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At Tech Ed: What VSTS brings to the development team

The pressure to release an application can cause developers to skimp on testing. Features within Visual Studio Team System address this fault well, one Tech Ed expert said.

Software development, like riding a bicycle or any other methodical process, should get easier as time progresses. Brian Randell believes development actually gets harder.

Give end users one look at Office 2007, Randell argued at the beginning of his Tech Ed 2006 session, "Visual Studio 2005 Team Edition for Software Developers," and they will expect nothing less than that in their applications. That, combined with expectations of a more public process for beta software releases, puts the onus on developers to crank out applications quickly.

One pitfall of such deadline pressure is that it often causes developers to skimp on application testing. If a development team uses only one error detection method, then it can expect a success rate of no more than 75%, with an average of only 40%, said Randell, senior consultant, MCW Technologies.

"You need to have multiple tools in your tool belt to solve the problem. Unit testing is a great method, but can't be the sole method," Randell continued.

That is where Visual Studio 2005 Team System enters the picture. The product gives architects, developers and testers collaboration tools for the development life cycle. Unit testing is part of the package; so are tools for debugging, visualizing and refactoring code, Randell said. (Exactly what features are available depends on what edition of Team System an IT pro is running. Details can be found in our VSTS Learning Guide.)

Mere testing is not enough for an application because, by definition, all testing does is find errors within code, Randell said. Debugging, for example, identifies what went wrong with a string of code and how it must be fixed.

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Visualizing offers a graphical contrast to the typical view of code, while refactoring simplifies the structure of code, thus making it easier to read and maintain.

Randell also pointed out a few other testing elements of Visual Studio Team System. They include the following:

  • Code coverage: This determines which bits of code are executed, and which are not, when an applications runs.
  • The code analysis property page: This includes 11 groups of rules that search for code defects in an applications. Developers have the ability to select application-critical rules and skip those that do not apply.
  • Data-drive testing: This allows a developer to execute a test once per row in a data column.

    Moreover, all the data generated from testing, refactoring and the like can be published to Team Foundation Server for an entire project team to see.

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