How Preprocessor Annotations (Do Not) Affect Maintainability: A Case Study on Change-Proneness
Preprocessor annotations (e.g., #ifdef in C) enable the development of similar, but distinct software variants from a common code base. One particularly popular preprocessor is the C preprocessor, cpp. But the cpp is also widely criticized for impeding software maintenance by making code hard to understand and change. Yet, evidence to support this criticism is scarce. In this paper, we investigate the relation between cpp usage and maintenance effort, which we approximate with the frequency and extent of source code changes. To this end, we mined the version control repositories of eight open- source systems written in C. For each system, we measured if and how individual functions use cpp annotations and how they were changed. We found that functions containing cpp annotations are generally changed more frequently and more profoundly than other functions. However, when accounting for function size, the differences disappear or are greatly diminished. In summary, with respect to the frequency and extent of changes, our findings do not support the criticism of the cpp regarding maintainability.
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Lukas LinsbauerJohannes Kepler University Linz, Thorsten BergerChalmers University of Technology, Sweden / University of Gothenburg, Sweden, Paul GrünbacherJKU Linz, AustriaDOI Authorizer link
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Raúl LapeñaSan Jorge University, Spain, Jaime FontSan Jorge University, Spain, Oscar PastorUniversitat Politècnica de València, Spain, Carlos CetinaSan Jorge University, SpainDOI Authorizer link
|14:20 - 14:45|
How Preprocessor Annotations (Do Not) Affect Maintainability: A Case Study on Change-PronenessBest Paper
Wolfram FenskeUniversity of Magdeburg, Germany, Sandro SchulzeUniversity of Magdeburg, Germany, Gunter SaakeUniversity of Magdeburg, GermanyDOI Authorizer link