Computer software testing is a process by which a particular software program, or its parts, is tested to ensure proper functionality and hardware support. This process usually undergoes a number of phases and iterations throughout software development, and may include both in-house and outside testing. A great deal of this testing is intended to find bugs within the software, usually by discovering and replicating them, then documenting those errors and providing the software programmers with that documentation. Computer software testing can also be performed to check the compatibility between a program and various pieces of hardware or other software.
While the actual process of computer software testing can vary among software companies, the general approach to testing usually consists of multiple phases. Companies may use different nomenclature in referring to these phases, though they often refer to them as alpha and beta phases. Alpha testing usually involves in-house testing by employees, usually using very rough or unfinished software programs. The alpha phase of computer software testing can be performed on incomplete software, usually to determine if certain aspects of the software are performing properly.
Computer software testing then moves into the beta phase, which usually involves much more complete software, though certain adjustments to programs may still need to be made. The testing in this phase is often referred to as “closed,” which means it is only available to those invited to test the software. Beta testing can also be “open,” which typically means the testing is available to a larger number of testers in the general public.
Changes to the software may continue to occur during such testing, but the overall code for the program has typically been written. Much of the work done during this phase of computer software testing is aimed at finding bugs and errors in the code. Such errors are documented by testers, who may need to spend hours or even days performing the same function to re-create the errors reliably, and sent to the programmers who then determine how to eliminate the bug or error.
Computer software testing can be used to determine how well a program works with other software or hardware. Testers might use computers and other machines with numerous hardware layouts to ensure the software can function with different pieces of hardware. Computer software testing can ensure that a program functions properly with a particular operating system (OS). Testing might also be used to find issues a program may have when running on a machine that is also running other types of software, such as popular antivirus programs or various hardware drivers.