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Test Design Studio 2 – an updated review

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October 15th, 2009 by Yaron Assa

I’ve previously reviewed TDS (Test Design Studio) version 1, and I still stand by what I said back then, TDS was an invaluable tool that increased my productivity tenfold, by giving me full intellisence, autocomplete for variables and a solution-centric approach to managing my tests. I recommend reading our old review to get a more complete rundown of TDS’s features.

This follow-on review takes a second look at the old TDS version, as well as the new TDS 2 release.

Proper Disclosure

Beside basic fact-checking, this review hasn’t been coordinated with or approved by Patterson Consulting (the company which develops TDS). Nor I, nor AdvancedQTP will receive any kind of payment or any kind of benefit for writing this review, or for its content. We do, however, have ongoing business cooperation with Patterson Consulting, though it does not rely on this, or any other review or publication.

An updated comparison

The last TDS review I wrote was over a year and a half ago. Since then, HP released QTP 10, which included several IDE improvements, and presumably narrowed the gap between QTP and TDS. So, how does TDS fair in comparison to a more mature QTP? I recommend reading our QTP 10 detailed review to get a more complete rundown of its improvements and features.

Well, similar to TDS, QTP 10 offers smart, multi-level autocomplete and intellisense for variable names, as well as for COM objects created with CreateObject (such as Excel, or Scripting.Dictionary). However, TDS maintains the lead by providing multi-level autocomplete and intellisense for VBScript classes (which QTP completely ignores). While not many QTP users work with classes, those that do will find this feature to be a life saver. Also, since TDS’s intellisense relies on XML comments, it tends to be much more accurate than QTP (though it requires a small investment).

QTP 10 does have one major, unmatched killer-feature over TDS, and that’s the ability to autocomplete properties and methods within the AUT runtime objects. That’s an absolute must for automating complex applications with custom controls, and it’s completely outside the scope of TDS.

TDS still offers superior outlining with folding code-regions, while QTP 10 only introduced a half-backed code-region highlight, which doesn’t really reduce the code clutter over time, and in any case, it’s no match for TDS’s code-snippets mechanism. Also, with a little extra work adding XML comments that “help” TDS’s intellisense, you get an excellent intellisense tooltips across your entire code.

As far as project management goes – if you combine QTP 10 with Quality Center 10, you get a wonderful set of project management tools; including versioning, return to baseline, resource management and more. Visual-Studio programmers might feel more at home with TDS’s standard solution->Project tree and resource management.

TDS’s excellent Documenter is still a rare jewel, even in the wider code-editors landscape. The ability to effortlessly produce professional looking and feature rich documentation for your projects is, for lack for a better word, awesome. The fact that the XML comments allow you to customize and enrich the documentation up to the level of value lists (for example) is unmatched by any other document generator for VBScript.

To sum-up – TDS 1 advantages remain valid, even a year and a half after its release. And while QTP 10 offers significant and worthwhile improvements, it’s still not the professional A-Z development IDE that is TDS. Naturally, that must be weighed against TDS high price-tag (Although you’ll only need QTP licenses to run your tests, not to design them).

What’s new in TDS 2?

The fact that even after all this time, TDS 1 is still a worthwhile choice is quite remarkable; So the new features added in the recent release of TDS 2 only add value and bulk to an already excellent product (in my opinion, at least).

While the new features list might seem short, it actually delivers quite a punch. I’ll focus on the killer feature that was most meaningful to me, but you can always download TDS evaluation version and take it out for a spin yourself.

Syntax checking, Language Analysis and Code Metrics

This is definitely the killer feature I’ve been waiting for. One of the worst things in QTP is its inability to spot potential code-errors before the actual test run. It isn’t really QTP’s fault – it’s just damn-hard to perform the require code-analysis on a scripting language.

This usually results countless hours of frustrating debugging by running, trying to chase that one recursive property, the one misspelled variable, or that one error that got swallowed in an error handling block. It’s especially frustrating for anyone who worked with “real” programming IDE’s such as Visual Studio or Eclipse, which alert you beforehand to structural and logical errors in your code.

QTP does check your code’s syntax, but syntax never was the real problem. Both TDS 1 and QTP 10 offer variable autocomplete, which narrows down spelling mistakes. That’s nice indeed, but TDS 2 presents a total game-changer with full-blown code language analysis.

The language analysis feature has a few hard-coded rules you can switch on or off, as well as the potential to implement your own rules (though it’s not an out-of-the-box ability). These rules vary from the critical life-savers (using unknown terms, invalid use of the Set keyword, etc.) to the ones that will make you code more coherent, effective and robust (all functions must return a result, class fields should only be exposed via properties, etc.).

These rules translate to dozens of debug-hours saved by checking the code validity beforehand. And you know what, if you don’t have a lot of professional programming experience, they’ll even train you to write better higher quality code. The possibility to implement your own code-analysis rules and alerts present an interesting opportunity for organizations who wish to impose their own standards and practices, and could take QTP’s process guidance to the next level.

For me, the language analysis feature fulfils the vision that Test Design Studio held for me. It elevates writing automation code to the professional playing field, by giving us a fighting chance.

Additional features

A related feature is the code metrics analysis, which uses industry standards to evaluate the complexity of your code. It could point you to areas where your “cowboy programmer” got the better of you, but more often than not, the problems it finds are a necessary evil (after all, it is VBScript).

Other than that, there’s also full support for Quality Center 10, with all the new functionality it brings; File change monitoring, a central error-list pane, and more. It’s not that they are badly done or not useful – but (for me), the game changer is the advanced language analysis.

Summary

Test Design Studio remains a wonderful tool for power users and professional programmers who require a top-notch development IDE. I already thought the previous version was remarkable, but even on its own; the new language analysis feature is a complete game changer, which could save you many many hours of hard, frustrating work.

Is TDS worth the high price-tag? Well, that depends. If you couldn’t afford the previous version, this version isn’t going to change your mind. Yes, the new language analysis feature is mind-blowing, but it wouldn’t make your wallet any thicker.

On the other hand, if you write automation code, and you / your company have the budget to buy TDS, don’t think twice. After the third endless debugging session it will save you, it will repay itself twice over.

Posted in Reviews

2 Responses to “Test Design Studio 2 – an updated review”

  1. Test Design Studio 2 – an updated review | AdvancedQTP Reviews Robot Says:

    [+]

    [...] from:  Test Design Studio 2 – an updated review | AdvancedQTP By admin | category: design review | tags: full-in... ...

  2. tcwmj Says:

    [-]

    It cost a lot.

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