Sunday, July 22, 2012

TestStand (part 3 - Is it useful?)

As part of a project I completed for my previous company, I  learned NI TestStand and implemented it for a test station.  I started writing a few posts about that experience and my impressions of TestStand a year ago.  I'm finally getting around to finishing it, and this is the 3rd and last post.

Is it useful?

That's a big question.  I've talked with three different people who've used it at bigger companies.  All three liked how it worked.  Personally, I can only answer that question for startups.

First of all, I had a few specific complaints about it:
  • The database viewer was okay, but you couldn't look at stored procedures.  It seemed very "beta".
  • I couldn't open more than one workspace at a time.
  • The printing wasn't very friendly.  For example, I wanted to create a nice flowchart based off of the sequences/workspace.  I couldn't do it easily and needed to jump through hoops to "sort of" get what I wanted.
  • There's no support for Tortoise SVN (of course, I have that complaint about LabVIEW as well).

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, let me address the broader question.  Yes, it is useful in startup companies.  At all the startups I've been at, you start out developing small programs to do specific tasks.  But eventually you get to a certain point where:

  1. You hire technicians to run regular tests on your products.
  2. You need a way to quickly make modifications to those existing tests.
  3. You need to generate reports on those tests.
In other words, you get to the point where you need some sort of test executive.  A couple of startups I've worked at wrote their own test executive, either because they didn't know any better or didn't want to spend the money on a 3rd party solution.  To me, that's a waste of time and effort, and you spend the extra money anyway in effort.  Yes, TestStand isn't cheap, and yes there is a learning curve.  But it was definitely useful.

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