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Functional Spec Debate

Our User Interface Team is in the process of reviewing how we write functional specs.  Currently we use an excel spreadsheet to define constants, scenarios and error messaging.  Newer people in our group would prefer we use Word docs.  Becuase our spec is used to write test cases for new development and to check that the existing functionality is still functioning we have to maintain all of the functionality in one file.  The spread sheet we use now is almost 300 pages.  A Word doc would be considerably longer.  Is there a better option?  We're considering building a database.

What have others done.

Sarah Lester
Friday, July 19, 2002

We put as much of this kind of stuff into databases as we can so that we can easily set up relationships, do filtering, add additional information easily, and all the other good things that databases provide.

Friday, July 19, 2002

For what it's worth... I use a Word document for a plain-English specification, then use that to create a detailed task list spreadsheet. The spec is the "big picture" document that everyone can understand and discuss. The task list is full of technical implementation details and could possibly be used to create test cases, although I mostly use it to estimate, keep track of progress and proritize.

Big B
Friday, July 19, 2002

>The spread sheet we use now is almost 300 pages.
>We're considering building a database.

I think this constitutes the worst Excel abuse I have seen :)

You have answered the question of a better alternative yourself. Databases may not look like Excel or whathaveyou but you can extract the relevant parts and make Word docs or Excel sheets.

Friday, July 19, 2002

Just to clarify my "relevant parts"-statement...

What is relevant for programmers and management differs,
and not only differs in the area of expertice, but the requirements will vary over time as well. So a database to store the entire thing is needed, and then extract whats relevant to different people at different times.

Im a programmer, and if I was handed a 300 page Excel sheet I would have a nervous breakdown :)

Friday, July 19, 2002

Why would they prefer to use Word?  Because they don't know Excel or because of a specific feature?

Ged Byrne
Monday, July 22, 2002

Personally I use Notepad for specs.

I also think you should seperate your spec into many different documents. So rather than having The Spec, a huge and unmanagable thing. You have the spec for the save dialog - a small, concise and maintable thing.

Mr Jack
Monday, July 22, 2002


I'm getting really curious. Can you give an example of how you specify a feature in terms of constants, scenarios and errors?

Big B
Tuesday, July 23, 2002

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