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3–D Visualization of Software Structure

Elsevier Science & Technology
DOI: 10.1016/s0065-2458(08)60284-3
  • Engineering


Abstract A common and frustrating problem in software engineering is the introduction of new faults as a side-effect of software maintenance. An understanding of all of the relationships that exist between modified software and the rest of a system can limit the introduction of new faults. For large systems, these relationships can be numerous and subtle. The relationships can be especially complex in object-oriented systems that include inheritance and dynamic binding. Software visualization can potentially ease both impact analysis and general program understanding. Software visualization can facilitate program understanding by graphically displaying important software features. However, despite recent success in developing useful and intuitive graphical representations for certain aspects of software, current software visualization systems are limited by their lack of scalability—the ability to visualize both small- and large-scale software entities. This paper demonstrates that three-dimensional (3–D) graphics and a hierarchy of overlapping views can increase the scalability of software visualization. The hierarchy provides detailed information without sacrificing the “big picture.” Overlapping is used to provide context between high- and low-level views. A prototype system, Change Impact Viewer (CIV), tests these visualization mechanisms. CIV highlights areas of a system that can potentially be affected by a change to a selected function. The mechanisms, as implemented in CIV, show improvements in scalability over those provided by other systems, without decreasing usefulness or intuitiveness.

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