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Writing Effective Use Cases (Crystal Series for Software Development) Paperback – 5 Oct 2000

4.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Addison Wesley; 01 edition (5 Oct. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201702258
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201702255
  • Product Dimensions: 18.8 x 2.5 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 65,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Amazon Review

Alistair Cockburn's Writing Effective Use Cases is an approachable, informative, and very intelligent treatment of an essential topic of software design. "Use cases" describe how "actors" interact with computer systems and are essential to software-modelling requirements. For anyone who designs software, this title offers some real insight into writing use cases that are clear and correct and lead to better and less costly software.

The focus of this text is on use cases that are written as opposed to modelled in UML. This book may change your mind about the advantages of writing step-by-step descriptions of the way users (or actors) interact with systems. Besides being an exceptionally clear writer, the author has plenty to say about what works and what doesn't when it comes to creating use cases. There are several standout bits of expertise on display here, including excellent techniques for finding the right "scope" for use cases. (The book uses a colour scheme in which blue indicates a sea-level use case that's just right while higher-level use cases are white and over-detailed ones are indigo. It also provides notational symbols to document these levels of detail within a design.)

This book contains numerous tips on the writing style for use cases and plenty of practical advice for managing projects that require a large number of use cases. One particular strength lies in the numerous actual use cases (many with impressive detail) borrowed from real-world projects that demonstrate both good and bad practices. Even though the author expresses a preferences for the format of use cases, he presents a variety of styles, including UML graphical versions. The explanation of how use cases fit into the rest of the software engineering process is especially good. The book concludes with several dozen concrete tips for writing better use cases.

Software engineering books often get bogged down in theory. Not so in Writing Effective Use Cases, a slender volume with a practical focus, a concise presentation style, and something truly valuable to say. This book will benefit most anyone who designs software for a living. --Richard Dragan

From the Back Cover

Writing use cases as a means of capturing the behavioral requirements of software systems and business processes is a practice that is quickly gaining popularity. Use cases provide a beneficial means of project planning because they clearly show how people will ultimately use the system being designed. On the surface, use cases appear to be a straightforward and simple concept. Faced with the task of writing a set of use cases, however, practitioners must ask: "How exactly am I supposed to write use cases?" Because use cases are essentially prose essays, this question is not easily answered, and as a result, the task can become formidable.

In Writing Effective Use Cases, object technology expert Alistair Cockburn presents an up-to-date, practical guide to use case writing. The author borrows from his extensive experience in this realm, and expands on the classic treatments of use cases to provide software developers with a "nuts-and-bolts" tutorial for writing use cases. The book thoroughly covers introductory, intermediate, and advanced concepts, and is, therefore, appropriate for all knowledge levels. Illustrative writing examples of both good and bad use cases reinforce the author's instructions. In addition, the book contains helpful learning exercises--with answers--to illuminate the most important points.

Highlights of the book include:

  • A thorough discussion of the key elements of use cases--actors, stakeholders, design scope, scenarios, and more
  • A use case style guide with action steps and suggested formats
  • An extensive list of time-saving use case writing tips
  • A helpful presentation of use case templates, with commentary on when and where they should be employed
  • A proven methodology for taking advantage of use cases

With this book as your guide, you will learn the essential elements of use case writing, improve your use case writing skills, and be well on your way to employing use cases effectively for your next development project.



0201702258B04062001

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 8 Jan. 2002
Format: Paperback
I was disappointed to see that the previous reviewer thought so little of this book. Personally, I thought it was excellent. As a systems analyst, I need to employ use cases as a way for users to understand how they would use the system - in 'everyday' language. I thought this is precisely the reason why the book was written. Rarely can I get users interested in state diagrams, event/action analysis etc. Users that have this ability don't need use cases:-)
Also, I felt Cockburn clearly explained where use cases sit with regard to other requirement types. If you want a good book that shows you how to write behavioral requirements in 'user-speak', this is the one!
I think there are many good books, which show how to take use cases down to a more formal representation for development purposes. "Applying UML and Patterns" by Craig Larman , Second edition is one of them. In it, he describes the refinement of a use case into system contracts with pre-post conditions, static model etc. Another great book!
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I have read a number of books about modelling requirements on the back of endorsements such as "It's the industry bible for X". Writing Effective Use Cases was similarly recommended to me.
Having read it I can only wholeheartedly agree. It is well written, the lessons coming to life through numerous real-world examples and summaries for busy readers. There is plenty of content here, but the technique is expertly unravelled, each element dealt with in its turn.
In some ways I wish I had read this book a long time ago. In other ways, the mistakes that I have made over the last year have made me appreciate the true value of this book.
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I have read a number of UML books in the past and nearly all of them have passed off Use Case writing with a sentence like "A complete discussion of this is a topic for a whole other book." Well this is the other book.
In just 230 pages (there is little waffle here), Alistair manages to give the topic very thorough coverage. The number of different Use Case styles presented and the discussion about when to use each particularly impressed me. The examples too are surprisingly complete with almost no ... in.
My only criticism is the books structuring with some chapters being 20 pages and others less than a whole side. Also the amount of forward and backward referencing can get a bit much at times.
This book has definatly improved my use cases. All in all, though, I wish I had read this book years ago.
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In my opinion Alistair Cockburn has written the definitive practical guide to writing Use Cases. This book is obviously written by someone who has great practical experience, rather than just understanding the theory. I have used this book as my guide leading a team of analysts, on a project where there was no prior experience of writing Use Cases. Fortunately this book has answers to just about all of the issues we came across on a highly complex project. It comes highly recommended. Topics I would like to see included in a second edition would be writing Use Cases for Batch functions, and more about (already covered to some extent) Use Cases in the context of the Project Life-cycle. Viz. leaveraging the Use Cases to assist BPR, Design and Testing activities. Well done Alistair, a absolute god send.
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This is a top-notch book on Use Cases. I got it because I had to write Use Cases for a programming and configuration tool for a safety controller used with electric motor drives in industrial automation systems. This is a SIL3 safety-critical application.

I disagree entirely with the two-star-awarding reviewer who calls Cockburn "naive". Indeed the great virtue of Cockburn's approach to Use Cases is that he keeps them simple. This is a major advantage in high-integrity systems where simplicity is the friend of reliability and safety. I also applaud Cockburn's evident disdain for using UML graphical notations for UCs. OO-methods are generally shunned in safety-critical systems as they are regarded as too imprecise (Indeed hardened practitioners in critical systems engineering often regard the use of UML/OO as a sign of limited competence.)

Cockburn is IMO absolutely right in saying that UCs are an essentially textual form. Sooner or later the developers of MIS-type system will realise that those of us who have been doing hard software engineering (in this reviewer's case for over 40 years) actually have a far clearer idea of the kinds of specification formalisms that work when things absolutely have to be right. And when the OO fad has finally died, I reckon Cockburn's book will still be in print because it does not shackle itself to the UML/OO bandwagon.

IMO, this book is exceptionally well-written and down-to-earth. It is, I think, a solid and welcome contribution to the literature on specification.
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By A Customer on 25 Nov. 2003
Format: Paperback
This book is brilliant. Having gone through the pain of RUP for analysis, this is the book I wish we'd had before we started. The book is clear and easy to read, and most important of all, it makes sense.
Having begun to rework the approach that I take based on the recommendations in this book, all I can say, is get this book and read it! It will make your analysis life so much easier and provide a good clear approach to differentiating between business use cases and functional (decomposition) use cases amongst many other things.
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