventions around character casing for language elements.  These defaults are based on generally accepted industry norms for VBScript and include:

  • Variables and parameters start with lower-case letter and capitalize each new word.
  • Functions, subs, and properties start with upper-case letter and capitalize each new word.
  • Class names start with upper-case letter and capitalize each new word.
  • Constants use all upper-case letters with underscore between words.

The following illustrates a Sub whose name begins with a lower-case letter instead of upper-case

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The violations for naming rules are displayed in the Error List along with any syntax errors and code analysis feedback.  Each violation is also underlined in the editor with green “squiggles” to draw attention to the oversight.

These default rules are a great start for naming conventions, but individual policies at your organization are likely far more complex.  Since every organization is different, we designed this feature from the beginning to be user-driven.  All naming conventions are based on a series of rules in an XML-formatted file.  We’ve provided a powerful set of criteria to help you define your individual conventions.  We’ve even provided a working sample of a much more complicated rules file that you can use as a template for your own rules (look at ‘CodeAnalysis\rules.sample.typePrefix.xml’ under the TDS installation directory).

Not only can you define different rules based on item type (e.g. Sub, Function, Variable), you can also define rules based on the content.  Do you name integer variables one way and boolean variable another way?  No problem!  Different convention for public vs. private items?  We have that, too!

You can change the location of the naming rules XML file in the same spot where you turn individual code analysis rules on/off by selecting “Tools –> Options” from the main menu.

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While we’ve tried to prepare a solid foundation for the rules engine, we know our customers will be the truest test of when the feature is complete.  We fully support the functionality, but are releasing it under a “Beta” tag for now.  We’re confident in the core functionality for the default rules we have provided, but we need to hear from more customers about how they want to implement rules.

If you are unable to implement your naming conventions using our present rules engine, we want to hear from you!  Please contact us with examples of the rules you want to implement.  If we can’t make the current rules engine work, we’ll see what we can do to add the support your need.

We hope you enjoy this new feature, and look forward to hearing your feedback.

Test Design Studio Compatible with UFT 14

With the recent release of Unified Functional Testing 14, we are happy to report that Test Design Studio continues to be fully compatible with the latest version.  In fact, it doesn’t appear that the core GUI Test functionality has changed at all… and hasn’t for years!  That should speak volumes about how much this manufacturer cares about those who still write code for UFT, but that’s why we have Test Design Studio anyway!

We’ve Moved!

What Happened?

We woke up to a nice little surprise a few days ago… our web host of 10 years had mysteriously started turning off our servers!  First to go was e-mail delivery, and that’s what tipped us off to the problem.  It turns out our web host had migrated our account to a new platform a couple of months ago, but failed to tell us.  Not only did communication fall apart, their migration was a total failure.  They copied some files… that’s about all the credit they get.  None of our web services worked, the server was configured incorrectly, our database was empty, and their control panel tools were useless!

After juggling support from multiple contacts, we quickly realized this was a situation we never wanted to be in again.  We abandoned any effort to get our site working on their new platform and looked for greener pastures.  And boy did we find them!

A Brave New World

A lot can change in 10 years.  When it comes to technology, 10 years is like a lifetime.  Needless to say, the landscape has improved greatly!  We settled on building all new web apps on Microsoft’s cloud computing platform, Azure.  The service is amazing and highly recommended for anyone looking for web hosting.  We’ve also migrated our email handling to new Microsoft-powered cloud services, and everything is working great!

How Does This Impact You?

For the most part, there is no impact.  The same web address gets automagically ported to our new servers.  We’ve tried to re-write any old URL’s that were no longer valid, so those bookmarks will keep working.  Two important aspects did change, however.

We needed to relocate some of our web services into stand alone web apps.  This is a much better design, but does break compatibility with prior applications.  Most importantly, this impacts web-based license activation.  The “check for updates” feature will also stop working, but you will continue to get news alerts on the Start Page.

Test Design Studio v3.0.7020 and higher will support the new server, and you can download it now.  All users who have ever owned a license to v3.0 will be able to upgrade to this release even if your maintenance has expired.  **There is not an upgrade path for Test Design Studio v2.5 or prior releases!**  You will still be able to activate your licenses, but the activations will need to be performed manually.  Contact support@patterson-consulting.net if you have concerns about applying any legacy licenses or if you want to explore options to reinstate your maintenance.

The Concurrent License Server is also impacted by the change to the licensing service, and we will be working on a fix in the near future.  Concurrent licenses of Test Design Studio will continue to operate without issue on an already activated Concurrent License Server instance.  If you have immediate license activation needs, please contact support@patterson-consulting.net and we will make sure your request is handled.