Human-Computer Interaction

INTERACT 2015: Human-Computer Interaction – INTERACT 2015 pp 177-194

An Observational Study of How Experienced Programmers Annotate Program Code

  • Craig J. Sutherland
  • Andrew Luxton-Reilly
  • Beryl Plimmer
Conference paper

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-22668-2_15

Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 9297)
Cite this paper as:
Sutherland C.J., Luxton-Reilly A., Plimmer B. (2015) An Observational Study of How Experienced Programmers Annotate Program Code. In: Abascal J., Barbosa S., Fetter M., Gross T., Palanque P., Winckler M. (eds) Human-Computer Interaction – INTERACT 2015. INTERACT 2015. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 9297. Springer, Cham

Abstract

This study investigates how and why experienced programmers annotate program code. Research has shown that marking up prose with a pen is an invaluable aid to reading for understanding. However program code is very different from prose: there are no studies on how programmers annotate code while reading. We asked experienced programmers to read code printed on paper and observed their annotation practices. We found the main reasons for annotating code are to assist with navigation and to record information for later use. Furthermore, we found annotation practices that are hard to replicate in current standard Integrated Development Environments. This suggests that support for digital ink annotations in programming tools may be useful for comprehending program code.

Keywords

Freeform annotation Reading code Understanding code Observational study 

Copyright information

© IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Craig J. Sutherland
    • 1
  • Andrew Luxton-Reilly
    • 1
  • Beryl Plimmer
    • 1
  1. 1.University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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