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We are pleased to announce the availability of Test Design Studio 4.5 (Build 7220).  You can see the change notes and download now.  There are two notable changes in this release that we want to highlight.

Goodbye .NET Framework 3.5

With this release, we were able to remove the final components that were forcing us to keep a dependency on .NET Framework 3.5.  This is particularly nice for our Windows 10 users who would have to enable that feature in Windows if not already turned on.  You will still need .NET Framework 4.5.2 (or newer).  Windows 7 and Windows 8 users will still need to install the .NET Framework, but Windows 10 users should already have what they need since even the first release of Windows 10 included .NET Framework 4.6.

Next/Previous Declaration Commands

These commands have been missing since Test Design Studio 3, but now they’re back and better than ever.  The restored Edit.NextDeclaration and Edit.PreviousDeclaration commands allow you to easily navigate to major declarations in your file.  They intentionally do not stop on every declaration, only the major ones.  Those include:

  1. Script-level function/sub declarations
  2. Class declarations
  3. Class-level public variables
  4. Class-level function/sub declarations
  5. Class properties

The default shortcut for “Next” is CTRL+SHIFT+Right Arrow, and “Previous” is CTRL+SHIFT+Left Arrow.  We created a quick 90-second video highlighting the new commands so you can see it in action.

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

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:

image

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

image

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.

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

image

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.

image

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.

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!

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.

If you are not already following Joe Colantonio's excellent automation podcast called Test Talks, Episode 103 is a great place to start.  This podcast featured noted automation expert and "Dark Arts Automation Engineer" Paul Grossman, and we were honored that Paul mentioned Test Design Studio and this company's founder, Boyd Patterson, in his list of mentors and recommendations.

What exactly did Paul have to say?  He highlighted Test Design Studio’s unique static code analysis feature for VBScript saying “Nobody else has that!  I’ve Googled it.  It’s not there.”  Thanks, Paul!  We’ve Googled it, too, and have to agree.

You can read more about static code analysis in Test Design Studio here if you want to see what has Paul so excited.

As our way of saying thanks to both Joe and Paul for this mention, we’re giving away a FREE seat license of Test Design Studio!  All you have to do to enter:

  1. Listen to Test Talks Episode 103
  2. Leave a comment at the bottom of the episode 103 page
  3. Joe will randomly pick someone from the comment list on June 20, 2016 to receive the free license (extended from previous date of June 13)

 

The seat license includes 1 year of maintenance and support and can be used for personal or commercial use.  The only restriction is the license cannot be sold or transferred.  Good luck!

It’s been a long journey, but we are pleased to announce the general availability of Test Design Studio 3.0!

tds_small

If you have not already, please read our post about the new focus for Test Design Studio to understand how we got here and where we are going.  That post also highlights the most significant change in functionality in this release; connecting to ALM\Quality Center servers.  This is a transformational release, so check our release notes about some functionality which, unfortunately, needed to be deprecated in order for us to move the product forward.

Download Now

The new release is available to download right now from our Downloads Page and all users are strongly encouraged to upgrade if you can.

How to Upgrade

Customers with an active maintenance agreement can upgrade to Test Design Studio 3.0 at no additional charge (see below for details on licenses)!  Customers without an active maintenance agreement are encouraged to evaluate the new release and our new focus for Test Design Studio to see if they want to come back.  Then you can contact sales@patterson-consulting.net to discuss options to upgrade to the latest version at promotional rates.

First and foremost, the requirements for running Test Design Studio have changed since the last release.  Primarily, this involves a shift to Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5, so you must first install the right version of .NET Framework before you can install and use Test Design Studio.  The newer .NET Framework also means Windows XP is no longer supported, so users on that operating system should continue to use v2.5.  Test Design Studio 3.0 will run on any system that is supported by .NET Framework 4.5.

Acquiring New Licenses

In the coming days, all existing customers with an active maintenance will have updated license information sent to their primary contact.  If you have not received your new license or want to upgrade sooner, simply contact support@patterson-consulting.net to inquire about the new license.  You can go ahead and install Test Design Studio 3.0 today and use the included 20-day trial until your new license is available.

Users with seat licenses will receive new serial numbers that begin with “TDS30”.  The old serial numbers will not work with the latest version, so you must acquire, register, and activate the software with a new serial number.

Users with concurrent licenses will receive a new license file for use on each client, but your license server will not require any updates.

Wrap Up

We hope you enjoy this new release of Test Design Studio, and we are already working on the next round of feature updates due later this year.  We look forward to any and all feedback you might have about the release.

It is with great pleasure that we announce the pending arrival of Test Design Studio 3, and the following is a glimpse of what is to come:

image

A New Focus

Those who have been using Test Design Studio for a while know that the idea of what would be TDS 3 has shifted over time.  Our initial goal was to take TDS into the future with an entirely rebuilt user-interface and re-architected back-end services.  That undertaking proved to be bigger and more complicated than expected, and resulted in one delay after another.  As time wore on and we analyzed each part of the system, we realized what we already had was pretty great.  The passion and commitment to build a first-class editing experience for QuickTest Professional code authors was prevalent throughout, and could not be ignored.  Instead of making our loyal fans wait any longer for the new release, we decided to refocus our efforts on bringing the already great application forward into the expectations of today.

We started with the user interface.  While purely aesthetic, the appearance of an application is something that impacts every user during every moment they are using the software.  The moment the TDS splash screen goes away, you are presented with a clean and modern UI.  Gradient effects of yester-year have been replaced with a flat and clean appearance that result in fewer visual distractions and improved focus on your work.

What came next was a tremendous effort that, had we not told you, you may never have known.  We refactored our code.  A lot of code!  Test Design Studio was first built in the age of .NET Framework 1.1, and the .NET Framework has seen significant improvements since.  Design choices that had to be made based on the limitations of the early .NET Framework were no longer necessary.  There was functionality written for TDS v1.0 that had exceeded its relevancy or had eventually gone in a different direction through the iterations of our software.  We looked at everything with fresh eyes and adjusted the design as needed.  Even many of the rewritten subsystems for the new design were incorporated into the existing design where possible.  What was the result?  The code is now cleaner and more structured.  This translates to easier debugging, reduced maintenance, eradication of many existing bugs, and increased confidence to make changes without introducing regressions.

A New Integration

Perhaps the largest user-facing difference in this release over prior releases is a change to how we integrate with HP Quality Center or Application Lifecycle Management (ALM).  Many would be surprised to know that TDS 2.5 still fully works with Mercury TestDirector 8.0!  It is easy to forget that TestDirector did not support the single authentication point we have today.  A user switching projects would have to exit their current project, select a new project, and login again with potentially different credentials.  The server- and project-centric integration design within TDS was based on that original functionality from TestDirector.  As TestDirector changed names to Quality Center and beyond, we continued to support the previous versions while tweaking our integrations to support their evolved systems.  One such change was the authentication model shift which occurred in Quality Center 9.0.  While moving TDS forward, those decisions from the past and desire for backwards compatibility still influenced our integration.

Since use of those legacy systems has sunset, we have reached a point where no supported version of Quality Center or ALM requires that older design.  Today, we are happy to announce that TDS 3 has refocused and streamlined your integration with Quality Center and ALM into a single connection dialog.

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You no longer have to step through the Connection Wizard to define a server and configure your account.  Instead, you are presented with a simple authentication window that is familiar to how other tools also integrate with ALM.  Changing ALM servers is now as easy as just changing your connection.  File references which are stored by TDS will still note the server from which they originated, but will always use the current server connection.  What hasn’t changed is the ability to interact with multiple projects after connecting to the server.  While ALM integrations like that found in Unified Functional Testing require you to build a connection to an individual project, TDS will still independently manage individual connections so that you can simultaneously work with content from multiple projects.

Even with our changes, we still maintain a high degree of backward compatibility and are happy to continue support for Quality Center 10 and all versions of Application Lifecycle Management.

Continuing with the theme of refocusing our efforts, this release of TDS will remove some functionality related to ALM that was not core to this product.  Test Design Studio has always been about coding tests.  It’s right there in the name.  Yet over time, the software became bloated with features related to ALM administration.  Most of this functionality required Site Administrator access in ALM which was managed through a completely separate API.  Other features, like interacting with ALM workflow scripts, required changing parameters on the server that could impact the security of your system.  To put TDS on a new track of growth and evolution, we had to leave those administrative features behind and focus our integration on that which was necessary for strong test design.

A New Commitment

Our new commitment starts with an admission.  Our choice to execute a complete rebuild of Test Design Studio was wrong.  While our hearts were in the right place and we had the right goal in mind, we simply charted the wrong path.  We still believe in that future for TDS, but will use a more iterative approach to get there.  A new plan has already been put in place to make that happen, and it starts with more frequent application updates.  In this new day of continuous improvement, we are letting go of the idea of a “major release”.  Instead of holding back new features in an effort to group them into a major release, we will release those features as they are ready.  Our goal is to provide a new release of TDS every 4-6 months.  The first release of a new year will receive a major version number increase, while subsequent releases that year will receive a minor version number increase.  TDS 3.0 will be released very soon and followed later this year by TDS 3.1 or even TDS 3.2.  Next year will bring TDS 4.0, 4.1, and so on.  Customers will receive these new releases at no additional charge as part of their ongoing maintenance agreement.  As needed, maintenance releases will be provided between release cycles to address issues that might arise in the software.

All these years of working on the rebuild of TDS are not in vain.  We still have that code and are very pleased with the results of what we have built so far.  Much of that work has already made its way into TDS 3.0, and more will be integrated over time.  Each new release of TDS will bring us one step closer to the future we always imagined.  We are committed to this product and look forward to the journey ahead.

A New Invitation

We want to thank all of our many devoted users of TDS who have shared their ideas and experiences with us over the years.  We build this software for you, not for ourselves.  Your voice has a direct impact on the software we develop and put into your hands, and we want to hear your ideas.  Don’t leave us guessing about how you want to use the software.  Your exact individual feedback will be directly read by every person working on this software and not simply aggregated into metrics or reports.  You have a real opportunity to directly influence a piece of software you use every day and further improve your own productivity.

And now, we would like to invite you to try out the Technology Preview of TDS 3.0.  The pre-release is currently invite-only, so please contact us if you are interested in evaluating the software.  It has been too long since a major release of Test Design Studio, and we are anxious to step into this new era.  You can install TDS 3.0 on the same machine as TDS 2.5, so you can evaluate the pre-release while continuing to use the last official release.

The foundation has been set to continue to iterate on TDS and carry it into the future.  The new journey begins now with the technology preview, and we hope you will join us.

I am happy to announce that I will be presenting a session at Software Test Professionals Conference 2011 Fall in Dallas, TX!

Session Title: Improve Automation Code Quality, Clarity, and Comprehension
Session Track: Test Automation
Session #: 602
Date/Time: Wednesday, October 26, 11:30am – 12:45pm
Session Description:

How many times have you looked at someone else’ automation code and
wondered what they were doing? How about your own code months after you
wrote it? Much of the effort to perform test automation comes months or even
years after the initial scripts have been written. Before you can begin to debug
broken code or write new functionality for a test, you must first comprehend
what was previously written.

This session will teach you about many of the common pitfalls in authored code
and how you can refactor your code to dramatically improve comprehension.
Topics of discussion will include good naming conventions for variables and
methods, when to use callable routines, effective use of parameters in routines,
variable usage, avoiding “magic values”, code formatting, and objective
measurements of code complexity. Examples from the presentation will be
provided based on HP QuickTest(R) Professional, but the concepts can be
universally applied to any programming language.

This will be my first time presenting at a conference, so I am very excited about the opportunity and look forward to bringing the spotlight to code quality.  Perhaps equally exciting is the chance to meet many of the Test Design Studio users out there.  Are you planning to attend the conference?  If so, drop me an e-mail.  And of course… be sure to sign up for my session! Smile