What tools and things do you use to help you with exploratory software testing?

I’m curious to know what tools testers are using to help them do exploratory testing.

Please don’t answer with ‘my brain’. Am looking for practical things to help testers do better exploratory testing.

Thank you (in advance).


With note taking being such an important part of exploratory testing, a tool which really helps to do this in a creative way is XMind. It’s free, and creative note taking stems more creative ideas for your exploration! :wink:


I use anything and everything I can get my hands on to help. Some examples would probably not go astray:

  • I have a clipboard and pen beside me where I can jot down notes, sketch out ideas, whatever I need. I use printouts I no longer need as I my paper source, since the single clean side works just fine for note-taking.
  • For web applications, the built-in browser tools are My Best Friend Evah. The moment something looks a bit odd, I’m inspecting that element, investigating the script flow, and so on.
  • Database management tools are another big one for me: I’ll look at where something is meant to go and what that field allows which makes for a fun set of test ideas that may not be visible elsewhere (or explains why I just got that generic error about not being able to save when I pasted the text of Hamlet into that text area)
  • The Big List Of Naughty Strings - it’s fun to throw odd/weird/bad data into fields to see what happens downstream.
  • Any text editor - great for quick notes, text copy/paste, etc.
  • Sticky notes apps - really good for floating priorities or things you need to remind yourself to come back to.
  • Any diagramming tool, including pen and paper.
  • Advanced text editors like Notepad++ for their easy ways to encode and decode various types of text (such as quickly checking whether that interesting looking query string is base-64 encoded and hiding anything useful).
  • Fiddler to check what data is actually going to the back end and what’s coming back (vs what my browser says is going and returning. There are times they can be very different).

I can use any of these or all of these in any given test session. It just depends what I’m exploring and why.


Please don’t answer with ‘my brain’

There’s always one person that does and it annoys the hell out of me.

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We used Jira on one project I worked on, and it came in very handy for group testing sessions. A Test Charter was created to guide the session, and we added comments to the charter as we went - this gave the group visibility during the session on what was being raised/queried and documentation/evidence for after the session.
Would also recommend Xmind - I use mindmaps to build a model of what is being delivered, and then extract the relevant part I want to focus on for my exploratory session. If you need to keep track on what you have covered, then you can use the symbols as a visual aid.
I’ve found Greenshot and Jing handy screen grabbing tools - both allow use of shortcut keys and the picture can be annotated afterwards.


I really like Elizabeth Hendrickson’s Exploratory Test Heuristics cheat sheet. It’s still effective after all these years. Lots of good examples of invalid data, negative testing, ways of forcing errors etc. You can find it on her website testobsessed.com.


One tool I’ve found very helpful lately is asking questions. I know we all ask questions all the time but I’ve found asking programmers tangential things like “what part was most difficult to code?” or “how many ways did you try before choosing this option?” helps draw out elements that might not otherwise be discussed. Then I can create new test ideas from those discussions. I’m sure it’s not a new idea but it has been helpful for me the past few months.

Another tool is the good old pen and paper. I’m one of those weird people who do not find mind maps easy to use as a note taking tool. I find pen and paper allows me freedom to stay within my thoughts and not jump out to find that button in an app to do some thing I want to do.


I start a new MindMap (not yet stucked to any particular tool, sometimes a local freemind, sometimes wisemapping if it needs to be shared) and write anything I saw and think about while exploring.
I also use the “Bug magnet” plugin (for Chrome or Firefox) to experiment things. Asking questions (mostly in mattermost conversations, because unfortunately not working with a geolocated team) is also a good way to understand unclear parts and find new ideas to start with.
A screenshot tool and video recording are also mandatory. I know some plugin are build specifically for exploratory testing (browser plugins again) but I’ve never been at ease with any of them.

And sometimes, depending on the complexity of what is to be explored, then pen and paper is the perfect tool.


You could try using MindMup - it will help collate the thoughts around the product you are testing. It’s free and relatively easy to use.


For note taking I use XMind for building up a model to see what exactly is in scope of testing for the current iteration. Further I use Sublime Text for doing some quick volatile notes. Additional to that it is project and technology dependent which further tools I may use :wink:

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The biggest problem with exploratory testing, from mz point of view is, that it is too loose. Tipps like “follow the path” or “test based on experience” are not very helpful.
If you want to do exploratory testing, have results and trust from your team, than you have to set the goal and time frame for every exploratory session.

to visualise here is my example:

  1. observe autos and report me what did you see
  2. for half an hour observe trafic on Main street and report if you saw any race cars. :race_car:

or another example which every parent will understand. when you are expecting suddently you see all over pregnant women. There where pregnant womenbefore, but you did not notice because it was not important for you.

You see what you are looking for.

That is why you have to define what you are (re)searching.

I wrote a short brief about my first exploratory testing workshop. There are some tools mentioned.


In my experience the best tools are pen and papper by far :wink:

But in terms of IT tools I usually start drawing a mindmap with the most importart areas or requisites I want to review/explore. My favorite tool for this is Mindmup.

That mindmap drives my testing session and I take notes and screenshots at the same time

PS: Have a look to this Exploratory Testing Chrome extension that I developed. I hope will help you.

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I’m intrigued by the ability of property based testing to automatically discover defects. Defects that would normally be discovered by exploratory testing. This could mean that exploratory testing could focus on things that humans tend to detect, rather than odd edge cases.

Property based testing, for the uninitiated, are frameworks that take a system and fuzz lots of random inputs against it. They tend to be done at the unit level, but I think there is a benefit in using it against APIs to discover weird illegal workflows. Tools like American Fuzzylop can do incredible things.

There’s a QCon talk about it here if you’re interested: https://www.infoq.com/presentations/property-based-testing

A massively underrated exploratory testing tool is OneNote. It’s simple, autosaves as I go along, has all sorts of formatting options and easily docks to the desktop.

I used to use TED Notepad simply for its ‘Stay on top’ functionality as I always want my notes up in front of me, but OneNote has now replaced this.

I know it’s not as hip and happening as all the mind-mapping tools mentioned above, but it’s definitely made my testing life a lot easier.


I like your assumptions in the screenshot, @jrt42! :grinning:


I wasn’t aware you could dock onenote like that! thanks for sharing. Might have to change my note taking tool.

I do use onenote for all my technical information and “How To’s”, but might just extend that useage now to note taking! :smiley:


I use screenrecorder Screencastify (Chrome-plugin) during my testing. It can record my screen, my mic and/or my webcam. This is very helpfull to play back scenario’s (‘what did I just see there?’ ‘What were the exact steps I took’). You can also save & share there screencasts with the devs (using Google Drive).

If you want to screenrecord an iOS-device as well, just fire up Quicktime and use ‘Filmrecording’ as a source & select the device from the list. The connected iOS-device will appear on your desktop and be recorded in the same screencast. (I currently do a lot of testing of an application that has an iOS-app and a web-app.)

Here is a demo of both screencastify (without sound in this demo) & using Quicktime to record iOS: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwwTqatWQUO8VUtBel9sMzZfMWM/view


Oh and I made a funny little tool to select a test heuristic, based on Simon Knight’s list in this blogpost: http://dojo-static.ministryoftesting.com/downloads/60PowerfulHeuristicseBook.pdf

The tool can be found here: https://www.classtools.net/random-name-picker/48_jFiM9C
Just spin the wheel and start testing! :wink:


On the dojo I just stumbled upon this post, addressing exactly OP’s question: https://dojo.ministryoftesting.com/lessons/what-tools-should-i-learn

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I’ve enjoyed learning so much from this thread! Thanks to everyone who has shared so far.

We’ve recently experimented with a Google Doc per session. Each will typically include:

  • Goals, Time, Date, Who and Heuristics
  • Setup details
  • Timestamped notes with simple categorisation (Problem , Question, Ideas, Praise) where appropriate
  • Embedded files such as screenshots and GIFs

We use the following statuses per session:
PLANNING, READY TO EXPLORE, EXPLORING, READY FOR DEBRIEF (and maybe we should have DEBRIEFING and DEBRIEFED but we don’t use that right now).

It helps to keep each session to 20 minutes or less. I currently use the timer on my phone. Ultra-fast Explore-Capture-Share loops avoids overwhelming the debrief. I post on Slack when I start and finish a session – with a link to the doc.

Here’s an example of a session. It’s a little crude but it kinda does the job. Feel free to use it and create your own template if it helps.