How to report software errors and bugs

This document is intended for software users to give a guide of how to report errors and bugs. The aim of a bug report is to enable the software developer to see the program fail in front of them. There are 2 ways of doing this, either to show them in person, or give them instructions of how to reproduce the problem.

In bug reports try to make it clear what are facts (this happened) and what are speculations (I think this might have happened). Leaving out speculations is OK, try not to report too many speculations, but do NOT leave out the facts.

In the bug report explain how to reproduce the problem with the screen or screens you opened, the buttons and controls which were clicked and the correct order of these operations. Screen shots can be useful, but they also need an explanation of which controls were pressed.

When the software reports an error, do not frantically start pressing buttons, this will most likely cause other problems and make the situation worse. Instead stop working, write down the error message and quickly write down all information you can think of.

After an error has occurred and the error dialog has closed, if you think things are working correctly again you could be wrong, and the error that occurred could have a knock on effect and cause more errors. Report the error to your IT department or to the company that suppliers the software and restart the software.

When reporting an error make sure it is an error and is not a feature of the software, for example if a message dialog appears telling you it cannot do that operation, think what you are trying to do and look at the message. If it has a red cross with ‘error’ at the top then it is an error, but if it shows an information icon and the message does not contain the word ‘error’ then it could be a feature and what you have tried to do is prohibited by design. As a software developer, it is very annoying for someone make a report as a ‘System Error’ when it was a message designed to stop the user doing something that is not allowed.

In the bug report try not to use generic or abstract words like ‘window’, be more specific and report the exact window either by what appears in the title bar along the top or by describing precisely the window.

Try to avoid acronyms or technical jargon related to your industry, what is an acronym in the industry you work in could mean something completely different in the software industry.



1) Do not leave out any facts.
2) Remember more information is always better than less.
3) When an error occurs, stop what you are doing and write down as much information as possible.
4) Make sure it is an error and not a feature.
5) Be very specific on what windows and buttons are pressed.



Written 18/11/2010 - Copyright RicRac Developments 2010