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What is shakeout testing? Googling gives things such as,

To identify an initial test which verifies that a load has been successful and all software is accessible and functioning as expected.

But what does that mean? What load? "Functioning as expected" sounds like a lot of other testing is happening, too.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Often the terms "Shakeout (or Shakedown) Testing", "Smoke Testing", and "Sanity Testing" are used synonymously, with "Shakeout/Shakedown" being the least common of the terms.

Smoke Test

A subset of all defined/planned test cases that cover the main functionality of a component or system, to ascertain that the most crucial functions of a program work, but not bothering with finer details. A daily build and smoke test is among industry best practices. [ISTQB]

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My understanding is that a "smoke test" was the first step of a "shakedown cruise" - you ran your engines (not in gear) in the harbor, and the smoke rose from the smoke stacks. If it didn't explode after a while, you knew you could try actually putting the engines in gear. Chances are you would have to make some calibrations after the smoke test before putting it in gear though. Note the historical accuracy and etymology typically have little bearing on day to day usage, so they very well may have merged. :) – corsiKa Jun 21 '11 at 16:19
"Smoke test" is also used in plumbing, to figure out where the holes are, so you can start fixing them. – kajaco Jun 21 '11 at 18:09
I selected this as the "best" answer because, after working for a client for several months, this is the meaning that most closely matches how they use the term. – kajaco Oct 20 '11 at 16:57

Personally, I wouldn't worry about it. There is no ISO standard definition for a shakeout test for software. People have all kinds of terms for distinguishing one kind of testing from another but everyone uses them differently. It's more important to understand that how you test depends on your goals (e.g. accepting a customized product before writing a big check, making sure a change works before you check it in to your version control system, or making sure a build installs and performs essential functions before you unleash your entire test team on it) and circumstances (e.g. product has been completely rewritten, an independent subsystem was refactored but its interface did not change, or a developer made a small, isolated tweak that feels low-risk because you reviewed the source code).

Names are just names. In our business, what matters is understanding why you do what you do.

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Wouldn't worry about it? How can you interview a position without an extensive supply of buzzwords?! – corsiKa Jun 20 '11 at 22:26
That's true. In an interview, just precede your definition with, "At my last job, we used that term to mean..." and then say something that sounds defensible. – user246 Jun 20 '11 at 22:39
For those of you in India, if you are looking for answers to interview questions, you may want to join They seem to focus a lot on interview questions. – user246 Jun 20 '11 at 22:46
+1 for "say something defensible". And yes I'm serious. – kinofrost Jun 21 '11 at 14:12
+1 for "Names are just names". – testerab Jun 22 '11 at 20:17

I believe it comes from a Shakedown cruise:

Shakedown cruise is a nautical term in which the performance of a ship is tested. Shakedown cruises are also used to familiarize the ship's crew with operation of the craft.

So essentially, it's a full blown run of the software, but you're not yet doing mission critical work. I personally would consider a beta stage to be a shakeout test. This is especially true considering the following:

These test cruises are sometimes made with passengers traveling at a discount.

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Nice explanation, and probably right too. – user246 Jun 20 '11 at 21:50
I'd combine this with Joe's note to cover it, a Shakedown seems just like a Smoke Test to me and has been the same in my worlds. – MichaelF Jun 21 '11 at 14:07

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