There are three reasons I can think of that make Microsoft Excel one of the tools I use often enough to make it into my basic toolbox.
Creating the test data
Imagine testing an application that handles creating user accounts. You checked the happy path and a sample user was created. But can it handle a hundred? Ten thousand? You are an engineer so you start thinking about writing a script to create the test data. Writing scripts is fun, but scripting everything is not always the most efficient way to do stuff. Enter Excel and if your application supports CSV files all you have to do is just write first couple lines and then drag to create as much sample data you need. You can then use this data set in your automation, load testing, etc. etc.
Excel will also create date ranges, long strings, random data… you name it.
Now that’s an important part of every tester’s life. Typical reports requested from testers include testing progress report, product quality report, or bugs outstanding. And while some of reports needed are provided by the tools you already use, some specific ones may be missing. I can guarantee though that every Test Case Management System or Issue Tracking System will let you export data into a format that Excel can consume: directly into an XLS file, CSV, or via some sort of API. Last resort is using ODBC to talk to the TCM or ITS database directly.
I found the following Excel skills useful:
Your users use it too
This is obvious if your application allows for uploading Excel spreadsheets (to create graphs, to add users, to process orders etc.). Also if Excel shows up on the output (sales reports, current usage data, for example). But also if CSV files are used, your users are likely to create them or process them with Excel. So couple things to think about when it comes to CSV file processing:
- When saving or opening a CSV file – Excel is likely to attempt using system locale-related ANSI codepage. So your application may have to set it correctly on the output, and process on the input.
- But at least UTF8 should be always supported? Well… not on Mac.
- CSV files are always comma-separated? Hint: they are not.
So here were my three reasons for using Excel. What are yours?