Using software analysis tools to understand military applications: A qualitative study


  1. Charland, P.
  2. Dessureault, D.
  3. Lizotte, M.
  4. Ouellet, D.
  5. Nécaille, C.
Corporate Authors
Defence R&D Canada - Valcartier, Valcartier QUE (CAN)
Although some studies have already been conducted to evaluate the effect of reverse engineering and visualization tools on programmers’ understanding, most of them were conducted under conditions which do not prevail in the industry. They involved undergraduate and graduate students performing comprehension tasks on relatively small scale programs. Also, they either focused exclusively on the static or dynamic aspect of the software under examination. This technical memorandum describes the design and reports the observations of a qualitative study conducted to assess the value added by one reverse engineering and two dynamic analysis tools. The software examined were three large scale military applications written in C++ and Java. In this study, five participants had to perform 31 comprehension tasks, taking into consideration both the static and dynamic aspects of the applications under examination. The tasks were intended to be as close as possible to the ones performed during an understanding effort at the architectural level on large scale software. Although it was observed that the tools aided the participants to understand the applications under examination, some deficiencies were observed. These stem from the fact that the tools do not always provide the appropriate viewpoints, abstraction levels, and filters needed to understand the architecture of applications of considerable size. This is especially true in the case of the dynamic tools.

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Report Number
DRDC-VALCARTIER-TM-2005-425 — Technical Memorandum
Date of publication
01 Aug 2006
Number of Pages

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