Monday, January 19, 2015

Why should you start using NDepend?

Introduction

This weekend I finished painting my apartment. Then I laid on the floor, looking at the ceiling, started taking some shots and talking to myself:

A) Yes, it looks great and with this new lamp in the middle of the living room, everything looks perfect. B) But what is that I see at the corner? Let me get a closer shot. C) Oops!!! I made a mistake, I need to fix it ASAP ;)

Yes, I know, I’m not a professional painter. Therefore, I don't have the right tools to alert me about this technical debts while I’m painting. 

Such experience reminded me that I’m a software developer and recently acquired the right tool detect such “dark spots” – a.k.a technical debt – of the source code while I’m coding. Its name is NDepend.

What is NDepend?

SONAR Web Report
NDepend is a static analysis tool for .NET managed code. As you should know static analysis is about analyzing code without executing it and generally used to ensure conformance with the coding guidelines.

NDepend is not the only tool available for static analysis code for .NET, there are several tools including Code Violation Detection Tools like Fxcop, Clocksharp, Mono.Gendarme or CodeIt.Right,  Quality Metric Tools like Nitriq, SONAR or NDepend itself, or just Checking Style Tools like StyleCop, Agent Smith.

Actually, I currently use SONAR with its seamless integration with build process in order to continuously manage code quality in centralized reports of technical debts.

NDepend also has integration with the build process, but from my point of view, one of its key features is the great Visual Studio integration in order to display your technical debt directly inside the IDE.
NDepend Dashboard in Visual Studio
Let's take a look at a very quick start with NDepend.

A very quick start with NDepend


Quick access
to the violation results
After installing a plugin and setting up your  project, you should run a code analysis just by clicking the option from the menu NDEPEND => Analyze => Run Analysis or moving de mouse over a circle in the notification bar and click in Run a First Analysis on this NDepend Project.

If you move the mouse again - once the analysis finished - over the circle in the notification bar you should see the Code Queries and Rules Summary, with the fast access to the Critical and Rules Violated

Such results, categorized into Code Quality, Object Oriented Design, Design, ArchitectureLayering, Dead Code, and so on, are displayed on the Query and Rules Explorer panel and allow us to navigate from the violation directly to the source.
Categorized violation query results on the Query and Rules Explorer
For instance, let me check from Code Quality category, the rule Methods with too many parameters - critical.  

The rule description is the follow: Methods with more than 8 parameters might be painful to call and might degrade performance. You should prefer using additional properties/fields to the declaring type to handle numerous states. Another alternative is to provide a class or structure dedicated to handle arguments passing.

The analysis found 16 violations of this rule, by clicking it you can navigate to the method. In this case, I selected one with 9 parameters and found out that indeed, it must be refactored. Now, thanks to the integration of Visual Studio and Git,  you can also see who's the author of this violation. 

Navigating from rule 'Methods with too many parameters - critical' result to StartSiteCreationProcess method
Let me take a closer shoot to see who that is:


Oops!!! it's me, I need to fix this ASAP ;)

Conclusion

Important thing is, not to accumulate technical debt and fix it as soon as it is detected. For .NET developers, NDepend is the right tool to start with.

You can make mistakes (critical or not), but be aware of your code quality constantly makes the difference between the apparent and intrinsic quality of your sources and consequently your products; even when untrained eyes may only see the beautiful lamp.

Btw, It seems like I've got similar skills as painter than as software developer ;).