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 [via]