Smoke vs Sanity
Best practices Management Agile
9 mins read
March 13, 2024

Smoke Testing Vs Sanity Testing: Difference with Examples

In the realm of software testing, two terms often find themselves at the forefront: smoke testing and sanity testing. While these concepts might sound similar and even interchangeable to a non-tester, they represent distinct approaches that serve unique purposes in QA. To navigate the complex software testing world, you must understand the fundamental differences between both, and this article will provide everything you need on the topic.

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Robert Weingartz
Nurlan Suleymanov

Smoke testing and sanity testing contribute to the overall quality assurance efforts differently. In this article, we will delve into the depths of these two testing techniques, shedding light on their definitions, objectives, workflows, and, most importantly, their practical applications through real-world examples. So fasten your seatbelts and get ready to explore the intriguing nature of smoke testing and sanity testing, unlocking the secrets behind successful software validation.

What is sanity testing?

Before we compare it to the smoke test, we should answer this question: what is a sanity test? Sanity testing (or sanity check) is a quick, focused subset of regression testing. It evaluates whether the software application or system is stable enough. The primary objective of sanity testing is to ensure that the critical functionalities, major features, and crucial software components are not broken or impaired during development or modification. 

Unlike comprehensive testing methods, sanity testing focuses on narrow areas or specific functionalities of the system’s core functionality. The best time to perform it is after major changes or additions to the software, like bug fixes, patches, or new feature implementations. The goal is to quickly determine if the system is ready to proceed with thorough testing. 

For example, imagine a web application that allows users to sign up, log in, and perform basic account management tasks. After implementing a critical security patch, a sanity test would validate the core functionalities of user registration, login, and account management and their functionality. This test would not involve extensive testing of all features or scenarios but would focus solely on ensuring the system’s functionality remains intact after the recent changes.

Smoke Test - Are the major functional elements up.
Sanity Test - Smoke Test + Quickly verify your new code doesn't break.

EdisonCarterNet23 Posted in Software Testing Reddit thread, 3 years ago

What is smoke testing?

Smoke testing (or build verification testing) is initial testing to ensure the essential functionalities of a software application or system are working correctly and stable enough for further testing. A typical time to execute smoke testing is early in the software development lifecycle or after receiving a new build or release. Smoke testing’s meaning might sound similar to that of sanity testing, but there are subtle differences we will talk about in the following paragraphs.

The primary objective of smoke testing is to identify critical issues that could prevent the application from functioning properly. It is called “smoke testing”, as it derives its name from verifying whether the system will “smoke” or function at a basic level without catching fire. 

In smoke testing, you must execute a limited and predefined set of test cases to cover the most crucial software features and functionalities. The goal is to provide a quick assessment of the build’s stability and identify major problems you must address before proceeding with more comprehensive testing. 

For example, consider a software application for an e-commerce website. During smoke testing, the tester might verify if the basic operations, like launching the application, navigating through pages, adding items to the cart, and proceeding to checkout, are functioning correctly. The focus is to ensure the core functionality is intact and there are no glaring issues that would render the application unusable. It’s crucial to note that smoke testing does not aim to achieve extensive coverage or identify all possible defects. It is an initial checkpoint to validate the overall system stability and determine if it is worth spending time on more rigorous testing. A build that fails too early would likely need changes that will affect or break other things, so it’s better to apply QA effort elsewhere before evident showstoppers are fixed.

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What are the differences between smoke and sanity testing?

There is no denying that smoke and sanity testing have some similarities, which is why people often get confused by them. These similarities include test focus (both focus on specific areas of software), providing quick feedback, early detection of bugs, or covering the most critical aspects of the software. 

Both smoke testing and sanity testing are fundamental practices in the field of QA. While smoke and sanity testing serve different purposes, they are commonly considered essential techniques in software testing. In contrast, user acceptance testing (UAT) is a less frequent and more specific type of testing that focuses on evaluating software from an end-user perspective using acceptance testing tools.

"The best tester is one who can put themselves in the customer's shoes"

Greta James, Consulting systems engineer

What about the differences? How do we make the comparison – smoke vs sanity testing? Here are the main differences you should know about them: 

  1. Scope: Smoke testing focuses on basic stability, covering essential functionalities, while sanity testing focuses on specific areas or functionalities after changes or additions.
  2. Purpose: Smoke testing is a quick evaluation of build stability for further testing, while sanity testing ensures critical features are intact and the system is in a reasonable state.
  3. Depth of Testing: Smoke testing is surface-level and covers the core functionalities without extensive coverage, while sanity testing goes deeper with targeted testing of specific areas or functionalities.
  4. Execution Timing: Smoke testing is performed early in the software development lifecycle or after a new build, but sanity testing is conducted after major changes or additions to the software. 
  5. Automation: Although both can be automated, smoke testing is mostly scripted, while sanity testing is unscripted because it aims to review particularly complicated codebases.

Smoke testing vs sanity testing comparison does not end here. While there are some small differences between them, such as the level of documentation, test environments, or test execution time, the above-mentioned differences are more important to remember when implementing these testing methods.

In my mind, Sanity tests would be "Let's make sure we didn't break anything horribly, just in case" While smoke tests would be "Let's confirm that the core functionalities still work as expected". So, I'd say these are pretty much the same, with maybe intent being different and smoke tests being more structured.

di6 Posted in Software Testing Reddit thread, 3 years ago

Smoke vs Sanity differences

Conclusion

In software testing, the differences between smoke and sanity testing are crucial for ensuring effective quality assurance. With smoke testing, your focus is on basic stability, while in sanity testing, you dive deeper into specific functionalities; both play integral roles in identifying critical issues and validating the system. By incorporating these testing methodologies appropriately into your software development lifecycle, you can deliver a high-quality digital product that meets user requirements.

Smoke just checks if the basic bare minimum function of the product works. E.g. Netflix. Can you open the app and play a video? While sanity checks for, let's see if the core functions of the app work fine. E.g. Video playback from different places, search results, playback controls, and some most used customer UX flows.

pm-me-ur-uneven Posted in Software Testing Reddit thread, 3 years ago

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FAQ
What is sanity testing?

Sanity testing is a basic level of software testing to quickly evaluate whether the system functions properly after minor changes or fixes without delving into extensive testing.

What is a smoke test in QA?

A smoke test in QA is a preliminary test that focuses on quickly verifying the most critical functionalities of a software system, often performed before more extensive testing is conducted.

What are the differences between smoke and sanity testing?

The main differences between smoke and sanity testing include depth, timing, scope, execution, and purpose.

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