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Jolt Awards: The Best Testing Tools

, May 21, 2013 The best testing tools of the past year
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Finalist: Sonar

What is code quality? My preferred definition is: Quality equals maintainability. If code can be maintained at low cost, then it is, by definition, high quality.

Open source Sonar focuses with almost disturbing intensity on this aspect of your application. It measures seven different degrees of code quality in both the static and dynamic context using pre-written, but configurable, coding style rules for more than 20 different popular languages. It has no difficulty finding errors in projects containing mixed languages, and its quality analysis can be done across a portfolio of applications.

Clever Web-based configurable dashboards, with details suitable for either high-level management types or developers, display quality metrics along with heat maps of code with quality violations. Many fine details are captured besides remedial technical debt indicated by coding style violations. For example, Sonar displays the ratio of the source code comments to source code lines. This can often reveal where there is a technical debt in readability. Sonar also detects duplicate line groups across modules or systems, giving an enormously valuable early warning about the need for potential architectural refactoring.

The feature I particularly like is the "time machine" plug-in. It allows animated continuous inspection of the evolution of code quality of a system or component over time. Thus, a component that is seen being continuously revised shows up quickly, giving advance warning about a potential longer-term design issue — a valuable insight when found early on in the project.

Sonar has previously won top awards in the Jolts (specifically, in 2009 and 2010). This year's inclusion shows that the product's continued development hews closely to the level of excellence established in earlier releases.

— Roland Racko

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