SANER 2017

2017 IEEE 24th International Conference on Software Analysis, Evolution, and Reengineering (SANER), February 20-24, 2017, Klagenfurt, Austria

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Program Comprehension
Main Research
Shorter Identifier Names Take Longer to Comprehend
Johannes Hofmeister, Janet Siegmund, and Daniel V. Holt
(University of Passau, Germany; University of Heidelberg, Germany)
Supplementary Material
Abstract: Developers spend the majority of their time comprehending code, a process in which identifier names play a key role. Although many identifier naming styles exist, they often lack an empirical basis and it is not quite clear whether short or long identifier names facilitate comprehension. In this paper, we investigate the effect of different identifier naming styles (letters, abbreviations, words) on program comprehension, and whether these effects arise because of their length or their semantics. We conducted an experimental study with 72 professional C# developers, who looked for defects in source-code snippets. We used a within-subjects design, such that each developer saw all three versions of identifier naming styles and we measured the time it took them to find a defect. We found that words lead to, on average, 19% faster comprehension speed compared to letters and abbreviations, but we did not find a significant difference in speed between letters and abbreviations. The results of our study suggest that defects in code are more difficult to detect when code contains only letters and abbreviations. Words as identifier names facilitate program comprehension and can help to save costs and improve software quality.

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Time stamp: 2020-02-28T22:21:57+01:00