I'm interested in hearing suggestions for ways of recording exploratory test session notes. We currently use a mixture of Session Tester and a wiki for recording test notes.

I like many things about Session Tester: it's unobtrusive and lightweight so it doesn't get in the way and distract me from my testing, it's cross-platform, and I very much like being able to tag "issues" for later follow-up during testing, and having them conveniently gathered under one heading in the report afterwards. (Being able to search plaintext files for key words later is also very handy).

Drawbacks? It's (as the name suggests) aimed at session based testing, and our exploratory sessions tend to be more threaded, and less about discrete sessions.

8 Answers 8


The lightest tool I've seen is Rapid Reporter.

Light, smart, and free, written by a thoughtful person who loves testing.

Rapid Reporter, exploratory notetaking

  • Thanks Jon - and welcome to the site! Thanks for the link - I'd heard of Rapid Reporter but not investigated it as it's Windows only - but I spot in the comments that a Linux version is under way. Hurray!
    – testerab
    Commented May 22, 2011 at 11:45
  • 1
    +1 Rapid Reporter is a great tool and Shmuel Gershon (who developed it) is excellent at the tricky balancing act of incorporating input from users without having that lead to a tool plagued by "feature bloat." The result is that Rapid Reporter is a very nice tool that is extremely easy to use that has the vast majority of the features most users are likely to want. In addition, it doesn't take up much room on your screen when you're testing.
    – Justin
    Commented May 23, 2011 at 1:53
  • There's a more recent Mac version available here: github.com/deefex/Rapid_Reporter_BETA
    – testerab
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 13:43

Other possibility is Test Explorer. It has very nice features:

  • record test as 'steps' which reflect what tester did
  • Capture screenshot for every step
  • record movie
  • add notes to test during recording
  • save test as baseline
  • record local files usage
  • record registry changes
  • record system resources used
  • replay test (which is actually displaying steps from baseline one by one as reference what to do and what should happen), during a replay tester interacts with application and TE records everything
  • log issues
  • generete test report
  • generate issues report

This software has some bugs, but try demo as it may suit your needs. Tool is not that expensive, but it is not free.

P.S. Solution from MS VS 2010 is nice.

  • Will it run on a Linux machine? I can't find anything on the site, but seem to remember it was a Windows only tool?
    – testerab
    Commented May 7, 2011 at 17:47
  • oh, sorry. Windows app.
    – yoosiba
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 18:56
  • No worries - I've heard really good things about it, am sure it'll be useful to others reading.
    – testerab
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 19:40

What I currently (well, over one year already) "misuse" as a kind of session reporter is the "BB Testassistant Expert".

I heard about it in the RST class of Michael Bolton and got me the budget to buy it. Its under 200 EURO, plus one update of 60 EURO last winter.

I just start it in the beginning and let it run. On my test machine it is not intrusive and don't cause any delays or stuff.

Whenever I find something, I bring up a popup where i enter or copy&paste my findings. Also neat for later follow ups, which are not on charter.

It has some bug tracking integration, currently for TRAC and JIRA.

It can extract Windows event log and one can write a parser to integrate custom application logs.

Also good.. I can capture transition bugs, which are hard to explain with one screenshot or textual description.

After the recording, one can also gather system information and the logs. All will be saved in a native FBR format file.

I can open the note section and click my entered text. It will jump to that timeframe and I can review it. It also captures, what keystrokes I used and what mouse buttons I clicked.

I can decide to set markers for easier jumping within the movie and also use zoom and edit text bubbles.

The FRB files can be exported to different formats: avi, swf and self-executables. Very neat. I can sent a small exe to my collegues and he can instantly replay and use the jump menu to go to the important facts.

On a side note: You can also easyly create online tutorials... was wondering if the guys from TestExplorer used something like that for their tutorials. :-)

An investment well spent for me.

  • I've seen Michael using BB Test Assistant - it does look like an excellent tool. I wasn't aware it had JIRA/Trac integration though!
    – testerab
    Commented May 7, 2011 at 17:49

Really depnds on the person testing. I've yet to find a solution that works for everyone. Since I'm normally testing on windows machines, I tend to use a combination of psr.exe with OneNote and occaisionally SnagIt for when I need a screen shot to remind me exactly what to look at later if it's not in the scope of what I'm working on. Normally I'm not a big fan of the selenium IDE, but for testing web applications and I'm in a bit of a rush, I've found that it can be useful. Either way, on my current team, we always attach our testing notes in a text files attached to our test plans. Considering moving to a wiki for some of the applications, but, not completely sold yet.


I use following tool with my team: SBTM template for google spreadsheet from Altom (altom.ro)- https://drive.google.com/templates?q=SBTM+Session+Template&sort=hottest&view=public.

It is spreadsheet running on google spreadsheets platform boosted with google apps script. For me it's adding lot of value as it:

  • Is easy to use and has lot of functionality from google spreadsheets
  • Follows SBTM framework and was commented by James Bach when I've spoken to him as interesting tool (although I've never personally heard him recommending it).
  • Doesn't have steep learning curve - it's extremely easy to explain even to novice testers
  • Has another reporting spreadsheet where you can keep the metrics
  • You can share it and access anytime.

The minus can be that although it is sufficient for the testing work someone might not like that is still only google spreadsheet. It also doesn't have any screen capture functionality however it was a plus to me as I didn't like when you need to review the capture and erase not needed parts.


Microsoft Test manager 2010 does a great job at this. It can record the whole session, you can play it back automated, you can also attach parts of it to bugs as an attachment. It's expensive, but it is really, really good for this.

  • +1 as it may well be useful to another team, but sounds like it won't be suitable forus as we have some of the team using Fedora Linux, and some on Windows 7.
    – testerab
    Commented May 7, 2011 at 17:48

Although still 'session based' the following tool may help. SessionWeb.

  • Hey, interesting - I've never come across that one before! Thanks for the rec - and welcome to the site Peter :) Think I recognise the name from STC?
    – testerab
    Commented Jan 21, 2012 at 14:03
  • he's also known as @unlicensed2test ;) Commented Jan 21, 2012 at 14:50

Although this topic is 8 years old nevertheless there are some updates in the exporatory testing methodologies and tools. Hence I will provide an update: In our project we tried it with Tricentis. It was very helpful for the testing procedure - especially in the way of exploratory testing.

Somehow with this add-on tool you plan your session testing before starting with your tests. Means before starting with your test you have to log in a add-on tool and afterwards you can enter a name for your exploratory testing and enter also the estimated time (in minutes/hour). When starting it also catches all the steps (in a "Power Point see Link Tricentis Example" lookalike). After the exploratory testing you can also make screenshots or add relevant notes e.g. for bug reasons. It can also:

  • capture sessions and after exploratory testing you can also modify the screenshots and e.g. add notes or make some comments and send it directly to JIRA
  • turn your exploratory testing sessions in automated scripts (e.g. selenium Java you can even switch it to C#) (in our case not all automated test cases were needful), but this is an interesting method how testing tools are changing

But unfortuantely it is a commercial software, based from our opinion it is quite expensive. But in our case it helped somehow to save time hence we needed it.

  • Thanks Daniel, always good to hear about new options, and nice to see the question is still being read after 8 years!
    – testerab
    Commented Dec 28, 2019 at 1:00

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