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The title says it all. I've been using SilkTest for about a year now in my current role. It wasn't my choice to use, and I've never used it, or even heard of it, before this role. There are definitely some downsides to using it, but it has advantages as well (the 4Test language is the best thing about it, I think). Also, basic web searches don't reveal very much in the way of tutorials, sample code, help, etc. compared to much newer tools like Selenium or Watir. Any insights?

DISCLAIMER: I'm not exactly a fan of SilkTest (far from it).

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5 Answers 5

In my personal opinion and observations, a lot of this comes down to cost and knowledge of the product. Many companies have tried solutions like this and QTP (hp Quick Test Pro) thinking that it was going to be a silver bullet for their testing resources but it ended up not being able to deliver what they expected it would (it takes time and knowledge no matter what solution you're using). Those same companies have then tried another, open source or free solution (or abandoned test automation all together), and with what their testers knew after trying to commercial product, were able to make it work somewhat better.

There are also the companies who take a look at the dollar value, and say flat out no. Even if not this, then there is the bundling factor when it comes to cost. Many companies already use HP's products like Quality Centre and Load Runner, and I would assume that there would be a certain discount around putting their own automation framework on top of this. The same is certainly true of Microsoft products. If a company is already purchasing a shwack load of Visual Studio licenses for the developers, why not spend a little extra to also get it for the testers.

To come to your question about 'newer' frameworks, I think that this comes down partially to cost, but also to usability for the testers who have to use the product. Personally, I want to use the combination of products to build my automation suite that I want. In addition to this, the user community for these 'newer' products is quite more diverse than what you'd get with commercial products like SilkTest or QTP. If a user from the community is not able to help you, one of the contributers, with a vested interest in the continuity of the project (even if just out of pride) is probably able to help you out.

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When you compare SilkTest to Selenium and Watir, you are comparing apples to oranges.

If SilkTest were free and open source, you'd find tons of websites devoted to using it, and providing samples, tutorials, etc. But SilkTest is a commercial product.

If you search a bit, you will find places (like SQAForums.com's SilkTest forum at http://www.sqaforums.com/postlist.php?Cat=0&Board=UBB1, for example) which provide lots of free help for SilkTest users. But your primary source for detailed SilkTest information will still likely be the vendor for most commercial products.

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+1 for open source vs commercial products. It seems that commercial products are much more limited in terms of resources than open source equivalents (or similar, at least). –  joshin4colours Feb 1 '12 at 3:51
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No, I disagree! There are lots of resources for commercial products - classes, forums, user conferences, etc. They are usually centered around the vendor which produces the product though, rather than being scattered around the internet. –  Joe Strazzere Feb 1 '12 at 12:59

there are not many tutorial or resources as Watir or Selenium have in the internet. And for Watir and Selenium, it is much easier for us to modify , to add plugin or add features to extend it.

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I would imagine cost is the principle reason you don't find as much. A lot of departments simply don't have budget for tools.

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The question is focussing on the disadvantages of SilkTest I'd say. I hope the following answer is not just a personal opinion and I can provide proof for my reasons. I'm using SilkTest (mainly Silk4J together with SAP, i.e. the Premium license) for 6 months now and I'd say the main reason is that the product does not provide enough added value. It simply doesn't save you that much time compared to another solution. All in all there is not one big no-go. Just the amount of missing details which makes me worry:

  • The Silk4J implementation for SAP is a very simple wrapper around the SAP scripting API. If you decompile the code, you'll see that many methods have a 1:1 mapping. Added value by Silk4J: you needn't deal with JNI and things like that.
  • The Silk SAP class documentation is basically a copy of the SAP scripting API documentation. No added value. See my UserVoice request for two examples or my own research on Stack Overflow.
  • There is no Silk4J specific documentation available online, so I stick to the .NET version.
  • To log on at SAP, you need to create your own script. There's no high level functionality which would allow to log on at a server with user name and password in one line. No added value.
  • The product is not as self-explanatory as it should be. In 6 months I have opened 17 support requests. The support team reacts reasonably fast. Added value: well, it mainly mitigates shortcomings in documentation. I wish I could have resolved all cases on my own.
  • I also see the lack of good forums. The MicroFocus SilkTest Forum has many broken links. Doing a Google search, I seldomly end up there. Also, it's not a Q&A system like Stack Overflow. It's a forum, so the answer may be spread across many pages.
  • Reaction to suggestions is slow. Look at the UserVoice suggestions and see when the suggestion was made, when it was responded to and what the response was.
  • Methods that are available for native Win32 windows are not available on SAP windows, e.g. TypeKeys().
  • They forgot to implement the method getButtonId() on SapToolbarControl, which means that you cannot press a button on a toolbar control. It is possible to workaround.
  • SAP calculates the number of rows in a table inaccurately. It may return more rows than actually exist. Unfortunately SilkTest does not do the workaround for you, you need to do it yourself. No added value.
  • The supported XPath subset is very limited. In addition, ? and * are wildcard characters, but they cannot be escaped.
  • TrueLog stores all actions and bitmaps in one large file. Even in simple cases, if you record screenshots for everything, the file is 100 MB immediately. There is no way yet to extract the bitmaps from the log. Support for disabling screenshots programmatically is possible, but not guaranteed to work.
  • If you store the SilkTest .T files in a repository (which you should), you'll find that the diff makes you crazy. I've implemented a WinMerge plugin to mitigate this. This should have been provided by MicroFocus already. (Disclaimer: I'm the author of this freeware tool, if that wasn't clear).

I have opened support requests for almost all of the issues, so this might be improved in future versions. I encourage everyone to do the same.

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