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Issue No. 03 - May/June (2011 vol. 37)
ISSN: 0098-5589
pp: 341-355
Bas Cornelissen , Software Improvement Group, Amsterdam
Andy Zaidman , Delft University of Technology, Delft
Arie van Deursen , Delft University of Technology, Delft
Software maintenance activities require a sufficient level of understanding of the software at hand that unfortunately is not always readily available. Execution trace visualization is a common approach in gaining this understanding, and among our own efforts in this context is Extravis, a tool for the visualization of large traces. While many such tools have been evaluated through case studies, there have been no quantitative evaluations to the present day. This paper reports on the first controlled experiment to quantitatively measure the added value of trace visualization for program comprehension. We designed eight typical tasks aimed at gaining an understanding of a representative subject system, and measured how a control group (using the Eclipse IDE) and an experimental group (using both Eclipse and Extravis) performed these tasks in terms of time spent and solution correctness. The results are statistically significant in both regards, showing a 22 percent decrease in time requirements and a 43 percent increase in correctness for the group using trace visualization.
Program comprehension, dynamic analysis, controlled experiment.

A. Zaidman, B. Cornelissen and A. van Deursen, "A Controlled Experiment for Program Comprehension through Trace Visualization," in IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, vol. 37, no. , pp. 341-355, 2010.
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