Doctoral thesis

Interaction-aware development environments : recording, mining, and leveraging IDE interactions to analyze and support the development flow


222 p

Thèse de doctorat: Università della Svizzera italiana, 2017

English Nowadays, software development is largely carried out using Integrated Development Environments, or IDEs. An IDE is a collection of tools and facilities to support the most diverse software engineering activities, such as writing code, debugging, and program understanding. The fact that they are integrated enables developers to find all the tools needed for the development in the same place. Each activity is composed of many basic events, such as clicking on a menu item in the IDE, opening a new user interface to browse the source code of a method, or adding a new statement in the body of a method. While working, developers generate thousands of these interactions, that we call fine-grained IDE interaction data. We believe this data is a valuable source of information that can be leveraged to enable better analyses and to offer novel support to developers. However, this data is largely neglected by modern IDEs. In this dissertation we propose the concept of "Interaction-Aware Development Environments": IDEs that collect, mine, and leverage the interactions of developers to support and simplify their workflow. We formulate our thesis as follows: Interaction-Aware Development Environments enable novel and in- depth analyses of the behavior of software developers and set the ground to provide developers with effective and actionable support for their activities inside the IDE. For example, by monitoring how developers navigate source code, the IDE could suggest the program entities that are potentially relevant for a particular task. Our research focuses on three main directions: 1. Modeling and Persisting Interaction Data. The first step to make IDEs aware of interaction data is to overcome its ephemeral nature. To do so we have to model this new source of data and to persist it, making it available for further use. 2. Interpreting Interaction Data. One of the biggest challenges of our research is making sense of the millions of interactions generated by developers. We propose several models to interpret this data, for example, by reconstructing high-level development activities from interaction histories or measure the navigation efficiency of developers. 3. Supporting Developers with Interaction Data. Novel IDEs can use the potential of interaction data to support software development. For example, they can identify the UI components that are potentially unnecessary for the future and suggest developers to close them, reducing the visual cluttering of the IDE.
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Computer science and technology
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