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This file as a
dictionary of standard terms defined as they are used across
projects. Individual projects should not need to edit this file.
Writing out the definitions of terms and acronyms here helps keep
other documents more concise and easy to edit. Check the ReadySET
- Chipping away
- The process of removing sample text from templates when that
text does not apply to the current project. Often some of the
sample text will be kept or revised to fit the current project.
Even if the sample text does not fit the current project, it
provides a reusable example of how to phrase that type of
description. The term "chipping away" comes from an old joke: when
a sculptor is asked how he carved a marble statue of a horse, he
replies "It was easy, I just started with a big block of marble and
chipped away everything that did not look like a horse."
- Attached worksheet
- The idea is similar to filling in an IRS form and using
worksheets to calculate subtotals or make specific decisions. That
is to say, there is a hierarchy to the templates: there are the main
templates, and then worksheets for specific topics. We have divided
the information into several files so that each file is focused on
one topic, and so that each file can be worked on by one person in a
reasonable amount of time.
- Process impact
- The process impact box on each template explains where the
current template fits into the software development process. It
usually includes a brief comment on who should create the document,
and who would be expected to make use of it. You can change the
process impact box, but you should not need to.
- There are two kinds of checklists:
- Many of the templates have a section with questions that help
you check your work in that template. Often the sample answers to
the questions prompt you to take some corrective action.
- For design and code review meetings, there are links to
guidelines and checklists that help you identify common errors in
- Sticky note
- The idea is similar to a post-it note attached to a document
that tells you do "sign here" or fill in a certain part. There are
two types of sticky notes:
After you have done what the sticky note says, you can delete the
sticky note. In the HTML file, they are marked with class="todo" or
- TODO: Instructs you on how to fill in the template. This is
the minimum that you need to do. One of the main goals of ReadySET
is to help your team quickly carry out basic software
engineering activities. The TODO sticky notes make that easy by
making the templates more self-explanatory.
- TIP: Helps you think of better ways to fill in the template.
One of the other main goals of ReadySET is to help your team make
better decisions that can make your whole project more successful.
The TIP sticky notes help with that.
Computer Science and Technology Terms
- API (Application Program Interface)
- An API is a set of functions that one software component makes
available to other software components. That allows other programs
to "call" this program via direct function calls, or more indirect
communications such as SOAP
- SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol)
- SOAP is the message format used by standard web services. It
entails sending an XML document to a server in order to invoke an
operation on the server-side. More information on SOAP.
- Change Control Board (CCB)
- A group of people who review proposed changes to the project
requirements and/or source code to accept or reject changes in each
particular release. Proposed changes are usually rejected if they
introduce too much risk or would trigger additional effort (e.g.,
the need to redo a lot of testing on new code). A CCB is usually
composed of managers and representatives of other stakeholders
such as the QA group and key customers.
- Feature Complete
release is called "feature complete" when the development team
agrees that no new features will be added to this release. New
features may still be suggested for later releases. More
development work needs to be done to implement all the features and
- Code Complete
- A release is called "code complete" when the development team
agrees that no entirely new source code will be added to this
release. There may still be source code changes to fix defects.
There may still be changes to documentation and data files, and to
the code for test cases or utilities. New code may be added in a
- Internal Release Number
- An internal release number is the number that the development
team gives each release. Internal release numbers typically count
up logically, i.e., they do not skip numbers. They may have many
parts: e.g., major, minor, patch-level, build number, RC number.
- External Release Number
- External release numbers are the numbers that users see. Often,
they will be the same as the internal release number.
That is especially true if the product being built is a component
intended to be reused by another engineering group in the same
development organization. External release numbers can be different
for products that face competition. External release number are
simpler, and may not count up logically. E.g., a certain major ISP
jumped up to version 8 of their client software because their
competition had released version 8. Later, the competition used
version "10 Optimized" rather than "10.1" or "11".
- Release Number
- The term "release number" by itself refers to an external release
number. Users normally are not aware of the existence of any
internal release numbers.
- Feature specification
- A feature specification focuses on one feature of a software
product and completely describes how that feature can be used. It
includes a brief description of the purpose of the feature, the
input and output, and any constraints. Individual bullet items give
precise details on all aspects of the feature. One feature may be
used in many different ways as part of many different use cases.
- Use case
- The main part of a use case is a set of steps that give an
example of how an actor can use the
product to succeed at a goal. These steps are called the "Main
success scenario", and they include both user intentions and system
responses. One use case may show how the actor uses several
features to accomplish a goal.
- A user or an external system that uses the system being built.
- This design correctly matches the given requirements.
- This design can be implemented and tested with the planned
amount of time and effort.
- Developers can understand this design and correctly implement
- Implementation phase guidance
- This design divides the implementation into components or
aspects that can correspond to reasonable implementation tasks.
- Concerns are clearly separated so that the impact of most design
changes would be limited to only one or a few modules.
- New features or components can be easily added later.
- It is easy to test components of this design independently, and
information is available to help diagnose defects.
- The design enables the system to perform functions with an
acceptable amount of time, storage space, bandwidth, and other
- Ease of integration
- The components will work together.
- Capacity matching
- The architecture deploys components onto machines that provide
needed resources with reasonable total expense.
- It allows for storage of all valid values and
- Ease of access
- Application code to access stored data is simple
- Stored data cannot easily be corrupted by
defective code, concurrent access, or unexpected process
- Data capacity
- The system can store the amount of data needed.
- Data security
- Protection of sensitive user and corporate data from
unauthorized access or modification
- Data can be accessed quickly
- The database or data files can be accessed and updated by
- Intrusion prevention
- Prevent, e.g., hackers opening a command shell on our
- Abuse prevention
- Prevention of abuse (e.g., using our system to send spam).
- All changes can be accounted for later.
- Understandability and learnability
- Users can reasonably be
expected to understand the UI at first sight. Users will be able
to discover additional features without aid from other users or
documentation, and they will be able to recall what they have
- Task support and efficiency
- The UI is well matched to the
users' tasks and it can be used with a reasonable number of clicks
- Users are not likely to accidentally produce an
undesired result (e.g., delete data, or send a half-finished
- Consistency and familiarity
- Users can apply their knowledge
of similar UIs or UI standards to this system.
- n. Deprecated since 1991. See defect.
- v. A mistaken thought in the developer's mind. Often
caused by miscommunication or bad assumptions. Errors can create defects. E.g., a developer might erroneously
think that the square root of -4 is -2.
- n. The result of the developer's error embodied in the product source code, initial
data, or documents. E.g., a square root function which allows
negative numbers as arguments is defective. Defects can be removed
by changing the source code, initial data, or document.
- n. The execution of defective code. E.g., if a certain
input is provided to defective code, it may cause an exception, or
go into an infinite loop, or store an incorrect value in an internal
variable. A fault is not normally visible to users, only the failure is visible.
- n. The user-visible result of a fault. E.g., an error message or an incorrect
result. This is evidence that can be reported in a defect report.
Developers use failure evidence during debugging to eventually find
and remove defects.
- Functionality > Correctness
- Correctness is the most basic quality goal. It means that,
when valid inputs are given and the system is in a valid state and
under reasonable load, the system's behavior and results will be
- Functionality > Robustness
- Robustness is the system's ability to gracefully handle invalid
inputs. It should never be possible for any user input to crash
the system or corrupt data, even if that user input is abnormal,
unexpected, or malicious.
- Functionality > Accuracy
- Accuracy refers to the mathematical precision of calculations
done by the system. Any system that does numeric calculations must
consider accuracy, e.g., financial or scientific applications.
- Functionality > Compatibility
- Systems that claim to follow standards or claim compatibility
with existing systems must adhere to the relevant file formats,
protocols, and APIs. The relevant standards are linked at the top
of this document.
- Functionality > Factual correctness
- Is the data in the system a true representation of the real
world? Any system that contains initial data or gathers data about
the real world should be sure that the data is factually correct.
E.g., a tax preparation program should embody correct and
up-to-date facts about tax law.
- Usability > Understandability and Readability
- Users need to understand the system to use it. The basic
metaphor should be understandable and appropriate to user tasks.
Some defects in understandability include unclear metaphors, poor
or hard-to-see labels, lack of feedback to confirm the effects of
user actions, and missing or inadequate on-line help.
- Usability > Learnability and Memorability
- Every user interface contains some details that users will need
to learn and remember. E.g., Alt-F to open the "File" menu. UI
cues and rules can make these details easier to learn and remember.
E.g., the "F" is underlined and, as a rule, the first letter is
usually the accelerator key.
- Usability > Task support
- This is the quality of match between user tasks and the
system's UI. Task support defects are cases where the system
forces the user to take unnatural steps to accomplish a task or
where the user is given no support for a difficult step in a task.
E.g., must the user invent an 8-character filename for their
"Christmas card list"? E.g., must users total their own tax
- Usability > Efficiency
- Users should be able to accomplish common tasks with reasonable
effort. Common tasks should be possible with only one or two
steps. The difficulty of each step should also be considered.
E.g., does the user have to remember a long code number or click on
a very small button?
- Usability > Safety
- Humans are error-prone, but the negative effects of common
errors should be limited. E.g., users should realize that a given
command will delete data, and be asked to confirm their intent or
have the option to undo.
- Usability > Consistency and Familiarity
- Users should be able to apply their past
experience from other similar systems. This means
that user interface standards should be followed, and common
conventions should be used whenever possible. Also, UI elements
that appear in several parts of the UI should be used consistently,
unless another UI quality takes priority. E.g., if most currency
entry fields do not require a dollar-sign, then one that does
demand it is a consistency defect, unless there is a real chance
that the user is dealing with another currency on that step in
- Usability > Subjective satisfaction
- Users should feel generally satisfied with the UI. This is a
subjective quality that sums up the other user interface qualities
as well as aesthetics.
- The system should allow usage only by authorized users, and
restrict usage based on permissions. The system
should not allow users to side-step security rule or exploit
security holes. E.g., all user input should be validated and any
malicious input should be rejected.
- Reliability > Consistency under load
- Every system has some capacity limits. What happens when those
limits are exceeded? The system should never lose or corrupt
- Reliability > Consistency under concurrency
- Systems that allow concurrent access by multiple users, or that
use concurrency internally, should be free of race conditions and
- Reliability > Availability under load
- Every system has some capacity limits. What happens when those
limits are exceeded? The system should continue to service those
requests that it is capable of handling. It should not crash or
stop processing all requests.
- Reliability > Longevity
- The system should continue to operate as long as it is needed.
It should not gradually use up a limited resource. Example
longevity defects include memory leaks or filling the disk with log
- The system's operations should execute quickly, with reasonable
use of machine and network resources. E.g., if one user does one
operation, it should execute efficiently.
- Scalability is a general quality that holds when the system
continues to satisfy its requirements when various usage parameters
are increased. E.g., a file server might be scalable to a high
number of users, or to very large files or very high capacity
disks. Several specific scalability goals are listed below.
- Scalability > Performance under load
- This is a specific type of scalability goal dealing with the
performance of the system at times when it is servicing many
requests from many users.
- Scalability > Large data volume
- This is a specific type of scalability goal dealing with the
ability for the system to handle large data sets. Operations
should continue to be correct and efficient as data set size
increases. Furthermore, the user interface should still be usable
as the data presented to users increases in length.
- The long-term needs of system administrators should be reliably
supported. E.g., is the system easy to install? Can the
administrator recover from a crash? Is there sufficient log output
to diagnose problems in the field? Can the system's data be backed
up without downtime? Can the system be upgraded practically?
- Maintainability > Understandability
- Will it be easy for (future) developers to understand how the system
- Maintainability > Evolvability
- Can the system easily be modified and extended over time?
- Maintainability > Testability
- Can the system easily be tested? Do the requirements precisely
specify possible inputs and the desired results? Can the system be
tested in parts? When failures are observed, can they be traced
back to defects in specific components (i.e., debugging)? Is
testing practical with the available testing tools?
Additional Standard Terms
For additional standard terms, see the following reference sites: