Tool generates code metrics for the masses

So-called "best practices" sometimes appear burdensome to programmers. Corporate metric and coding standards may have their place, some may grant, but the overhead and documentation with such systems can be off-putting.

Yet, with complex J2EE EJB component apps such as those running on IBM's WebSphere, some type of code qualifier tool may be helpful. And some of these tools can actually cut the amount of tedious documentation work required of developers.

But there is another catch: Only the biggest corporations, it often seems, can afford such solutions.

Into this fray comes Portland, Ore.-based Instantiations Inc., which has launched CodePro Express. Officials say the product extends the functionality of IBM WebSphere Application Server-Express and the Eclipse platform with a focus on code quality and reliability appropriate for smaller organizations. The product can plug into the Eclipse open source platform. [For more on Eclipse, see Dwight Duego's writings at http://www.adtmag.com/article.asp?id=6748]

"CodePro Express integrates itself into WebSphere Application Server-Express tools and/or Eclipse," explained Mike Taylor, CEO at Instantiations. "It makes the development environment much richer with more functions."

Officials said the product includes code auditing and metrics features. It also concentrates on productivity through its support of design patterns, which are similar to templates. "CodePro Express comes with a couple dozen patterns that give a developer a head start. They just have to fill in some of the details," Taylor noted. "A developer can start with a pattern to generate hundreds of lines of code automatically."

The audit tools point out potential problems with the code and can catch errors early in the production life cycle, Taylor said. "It's as if [each developer] has a personal code editor sitting on their shoulder," he explained. According to Taylor, the auditing feature checks the quality and the way a developer writes code against 150 different rules for code quality and code business.

Programmers Report spoke with Kevin Maione, a senior application architect who is currently evaluating CodePro Express as a beta tester. He is recommending its use for all of the WebSphere Studio Application Developer-based development projects at Linea Engineering Inc., an IT consultancy in Beachwood, Ohio. "There is no question this will improve the productivity of every one of my developers every day they use the tool," he said.

Maione is currently responsible for a team of 20 to 30 developers working on an engagement for a Fortune 1000 financial services company. He said he has been impressed with CodePro Express's ability to quickly generate a number of code metrics. "This has been huge because we have a contractual requirement to do this for a current customer. We can now generate comprehensive metrics with a button click, a task that took one of my developers many hours before."

Maione also appreciates the JavaDoc repair facility. "Historically, it has been a difficult task to keep our Java doc comments up to date with the changes in method parameters, etc.," he said. That is no longer a challenge.

The enhanced browser views are what initially attracted Maione to CodePro Express, and they are still important. He has not been able to explore the design pattern support as of yet, but he believes it has great promise.

CodePro Express pricing ranges from $199 to $249 per developer with a one-year upgrade and maintenance subscription.


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About the Author

Lana Gates is a freelance writer based in Mesa, Arizona. She can be reached via e-mail at freelancewriter@gates-works.com.

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