Tackling the issue of software testing, Microsoft this week is offering a tool that leverages model based testing techniques.

The tool, Spec Explorer 2010, also referred to simply as Spec Explorer, is available on the Microsoft DevLabs site, said S. Somasegar, senior vice president of the Microsoft developer division, in a Monday evening blog post.

"Thorough, consistent, and extensible testing of systems remains one of the biggest challenges in creating and maintaining software systems," Somasegar said. "The Spec Explorer tool released today on DevLabs tackles that problem using model based testing techniques."

Spec Explorer models software behavior and generates test suites from those models. Models can be viewed as graphical renderings to understand expected system behavior. Test suites can run standalone or in the Visual Studio test framework or other unit test frameworks. Engineers with no modeling background can build models with Spec Explorer, Somasegar said.

Models are written in C# and accompanied by configuration files in a scripting language called Cord, for "Coordination Language," the Spec Explorer team blog reported.

"Several Microsoft projects of various sizes have already used Spec Explorer as part of their development process.  Using Spec Explorer has helped those teams create test cases more quickly, ensure predictability of requirement coverage, and support the projects' lifecycle management and software updates," Somasegar said.

The company is seeking feedback on Spec Explorer. A commercial version may or may not be released.

Microsoft previously has built a predecessor tool, Spec Explorer 2004, used by Microsoft product groups.