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A Better View of Code

We're pleased to be joined today by Vineet Sinha. Today is an exciting time for him because it is the official launch of Architexa, a startup that focuses on developer tools. We appreciate Vineet taking time out of what must be a busy day.

Dr. Dobb's: Vineet, tell us about the product you're launching.

Sinha: Architexa, which is the name of the company we've launched, was created to help members of development teams have a better view of the important aspects of the code -- this includes not just seeing how the high-level components depend on one another, but also in understanding the core of a system (how the main classes interact with one another), and even the most important use cases. In short, our focus is on helping developers understand code, to take that understanding to document things better, and finally to share and discuss these design with others on their team. While we don't provide all the benefits of typical UML tools, we want to help developers in the most common use cases with very little training and effort on their part. We call our suite RSE, short for "Rich Source Explorer". This name describes what we do -- show code views in familiar looking diagrams. Most developers are familiar with UML, so we try to bias our diagrams to look like typical UML diagrams.

Dr. Dobb's: How and why did tool and the company come about?

Sinha: The tool was built after many iterations in trying to solve a problem I faced when working as a developer in Office team at Microsoft. I was wishing that someone had created a diagram similar to the very useful MFC class hierarchy chart for the Office codebase. The first prototype of RSE did exactly that.

I eventually started working on my PhD at MIT but kept working on the problem. We built a number of tools, with some trying to be too smart and therefore not working. We got great responses but also realized some limitations of the tool. We continued by doing some work with Accenture and after my PhD trying one more prototype before taking them all together into building the suite of capabilities we have today.

Dr. Dobb's: Can you briefly describe the underlying technology?

Sinha: The technology has a number of parts:

  • We have a powerful index in the background that allows us to open up diagrams quickly without taking a large amount of memory.
  • We also have done a number of things so that users can explore the code effectively -- from adding buttons to allow the user to follow any relationship he cares about to allowing users to easily delete items.
  • We have made sure that the diagrams are familiar and don't get overwhelming. We show code elements in expected locations using flexible layout engines.
  • We allow users to use these diagrams when and how they want them. Deep integration into the IDE allows users to open diagrams at any location inside Eclipse, and they can take these diagrams and share them with colleagues by just clicking a button and sharing them on our private server.

Dr. Dobb's: Shifting gears... you're launching a start-up. Is this the first one for you and your team? What do you see as your biggest business challenge?

Sinha: I have built a number of organizations when I was in grad school and have also started a company previously, but this is the first company that I have put in everything -- my time and any money that I have had.

The biggest challenge for any startup is in learning from their users and improving on that -- what they like, what they want more off, and what they find hard. Our biggest challenge is in energizing those that hear about us to give us their feedback on how we should improve. Look for us to spend time writing about these issues that we think matter, and hearing community feedback.

Dr. Dobb's: Your company is an MIT spin-off. How does that work?

Sinha: This work is based on my PhD work at MIT. Before graduating I made sure that we did not have any licensing complications regarding the company and the underlying IP.

Dr. Dobb's: I noticed that you have a special offer for Dr. Dobb's readers. Can you share this with readers?

Sinha: We decided to give the first users a significant discount, just to get the ball rolling. So users who signup within the month (from Wednesday) will get a 50% discount on the product. And the first 100 who signup from you guys get a 60% discount. They would need to use this address: http://www.architexa.com/start/index/fromDDJ address.

Dr. Dobb's: On behalf of Dr. Dobb's readers, thanks. And good luck.

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