Project Status

I have spent nearly every day since July 7th working to bring the Windmill Project up to a level where it can be used reliably in a production environment. Our mission starts with “Windmill is a web testing framework intended for complete automation of user interface testing”, of course this refers to the web including everything and anything inside the browser window. This turns out to be a very large task, one that only an Open Source labor of love could possibly attempt to accomplish.

Windmill has slowly evolved as a project with user contributions, a moderately active IRC channel, and enough users to keep me from forgetting what a useful and powerful tool it is. When I was offered the opportunity to work on the project I quickly saw how much needed to be done in order to get to where we needed to be. We still aren’t quite there, and like most Open Source projects we might not ever get to the envisioned perfection, however recently we hit a very important milestone. The project is now fully hosted and run by the committers, and in many ways “Grown Up”, thanks to a lot of good advise and hard work. The milestone we have reached, is that Windmill is ready for YOU to use. This week we pushed 0.8.2, which is a release that has addressed all of the major issues that we know about and have discovered with heavy usage over the past months. Our hopes are that you will go install Windmill 0.8.2 and things will just WORK. If not, I can’t wait to get your issues in trac and see what we can do to fix them.

Priorities

The main things we care about when it comes to our web testing tools:

  • Low barrier to entry, low learning curve, and ease of use
  • Thorough documentation, community and project support
  • Support for the big 3 platforms; Windows, MacOSX and Linux
  • Support for the big 4 browsers; Firefox, IE, Safari and Opera
  • Easy integration with continuous integration tools
  • Reliability; developers aren’t going to pay attention if the failures aren’t real
  • A really nice looking logo, and a web site that is easy on the eyes..

There are always more features to implement, but Windmill hasn’t needed new features for a very long time. What Windmill needed was some serious QA, some code cleanup and a whole mess of bug fixes. If you look through the Trac Timeline you will see the massive amounts of all of the above that have happened and I am proud as hell when I launch the application today and see all that it can do.

What can Windmill do?

Windmill offers the ability to build, write, record and run tests as well as aid in debugging and development. In addition, the framework provides the ability to create and maintain hierarchies of smart and thorough tests that will ensure the quality of your web applications over time. Not only can we save you hours creating and maintaing tests, but we can also help you see your web application as a growing feature rich product, instead of a QA nightmare.

Many tools out there provide ways to write tests, some even provide recorders and DOM explorers, but none that I have ever seen provide this rich functionality cross platform and cross browser, which is really what is required in order to build a thorough test repository that represents all your possible users.

The current set of major features can be found at the Windmill Features Page as well as more details about what is currently available. One of the more exciting new features is the full integration with Firebug Lite. Web developers rely on the existence of Firebug in order to quickly build and debug web applications, and Firebug Lite is the next best thing. It’s hard to even describe how useful it has been to instantly access the JavaScript Console and DOM inspector in IE to debug a failing test. As the Open Source community grows, and tools are improved and brought to light, I think it’s very important to do everything we can to utilize these tools and use them to enhance the Windmill Framework.

Keeping it Open

The Open Source aspect of Windmill has turned out to be it’s greatest asset. The project is almost entirely written in JavaScript and Python, which instantly gives us many advantages over the competition. The JavaScript community is constantly evolving and is most certainly the futures technology platform. Python has a very strong community as well and has given us immense amounts of functionality and flexibility right out of the box.

One of the most exciting things to me personally about this particular project is the immense potential user base out there, and the large impact the Windmill Tools can have on the daily work flow of it’s users. Windmill was obviously inspired with the hopes of minimizing the need for manual testing of rich web applications, and has grown to be much more than that.

The future of the work to be done on Windmill will primarily be driven by the needs of it’s users, the changes and development of the industry and the success of it reaching the goal, to make web automation better.

Moving Forward

Concluding this major push of work, testing, documentation and moving of infrastructure; we now need to see how the community feels. There are lots of choices out there for web automation and we have made many differentiating choices along the way. It is now time to get the word out and take in some real feedback.

Thanks you all for input, contributions, patience and valuable feedback. Those of you who spent many hours on Freenode in #windmill with us debugging and hunting down those spastic blockers are troopers and we really appreciate it.

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