JDiff: A Differencing Technique and Tool for Object-Oriented Programs

Abstract

During software evolution, information about changes between different versions of a program is useful for a number of software engineering tasks. For example, configuration-management systems can use change information to assess possible conflicts among updates from different users. For another example, in regression testing, knowledge about which parts of a program are unchanged can help in identifying test cases that need not be rerun. For many of these tasks, a purely syntactic differencing may not provide enough information for the task to be performed effectively. This problem is especially relevant in the case of object-oriented software, for which a syntactic change can have subtle and unforeseen effects. In this paper, we present a technique for comparing object-oriented programs that identifies both differences and correspondences between two versions of a program. The technique is based on a representation that handles object-oriented features and thus, can capture the behavior of object-oriented programs. We also present JDIFF, a tool that implements the technique for Java programs. Finally, we present the results of four empirical studies, performed on many versions of two medium-sized subjects, that show the efficiency and effectiveness of the technique when used on real programs.


Related research categories:
(1) Object-Oriented
(2) Program Analysis
(3) Regression Testing
(4) Program Differencing

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