Automated Java code review tools

I recently found out about ‘static analysis’ of Java code. I’ve found two of these tools that are both free and easy to use. Both provide review of java bytecode and look for common development errors and inefficiencies…
FindBugs is based on the concept of bug patterns. A bug pattern is a code idiom that is often an error. Bug patterns arise for a variety of reasons:

  • Difficult language features
  • Misunderstood API methods
  • Misunderstood invariants when code is modified during maintenance
  • Garden variety mistakes: typos, use of the wrong boolean operator

PMD scans Java source code and looks for potential problems like:

  • Possible bugs – empty try/catch/finally/switch statements
  • Dead code – unused local variables, parameters and private methods
  • Suboptimal code – wasteful String/StringBuffer usage
  • Overcomplicated expressions – unnecessary if statements, for loops that could be while loops
  • Duplicate code – copied/pasted code means copied/pasted bugs

Both integrate easily within Eclipse based (and other IDE’s) is typically done with the use of a simple plugin.

FindBugs can also run as a Java WebStart (JNLP) application, however a different UI is shown for JRE 1.4 vs. 1.5 and above (look out!).
More information:

While no tool can identify all problems, these will help you find some troublesome problems and give you areas to take a deeper look at.

Happy reviewing and fixing.

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