Heads up for PractiTest clients
If you think you’d like to use our staging environment with the new GUI to get a feeling of the new system before the deployment, please don’t hesitate to contact us (email to support).
As many of you already know, we’re are going to be upgrading our GUI in the next couple of weeks (here’s why).
We’ve been wanting to do this project for a while now, but we started the concrete process only around April 2013. The idea was to improve a number of aspects in the User Interface, and also perform some technical changes and optimizations to our existing platform.
Here are some of interface issues we wanted to solve as part the GUI project:
- Make better use of the available screen – most of our users use desktops, with large HD screens, when testing their software. We thought it was about time to make better use of the width of these wide screens and avoid the scroll if we can.
- Flexible Text Areas – we have text areas in numerous of places (entities’ description, steps’ descriptions and more). Having them with a fixed height forced customers to use the scroll many times (either when scrolling the whole page, or scroll inside the text area itself). Now, these text areas expand and collapse dynamically as needed!
- Replace the issue right pane with a preview pane. The “old” GUI used to have a right pane in the issues module that we didn’t like. It made the whole grid look awkward and usually it was used only to view the fields (and not to edit them). So we took it away, and added a popover when hovering those items, to see the fields. The popover was added to many other grids as well.
- Better support for tablets. As much as we said that our users work with their desktops, we found that a number of users are starting to work with tablets during part of their testing operations. The new GUI is smart enough to resize itself all the way to “tablet size” and help you work seamlessly with these devices.
- Reduce the amount of tabs we have in each entity. It came to our attention that we had too many tabs and that we could reduce this number by grouping part of the information into existing tabs. So now, for example, you will be able to add comments and attachments from the general tab.
- And many other changes and improvements.
In addition to the externally perceived changes in the GUI, we also did some important improvements to the GUI infrastructure “behind the scenes”. One of them was the adoption of Twitter Bootstrap.
There were many reasons for selecting this framework, and the main ones are the following:
- We like its clean and simple design, and we feel it helps us to set design boundaries.
- It encourages us (as designers and developers) to use their standard, and we love coding standards 🙂
- It is quite easy to implement, even in a large application such as PractiTest.
- It supports responsive design.
Here’s how the Tests’ grid looks now:
And so, after completing the design of the Graphical Interface, we started the development phase of the “new GUI project” on April. We did in parallel to all the rest of the on-going projects on a separate git branch.
We’re happy that up to now we’ve achieved the following accomplishments:
- Changed ~ 27k lines of code (w/o white-space changes)
- Made 752 commits
- CSS lines of code dropped from ~8000 lines down to ~1000 lines in separate files- making it much more maintainable
- We started to use only css.scss (instead of css), once again for easier code maintenance
- We dropped most of the images we used, using instead fortawesome (which will make everything load faster via sprites)
Completing this GUI project (which is now in advanced testing stages) was very intensive. We had to scope out many items we wanted todo (revise reports GUI, change to a standard grid, and more), that will be postpone for further releases in the coming weeks/months. But overall we are very happy and excited with the results!
Finally I’d like to thank the people who worked hard to make this project happen: Einav, Ortal, Boris, Joel, Nir & Stas
PractiTest was initially released in 2008. Back then we designed the GUI almost on our own, and we were anxious to get the product out for beta usage.
Since then, the application has continued growing based on our product road-map and the comments & ideas from our ever expanding user base.
Over the years many things have changed, we modified our logo, we moved to a new office location, and all the time we got requests from of our users to refresh and improve parts of our GUI, to streamline some of our processes and to organize the information a little better.
Until we reached the point where we realized that it was the correct time to shift to a new and more professional 2013-style GUI; one that supports both current and future features, and that will be based on the benefits HTML5 technologies and more.
So about half a year ago, we started this “new GUI” project. The project itself included thousands of code changes, an upgrade of the libraries we use, and major changes to our css and app layout; all this resulting in a faster, cleaner and better application.
We showed some of the changes to a limited number of customers, and their positive reviews literally blowed us away!
Here’s a glimpse of what’s about to come:
1. Neutral colors and smart design
The new toolbars and the overall design of the system has been focused on displaying more information, doing so with a more structured and intelligent approach.
2. New and Edit screens
With a more flowing design to better use all your screen, grouping fields based on type (e.g. user, dates, etc), and decreasing the number of tabs by grouping more information areas together, such as Attachments and Comments on the General Tab.
3. Step Edit and Execution windows
Steps are now displayed in a grid like view. Run and Step status is more evident based on the color of the step’s name, and a new-integrated view will provide all the advantages of the compact view with all the functionality (e.g. report bug ids, add attachments, etc) of the extended view.
And much, much more…
These is only a small sample of the improvements that will be provided with the new GUI design of PractiTest.
We expect to release this “new GUI” project within the next month or so (by October). PractiTest Account Managers – you can expect to get access to see these changes in the next 2 to 3 weeks.
If you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to contact us via our support.
We’ve kept busy during the last couple of weeks working on the new product GUI, but in the meantime we’ve also released some features and improvements that a number of our users eagerly requested:
- PT Labs.
With the increasing number of ideas we keep wanting to develop and include into PractiTest, we choose create the PT Labs project as a testing ground for experimental features that aren’t quite ready for primetime. But that we think provide great value to many of our users.To check out the PT Labs section simply go to Settings and then to the Project tab.
- Cloning issues between projects.
One of the first features to enter the PT Labs project is the ability to clone bugs between projects. Once you activate this feature in the settings you will be able to copy your bugs between the different projects based on your development process.
- Test Sets and Reports API.
As many of our customers keep making extensive use of our API we got multiple requests to add API coverage to the Test Sets and to the Reports areas of PractiTest. To learn more about this extended API just go to our support site: TestSets API, Reports API.
As always, we invite all of you to continue providing us with feedback and ideas on the features you’d like to see added to PractiTest as well as any other improvements you can think about. Just add your feature requests to our Product Feedback forum.
See you all in our new update!
In the last couple of weeks we released a number of improvements to PractiTest to help you work better and faster:
- Additional advanced settings in Dashboard Graphs.
These settings let you create wider graphs to handle more information, and they also allow you determine the colors of your graphs easier and with a higher level of control for each of the categories in the graphs themselves.
- Ability to import Tests and Steps from one file in one operation.
This is one of the biggest requests we got around this feature. PractiTest now allows you to import all your test information (including the steps) in one go.
To learn more about this feature and how to work with it you can read this suport article on how to import tests and steps.
- Work directly with MS-Excel files such as XLS and XLSX. This will allow users to work faster, without the need to convert their files to CSV.
Make sure to contact us and to keep telling us what you want to see improved or added into PractiTest. We’re always happy to get your feedback.
See you all in our next update!
During the last month we’ve been gradually rolling out a number of features and changes aimed at improving the system and to answer the requests received by a number of users.
- Rich Text Formatting. Allowing users to add text effects such as bold, italics, underline, as well as colors, bullets and numbering. With the rich formatting we are also providing support for Right to Left text orientation* (as required by our Hebrew and Arabic speaking customers).
- Improved filter definitions and view exporting. As part of our new features we redefined the way users create and edit filters, improving the usability of this control. We also added the option to export each view as part of the view control itself (see image bellow).
- Import and Export Settings. We decided to group the importing and exporting functions and place them in their own tab as part of the settings, making it faster for users who want to perform regular exports of all their projects in one place.
- Plus additional bug fixes and smaller features.
We invite all of you to continue providing us with feedback and ideas on the features you’d like to see added to PractiTest as well as any other improvements you can think about. Just add your feature requests to our Product Feedback forum.
See you all in our new update!
* To enable RTL (Right to Left), goto Settings -> Project, check the enable RTL checkbox & Save
There is something professional consultants may not want you to know:
You don’t need to make major changes to your development processes in order to gain many of the benefits from Agile principles.
If you take the time to truly understand Agile (and not only repeat the Pros & Cons circling around the web), you’ll appreciate the fact that Agile is not a methodology but an approach to software development that can be applied to every methodology. Sure, methodologies such as SCRUM and XP were designed to make specific use of Agile principles, but this doesn’t mean you need to work this way in order to gain all or most of the benefits of Agile.
Some work Agile without even noticing it
A couple of months ago we talked to a customer who told us they wanted to work using Agile principles but had not had the time yet to implement SCRUM in their organization. The team’s manager mentioned that a SCRUM consultant had come to talk to them about implementing Agile, but after further review he decided it would be better to wait until their current release was out the door, within the next 6 to 9 months, to make all the necessary process changes.
This manager, being so impressed with what he heard, asked the team to make small changes and start implementing some of the ideas the consultant had suggested. And so, the team started having short 15 to 20 minute update meetings each morning over coffee and bagels.
Instead of having each programmer work on long tasks that could take between 6 to 8 weeks to complete, they started organizing tasks for shorter periods and worked in task teams of 2 or 3 programmers.
Another thing they did was to get the testers to work earlier and more closely with the developers, beginning during the coding phase itself, Testers would perform preliminary tests on the unfinished product and also give programmers ideas on how they could improve their Unit and Integration tests. As part of this process, programmers also “learned” how to run part of the manual test cases themselves before committing their changes as part of their “internal sanity.”
Finally, the manager asked the whole team to schedule a formal meeting with Product Marketing at the end of each month where they would demo the progress of the features. During these meetings Marketing would also provide feedback that could still be implemented for the current version’s development without delaying the release.
The manager told us that since they started working this way the productivity and the general working environment in the team improved greatly, and that he was really looking forward to implementing SCRUM in the team.
What he had not understood was that, without making any revolutionary changes to the way they work, they were already implementing an important number of Agile practices and experiencing their benefits.
The Road of Small Changes and Improvements
The story of this manager is a great example of how Agile can be implemented using small changes to your overall process. There is no real need to carry out a revolution in order to achieve many of the results you are looking to gain.
Following are a number of ideas that can be taken from the story above and that we believe can be implemented quickly regardless of which development methodology your team is currently using.
(1) Work in small/er chunks
Instead of working with a small number of very large requirements or tasks, break them down into smaller, more easily managed chunks that can be completed in shorter time intervals (days or weeks). This way you are making sure tasks don’t start taking up more resources than you originally allocated (because if your planning assumptions start slipping you will notice it within 2 weeks instead 2-3 months into the work) and most importantly, you will be able to deliver features faster to Testing and to Product Marketing and get feedback in time to make the necessary fixes and adjustments without affecting your release date.
(2) Increase the collaboration and communication between programmers and testers
If the idea is to get feedback about the features to the developers as quickly as possible then the best way to do so is to test sooner, many times, even in parallel to development.
You can achieve this in multiple ways, for example by inviting testers to run their test directly on the development environment as soon as parts of the features are ready (instead of waiting until everything is completed).
Another way is by having testers work with developers to plan and write their Unit and Integration tests in ways that will help them catch more bugs more quickly. And finally, how about we start teaching programmers how to run at least part of the manual and automatic tests written by the testers as part of their Sanity Sessions before committing their code? We see many teams where developers have their own Test Sets in PractiTest that they need to run before committing their code to the main branches.
(3) Have more automated tests and run them more often
This is one of the first principles applied by Agile teams but in fact, it is logical for every type of project. Make a commitment and a conscious investment in automation.
Start by instructing your developers to create Unit and Integration tests for each new feature or major bug fix.
You can also have your testing team create automatic tests to cover as much of your product as possible, and instruct your developers to code in ways that will make this functional automation simpler and more robust (for example, by using correct instrumentation of the GUI elements).
But creating your tests is not nearly enough. You need to have a framework that runs these tests as often as possible and provides immediate feedback to programmers whenever they’ve introduced a bug.
Today there are a number of very good Continuous Integration Frameworks (such as Jenkins, Bamboo or TeamCity), all of them can be integrated into PractiTest using our Robust API. Finally, you will also make sure your programmers comply with the golden of rule of “you broke it, you fix it. RIGHT AWAY!”
(4) Seek quick feedback and continuous improvement
The greatest enemy of improvement is human behavior: no one likes being criticized, and we mean that. No one!
That is why whenever we work on something, we don’t like showing it to others unless we feel it is complete and our audience will be able to understand “exactly” what we did.
But as you may already understand, this is counter-productive in programming because if we wait too much to get feedback then we won’t be able to implement any changes without missing our delivery targets.
So what can you do?
Basically, overcome the trauma of being criticized by making it a policy to have everyone present their progress to the rest of the team and product marketing – as they are working.
Work on creating a culture where people know how to give and receive feedback. You can achieve this by making sure feedback is always directed to the work and not to the person, and also by having people give feedback on both the good and bad things in the product (and not only focus on stuff that needs to be fixed).
It may not be easy at first, but it will be easier with time and the value gained by this is simply incredible.
(5) Embrace change and work accordingly
This may be the cornerstone of Agile – the realization that regardless of how hard you work on planning your project and how good you are at it, in the end, stuff will change and you will need to adjust your plans.
But, slogans aside, how do you embrace change?
First of all plan less, not less deep but yes, less for the long-term since you cannot foresee exactly what your reality will be a few months down the line.
Seek feedback sooner rather than later, make sure that if you do need to change features and plans, you know this 2 to 4 weeks into the project and not 6 to 9 months into it.
Plan for change and make sure your team is aware that change will indeed come and it will be accepted; this makes it easier for them when they are faced with that reality and need to cope with it.
Making small changes should be part of your work culture.
One of the best principles you can adopt from Agile is the understanding that just as the product and the requirements are constantly changing, so should your work processes be dynamic and adaptive.
Be open to asking questions about whether you are working in the best and most effective way or if you can make small (or large) improvements to the process?
Be open to feedback, seek it and even reward the people who give it. Once you are able to introduce the acceptance of feedback into your company culture, you will see how things really start improving, almost on their own.
Yesterday night we released a new version of PractiTest. This update comes with a number of features and improvements.
- Improved filters. New GUI that makes it easier to manage your filters, as well as the ability to see the filter criteria for the whole filter hierarchy. In addition to this, the filter pane now loads a lot faster than before.
- Enhanced attachments. Graphical attachments now have a thumbnail that allows you to preview the image before opening it.
- Additional functionality to issue integrations. Displaying bug IDs in reports.
- And many other enhancements and features.
As always, we want to hear more from you about the stuff you’d like to see if include or improve in PractiTest. Feel free to contact us via our support team.
See you all soon in another PractiTest update!
Yesterday (Oct 22nd) about 5:45 PM GMT (10:45 AM PDT) our web hosting provider Amazon (AWS) started experiencing performance and connection issues.
These issues caused a large number of Internet service companies, including PractiTest, to become unavailable.
We were able to regain temporary access to our servers between 11:30 PM GMT and 12:15 AM GMT, but then the system came down once again.
After evaluating all our options we decided that the best way to solve this issue would be to bring up our latest backup of the system and restore it to a completely new server farm in a different Amazon hosting zone.
We performed this operation and we were able to bring full access to all our servers and services at Oct 23, 8:45 AM GMT (1:45 AM PDT).
Still, the last full backup that was available to perform this operation was from yesterday at 12:00 noon GMT. This means that all information entered between 12:00 noon GMT and 6:45 GMT as well as what was entered for the 45 minutes the servers were up later in the day was not restored.
As a serious web service provider we understand that access to project data is your highest priority and our top-most responsibility.
We are still working to try to bring back the information that we were not able to restore, and we will work with the accounts affected to make it available to them as soon as possible in a separate server.
In parallel we are working on understanding what measures we can implement to lower the risk of issues like this happening once again in the future.
We apologize for any troubles this issue may have caused and will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
* More on this Amazon AWS outage:
We are pretty excited about the announcement released a couple of days ago around the successful collaboration between SAS, Redhat and PractiTest, as you can read from the official press release.
The announcement comes to communicate the vast success SAS has been having managing the testing and Quality Assurance aspects of their deployment projects in the UK.
As was described by James Ochiai-Brown, SAS Senior Solution Architect: “PractiTest gives us the ability to manage our testing in a structured way, and more importantly, demonstrate to our clients the quality assurance that they demand…”
This PR also comes to emphasize the value gained by the relationship between PractiTest and Redhat, as part of the Redhat Innovate program, to which PractiTest was accepted late last year.
If you have questions about any part of this Press Release feel free to contact us.