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A comparative evaluation of dynamic visualisation tools

Pacione, Michael J. and Roper, Marc and Wood, Murray (2003) A comparative evaluation of dynamic visualisation tools. In: 10th Working Conference on Reverse Engineering, 2003-11-13 - 2003-11-16.

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Despite their potential applications in software comprehension, it appears that dynamic visualisation tools are seldom used outside the research laboratory. This paper presents an empirical evaluation of five dynamic visualisation tools - AVID, Jinsight, jRMTool, Together ControlCenter diagrams and Together ControlCenter debugger. The tools were evaluated on a number of general software comprehension and specific reverse engineering tasks using the HotDraw objectoriented framework. The tasks considered typical comprehension issues, including identification of software structure and behaviour, design pattern extraction, extensibility potential, maintenance issues, functionality location, and runtime load. The results revealed that the level of abstraction employed by a tool affects its success in different tasks, and that tools were more successful in addressing specific reverse engineering tasks than general software comprehension activities. It was found that no one tool performs well in all tasks, and some tasks were beyond the capabilities of all five tools. This paper concludes with suggestions for improving the efficacy of such tools.