Issue No. 11 - November (2007 vol. 33)
A key issue in software evolution analysis is the identification of particular changes that occur across several versions of a program. We present change distilling, a tree differencing algorithm for fine-grained source code change extraction. For that, we have improved the existing algorithm of Chawathe et al. for extracting changes in hierarchically structured data. Our algorithm detects changes by finding a match between nodes of the compared two abstract syntax trees and a minimum edit script. We can identify change types between program versions according to our taxonomy of source code changes. We evaluated our change distilling algorithm with a benchmark we developed that consists of 1,064 manually classified changes in 219 revisions from three different open source projects. We achieved significant improvements in extracting types of source code changes: our algorithm approximates the minimum edit script by 45% better than the original change extraction approach by Chawathe et al. We are able to find all occurring changes and almost reach the minimum conforming edit script, i.e., we reach a mean absolute percentage error of 34%, compared to 79% reached by the original algorithm. The paper describes both the change distilling and the results of our evaluation.
Source code change extraction, tree differencing algorithms, software repositories, software evolution analysis
Beat Fluri, Michael Wuersch, Martin PInzger, Harald Gall, "Change Distilling:Tree Differencing for Fine-Grained Source Code Change Extraction", IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, vol. 33, no. , pp. 725-743, November 2007, doi:10.1109/TSE.2007.70731