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Overthrowing the Tyranny of Alphabetical Ordering in Documentation Systems

Publikationsart Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Tagungsbeitrag (peer-reviewed)
Publikationsdatum 2014
Projekt Agile Software Assessment
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Tagungsbeitrag (peer-reviewed)

Titel der Proceedings 2014 IEEE International Conference on Software Maintenance and Evolution (ERA Track)
DOI 10.1109/ICSME.2014.84


Software developers are often unsure of the exact name of the API method they need to use to invoke the desired behavior. Most state-of-the-art documentation browsers present API artefacts in alphabetical order. Albeit easy to implement, alphabetical order does not help much: if the developer knew the name of the required method, he could have just searched for it in the first place. In a context where multiple projects use the same API, and their source code is available, we can improve the API presentation by organizing the elements in the order in which they are more likely to be used by the developer. Usage frequency data for methods is gathered by analyzing other projects from the same ecosystem and this data is used then to improve tools. We present a preliminary study on the potential of this approach to improve the API presentation by reducing the time it takes to find the method that implements a given feature. We also briefly present our experience with two proof-of-concept tools implemented for Smalltalk and Java.