Software developers spend up to 70 percent of their time figuring out how existing source code works, but common code editing tools offer little help for this task. Coati helps software engineers explore and navigate unknown source code quickly and thoroughly by combining an interactive graph visualization, a concise code view and a powerful search algorithm, all built into an easy-to-use cross-platform developer tool.
The reality of software development.
As software engineers, we know that we have the skills and capacity to actualize all of our ideas. But sometimes, it’s more difficult than we expect. Professional software development is more often than not a team effort. Working in teams allows us to solve harder problems, but it comes at a cost. W hen a codebase grows, it becomes increasingly more complex to track every addition. Consequently, more and more time is spent investigating the current implementation while less is spent on writing new features. Developers new to a project will often have to spend days or even weeks familiarizing themselves with the codebase before actually becoming productive.
Programming languages are not the problem.
Programming languages are constantly evolving. They reduce the overhead a software developer needs to keep in mind by abstracting away more and more limitations of the machine. But regardless of the language, if a project reaches a certain size, it’s hard to keep a consistent mental model of the source code’s structure. The problem here is not the poor abstraction of the language, but the high information density of code. Every line in the source code has a purpose and as software developers, we spend most of your time searching for those small pieces that are currently relevant. Why can’t we take a step back and see how the components connect with each other, without constantly looking at every detail of code?
We already have enough code editors.
When it comes to writing code, we have a multitude of options to suit whatever workflow we desire. What is harder to address is how efficiently we can understand an existing implementation. While there are many great code editors out there, they’re designed for writing code and are not made for navigating all implementation at hand. Sure, every developer has their own strategy of finding information within source code, from searching documentation to looking at tests, or asking the original authors when available. But when you’ve exhausted all these options, you are inevitably left with digging through code. And let’s face it—digging through is something that most programmers would rather avoid.
The computer knows it all!
Understanding the fundamentals of your codebase shouldn’t be that hard. Seeing which objects are involved in a feature and the paths that it takes through the source files should be a no-brainer. The funny thing about all this? Your computer knows it all. By using a compiler or interpreter, your computer already knows how the language works. It knows what paradigms exist and because it’s turning your source code into executable instructions; it knows every single piece of information within the entire codebase, including: where functions are called, how types get instantiated, where variables get changed. Accessing this information was cumbersome for us developers so far, but is easily possible with Coati.