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ICSE 2023
Sun 14 - Sat 20 May 2023 Melbourne, Australia

Refactoring is a common software maintenance practice. While the literature defines standard code modifications for each refactoring type, popular IDEs provide refactoring tools aiming to support these standard modifications. However, previous studies indicated that developers either frequently avoid using these tools or end up modifying and even reversing the code automatically refactored by IDEs. Thus, developers are forced to manually apply refactorings, which is cumbersome and error-prone. This means that refactoring support may not be entirely aligned with practical needs. The improvement of tooling support for refactoring in practice requires understanding in what ways developers tailor refactoring modifications. To address this issue, we conduct an analysis of 1,162 refactorings composed of more than 100k program modifications from 13 software projects. The results reveal that developers recurrently apply patterns of additional modifications along with the standard ones, from here on called patterns of \textit{customized refactorings}. For instance, we found customized refactorings in 80.77% of the \textit{Move Method} instances observed in the software projects. We also investigated the features of refactoring tools in popular IDEs and observed that most of the customization patterns are not fully supported by them. Additionally, to understand the relevance of these customizations, we conducted a survey with 40 developers about the most frequent customization patterns we found. Developers confirm the relevance of customization patterns and agree that improvements in IDE’s refactoring support are needed. These observations highlight that refactoring guidelines must be updated to reflect typical refactoring customizations. Also, IDE builders can use our results as a basis to enable a more flexible application of automated refactorings. For example, developers should be able to choose which method must handle exceptions when extracting an exception code into a new method.