Very often test automation is seen as the wonder potion to improve test execution speed and effectiveness. That vision is not completely correct. In fact it requires time and skilled people to set-up a test automation framework. Besides, not each case is worth automating.
Tricks exist to cut some time from your manual test runs. Some of them are available for free, other ones have a relatively low cost compared to other project spendings.
I created a list with my top 4.
1. Use multiple monitors
Using multiple monitors is an ideal way for improving your productivity. I do appreciate the existence of alt-tab, but searching for the right window drives me mad when having over 15 windows opened. Already having 1 additional monitor permits you to have both the application under test and the defect management tool in front of you. If you have another additional monitor, you can even have your log monitoring application in front of you as well. Click here to view my article on log monitoring.
An opensource software solution is Synergy. If you don't mind investing a little money in a license, I recommend Maxivista. I've used that software to connect 3 screens to my portable.
2. Open your applications in a default order
If you use certain applications on a daily base, make sure you launch them in the same order. Having them opened in a fixed order facilitates the retrieval of opened windows. Your brain will start to learn the order and location after a while.
3. Use a high-end computer
A computer with good stats is not only useful when testing a fat client. Also when testing web applications, you will benefit from it. It's not so uncommon to have 10 windows opened. E.g.: a database management tool, some word/excel documents, a browser, your mailbox and some explorer windows. No one likes to wait for a computer, certainly not during test execution. Make sure you have a fast computer with a large amount of memory.
4. Create a script automating tedious tasks
Recently I created a script with AutoIt to perform a logon sequence automatically. Manual execution of this logon sequence usually takes me 20 seconds provided that I don't make any mistake. Making one mistake in the logon sequence usually results in 50% loss of time, leading to an execution time of 30 seconds. The script I created needs only 5 seconds to perform that same logon sequence, which is 4 times as fast. As multiple people are using my script and they don't get stressed because the logon sequence is executed flawlessly, this functionality has been certainly worth scripting.
These are my top 4 bullets to reduce test executing time and stress which don't depend on the application under test itself.
Which other ways do you know? How do you improve your test execution efficiency and speed?