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An alpha test is a preliminary software field test carried out by a team of users in order to find bugs that were not found previously through other tests. The main purpose of alpha testing is to refine the software product by finding (and fixing) the bugs that were not discovered through previous tests.
Also known as alpha testing.
The team that conducts the alpha test is often an independent test team, perhaps made up of potential users/customers. Alpha testing involves simulating a real user environment by carrying out tasks and operations that the actual users might perform. Once software passes the alpha test, it is considered for the next phase of testing called beta testing.
The meaning of alpha also can differ based on whether the project is custom software done for a client. In this case, alpha testing implies an initial meeting between software vendor and client to ensure that the client's requirements are properly met by the developer in terms of the performance, functionality and durability of the software program.
Compare this versus the context of a web application, where alpha testing can be interpreted as an online application that isn't completely ready for usage, but that has been opened up to get some initial feedback. Commonly an alpha might allow power users to get their first look at the system via a a private invitation.