“In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.”
– Franklin D. Roosevelt
The word open-source may not resonate very well with a developer who has pumped countless hours into the development of a commercial software. More so, if their hope was to cash in big when the software gains a sizeable number of users. The word however excites a tester who feels emancipated from vendor lock-ins when they can access a tool that makes their work more efficient at close to no cost. For this very reason, open-source software has garnered more popularity in recent times. That popularity has consequently led to the budding of more and more software free to the masses.
Do I need it?
In as much as software testing is not dependent on tools, they are essential for the execution of monotonous tasks that may take the taste out of the whole experience. In the end, nobody likes to be sent to the grocery store fifty times a day even if they enjoy shopping, right? Test management tools aid in planning, tracking and reporting on test activities – actions that may prove cumbersome without them. Due to the crucial role test management tools play, it’s only fair that they are made accessible to all testers equally. In reality however, this is not often the case owing to commercialization of most of the good test management tools. Don’t get me wrong, there are multiple good open-source test management tools out there. It only happens that because of higher customer expectation the closed-source commercial software is often more polished than their counterparts.
First class vs Coach
TestRail is perhaps one of the most popular test management tools currently available in the market. For an organization with limited resources to spare on tools, this incredible piece of software is probably out of their reach. The organization would maybe have to forego some essentials just to afford it. A junior software test engineer trying to get accustomed to the software test management tool before joining an organization doesn’t have the luxury of making a purchase. In comes TestLink, an open-source equivalent with the same capabilities but made available by its developers free of charge. If these two applications are however compared side by side in terms of functionality and features, TestRail seems to be a step ahead of TestLink. This is not to be confused with superiority as when it comes to their basic root functions, both of these tools perform exemplarily. Take an analogy of passengers flying first class and passengers flying coach. They both arrive at the same destination at the same time. The only difference is the experience during the flight. One party enjoys all the extra goodies while the other endures the discomforts of coach as long as they arrive at their desired destination.
The same case applies to using open-source test management tools and paid or closed-source test management tools. Both achieve the same basic results the only difference being that the paid software makes the experience a little bit more pleasant through added features. When all is said and done, I’d still pick coach if it left me with enough change to stay in a comfortable hotel at the end of my trip, wouldn’t you?
Pros and Cons
Nothing is ever perfect and despite the advantages presented by open-source test management tools, they also have their demerits.
Reduced cost since most are free.
Availability of add-ons often developed by a motivated support community.
Security of the underlying framework is often superior compared to paid software. This can be attributed to the many testers who get to test the tool first before it can be used in test management itself. The more open a software is the easier it is to identify its defects.
Absence of vendor lock-in allowing testers to explore a variety of tools.
Steeper learning curve as they are usually less polished for the novice user.
Reliance on community support may lead to a less attractive support service especially if the software has a small user base.
In conclusion, the importance of open-source test management tools cannot be ignored despite the existence of shinier paid competition. They get the job done and are straightforward in terms of what they promise and accomplish. The more the merrier they say, the more open-source test management tools exist the better the alternatives. Why pay more when you can get it for free? The question often attracts varying sentiments depending on how fat your paycheck is. Pick your side.