A CASE (Computer-Aided Software Engineering) tool is a standard term used to indicate any form of automated support for software engineering. In a more preventive sense, a CASE tool means any tool used to automate some activity associated with software development which includes Web Development, Mobile Application Development,eCommerce web development, etc.
The overall aim of CASE technology is to improve the productivity and quality of the resulting systems by assisting the developer throughout the different stages of the development process from the acquisition of the functional and nonfunctional system requirements to the design and implementation of the system considering all the relevant technical and operational features.
What are CASE tools?
Computer-Aided Software Engineering (CASE) stands for automated software tools used for designing, development, implementation, and maintenance of software projects.
CASE tools include:
- Front-end analysis tools such as diagramming, analysis, display and report tools to support requirements definition and system designs;
- Back-end tools for generating code from those diagrams and other design documents;
- Central repositories for the processing logic, data structures, other specifications, and project management documents.
CASE stands not only for tools but also for methods in software development. Different kinds of professionals use CASE tools and methods for a different purpose. CASE tools can automate many steps of the software development life cycle and even assist in further implementation. They are especially useful for analysts, which rely on CASE tools to communicate more effectively and integrate the project life-cycle from the beginning to the very end. All the options they provide will be explained in the section below.
Additionally, complex CASE applications can require extensive user training and experience to achieve the real benefits they provide. CASE organizes and controls the development of software, especially on large, complex projects, by helping all people included in the project share a common view of it.
While many programmers use CASE tools in various stages of the software development process, they mainly use them while developing the following methodologies:
- System Development Life Cycle
- Object-Oriented Analysis
- Rapid Applications Development (RAD)
- Joint Applications Development (JAD)
Case tools can support all aspects of the software development life-cycle overall. They are useful for the entire IT team, from project management to business analysis, system design, coding testing and all the activities included in the meanwhile.
CASE tools are set of software application programs, used to automate software development activities. Moreover, with the usage of CASE tools, project managers, system analysts and developers can uncover flaws before moving ahead with the next stage in software development.
Case tools can be classified in three ways:
- Upper Case Tools– used in planning, analysis and design stages of SDLC, to create integrated diagrams of the system and store information regarding the system components.
- Lower CASE tools – used in the implementation, testing, and maintenance, to create the diagrams and generate code for database tables and system functionality.
- Integrated CASE tools – contain the functionality of upper-CASE and lower-CASE tools and support tasks throughout the entire SDLC.
Here are some CASE tools types briefly explained:
- Diagramming tools– graphical representation of system components, data and control flow among various software components;
- Process modeling tools – create a software process model used to develop the software;
- Project management tools – project planning, cost and effort estimation, project scheduling and resource planning.
- Documentation tools – generate detailed documents for technical users and end-users describing the function and how-to of the system such as user manual.
- Analysis tools – gather requirements, automatically check for inaccuracy and data redundancies.
- Design tools – design the block structure of the software, then divide it into modules, provide the details for each module and interconnections among modules.
- Configuration management tools – version and revision management, change control management through automatic tracking, version management, and release management.
- Change control tools – deal with changes made to the software, automate change tracking, file management, code management an enforce organization change policy.
- Programming tools – providing comprehensive aid in building a software product and include features for simulation and testing.
- Prototyping tools – provides initial look and feel of the product and simulates a few aspects of the actual product. Also, they help us build rapid prototypes based on existing information.
- Web development tools – assist in designing web pages and all their consisting elements, like forms, text, script, graphics.
- Quality assurance tools – monitoring the engineering process and methods, in order to ensure conformance of quality as per organization standards.
- Maintenance tools – show modifications in the software product after it goes into production. Therefore, automatic logging, error reporting techniques, or automatic error ticket generation.
Why use CASE tools?
- Savings in resources required for software development — with less.
- Quick development phase
- Reduction of generation of errors.
- Easier recognition of bugs during development.
- Savings in maintenance resources required.
- To increase productivity
- To help produce enhanced quality software at a lower cost
- An imperative benefit of a CASE environment is cost-saving through all development stages.
- The use of CASE tools leads to considerable improvement in quality.
- Different phases of Software Development and the chances of human error are significantly reduced.
- CASE tools help to produce high quality and consistent documents
- CASE tools take out most of the work in a software engineer’s work.
The importance of standardization & documentation
Standardization and documentation are vital to ensure great benefits from using CASE tools. Especially in complex projects where things can get quite complicated for team members with distinctive backgrounds.
Standards are useful so that developers can follow certain formal rules in the SDLC. Even so, they ensure that the project meets the objectives and goals set at the beginning, show deviations and help monitoring and measurement. When a team forms standards and follows them, then the project can be completed faster since task coordination becomes less complex.
On the other hand, good documentation includes detailed information about the tasks done during the SDLC. In fact, documentation should be written before the development of the project and should be divided into many contexts, so that the document can be readable and easy to understand for the end-user.
- CASE tools are expensive and require maintenance and upgrades;
- Users should be trained and educated to use them;
- If not integrated with other systems, CASE tools can be quite inefficient and frustrating for users.
Related article: Agile Software Development: Why use Agile Methodologies?