I’ve previously written on the benefits of static analysis of java code with the use of PMD and FindBugs. I was recently turned on to a new tool that performs similar testing of code within the Eclipse IDE.
When I first found this tool it was free, since that time it’s come out of beta and is now a little costly, but it may still be worth it due to the functionality it provides.
The premise of this tool is a little different than other ones, while it covers much of the same need, it also performs many tests that I would previously use CheckStyle to do. This only provides them at runtime and in a common manner within the IDE.
As an old UNIX developer, I spent a significant portion of my work experience using VI, as my development environment became more focused on Windows, I used Homesite for developing text formatted documents. I’ve found that the current offerings from Eclipse and other IDE’s are notoriously bad at displaying the source of many document types, particularly JSP, HTML, XML, JAVA, JS and CSS files; where you often want to see exactly how a document is structured. Additional spaces, tabs and carriage returns can cause display formatting issues and wasted bandwidth in many cases.
Many of my peers are fans of TextPad, but I’ve found Notepad++ to be quite up to the task:
- it is available for Windows and LINUX
- supports auto-formatting of many text file types
- can ‘replace’ the default Source-HTML viewer in MSIE.
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!).
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.