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Durham e-Theses
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Animating the evolution of software

Taylor, Christopher (2003) Animating the evolution of software. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The use and development of open source software has increased significantly in the last decade. The high frequency of changes and releases across a distributed environment requires good project management tools in order to control the process adequately. However, even with these tools in place, the nature of the development and the fact that developers will often work on many other projects simultaneously, means that the developers are unlikely to have a clear picture of the current state of the project at any time. Furthermore, the poor documentation associated with many projects has a detrimental effect when encouraging new developers to contribute to the software. A typical version control repository contains a mine of information that is not always obvious and not easy to comprehend in its raw form. However, presenting this historical data in a suitable format by using software visualisation techniques allows the evolution of the software over a number of releases to be shown. This allows the changes that have been made to the software to be identified clearly, thus ensuring that the effect of those changes will also be emphasised. This then enables both managers and developers to gain a more detailed view of the current state of the project. The visualisation of evolving software introduces a number of new issues. This thesis investigates some of these issues in detail, and recommends a number of solutions in order to alleviate the problems that may otherwise arise. The solutions are then demonstrated in the definition of two new visualisations. These use historical data contained within version control repositories to show the evolution of the software at a number of levels of granularity. Additionally, animation is used as an integral part of both visualisations - not only to show the evolution by representing the progression of time, but also to highlight the changes that have occurred. Previously, the use of animation within software visualisation has been primarily restricted to small-scale, hand generated visualisations. However, this thesis shows the viability of using animation within software visualisation with automated visualisations on a large scale. In addition, evaluation of the visualisations has shown that they are suitable for showing the changes that have occurred in the software over a period of time, and subsequently how the software has evolved. These visualisations are therefore suitable for use by developers and managers involved with open source software. In addition, they also provide a basis for future research in evolutionary visualisations, software evolution and open source development.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2003
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Sep 2011 10:02

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