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From manual tester to automated tester

Manual testing and automated testing require different skills. Expert Karen N. Johnson explains how to make the transition from manual to automated tester.

I have been working as a manual tester and would like to learn about automated testing. Mercury QTP testing tool to be more specific.

Automated testing requires different skills than manual testing. No matter how far along the automated testing...

tools have come -- and the tools have matured tremendously over the past decade -- automated testing requires programming skills. Tool vendors sometimes state that capture/playback is robust enough to eliminate the need for programming but the claims don't hold up to real life testing needs. I believe the limitations of capture/playback in automation have become widely recognized in the software testing community. Tool vendors persist. My advice is to remain skeptical until proven otherwise. (Isn't this a tester's mentality anyway?)

Now, if you believe that automation requires programming skills -- which I believe -- then the question becomes, are these skills you possess and if not, do you have the technical aptitude to acquire the skills? Some manual testers have the technical aptitude to become automated testers and some do not. If you're someone whose background includes programming knowledge and experience, then the shift to test automation might be fairly easy. You might try automation and see if you have the skills.

Before you convince your company to buy a tool and pay for vendor-specific training, you might start by programming with an open source tool as a trial (and possible solution). Some automation tools are available at no or low cost and you can find information online so that you can experiment in automation without investing in a specific tool. I hear good things about Watir and Selenium but I cannot say more directly since I do not have hands-on experience. Free is a good way to experiment before spending.

I suggest checking the tool meets your needs before purchase. You can request vendors to provide a proof of concept or check the return policy before purchase. Not all tools are designed to work in all technical environments; some tools are geared for specific environments. You might consider building a matrix of comparison to check features and pricing before purchase.

Another word of caution based on my experience, before purchasing a tool make sure you have the staff and skills needed to keep the tool up, running, and in use. Shelf-ware is common problem with automation. Tools get put up on a shelf and fall to disuse when there isn't sufficient staff to continue both manual and automation or sometimes when companies don't want to pay for training. Tools require commitment.

Software testing resources:
Improving testing skills and manual vs. automated testing

From Web programmer to software tester

Automated testing tools and Ajax

As for Mercury's QTP testing tool, I have worked directly with the tool and had a positive experience. I attended QTP training and had a highly skilled instructor with good experiences to share. All training has some dependency on the strength of the instructor and the student's readiness to learn.

Automation can provide fantastic ways to test a multitude of scenarios and test with volumes of test data that would never be achievable by hand. Testers with automation skills are nearly always in demand but like any job, if you don't enjoy what you're doing, why do it? Best of luck.

This was last published in September 2007

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The information and advice in this article still hold true today.

You don't necessary have to be either a manual tester or an automation tester. You can incorporate both into your testing strategy as needed. Also, sometimes a bit of scripting will suffice. Maybe you just need to stage data, or files. Something like a Powershell or shell script may automate a part of your testing process that would otherwise be very time consuming.

Rather than purchasing a tool, writing your own is also an option. Depending on your skills, it might not be too difficult to throw something together in C# or Ruby. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, and you can improve it over time. We have used this method on my team. One of our tools, written in C# and also calling shell scripts and batch files, has been tremendously helpful and has been in use for years.
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