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.NET X-Ray machine reveals legacy code secrets

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Software from boffins who used to work at the Space Technology Centre at the University of Dundee promises to reveal secrets of legacy code.

Founded in September 2009, Rapid Quality Systems is a software development outfit that was 'spun out' of the Dundee University Space Technology Centre, and is still based in the University business incubator. Now it is about to release it's first product, Code Rocket, which promises to make the development and analysis of complex computing code a whole lot easier.

Working with Visual Studio .NET (2005, 2008 and 2010 versions) Code Rocket reveals the inner workings of C#, Java and C/C++ code by interactively exploring the structure of legacy programs and allowing developers to visualise the underlying algorithms and find the meaning behind the code. It has been described by some as being akin to a software x-ray machine for your code. Think of it as slicing through obscure code and by so doing making documentation pretty simple, even automatic within a continuous integration system, and all without any instrumentation of that code.

By providing this interactive visualisation of the code as it is being developed, coders can work in any view, text, diagram or pseudocode while each view remains synchronized in real time. Rapid Quality Systems claims this frees developers "from working within the confines of a language" and allows them "to develop the underlying algorithm by taking a higher level view of the work at hand".

Chief Executive Russell Kay, a man with many years experience in the Dundee computer games industry (having had a hand in the development of Grand Theft Auto and Lemmings according to the Code Rocket press release) says that what he is working on now are software development tools that can be used right across the computing industry. "We have developed a tool that makes it much easier for people to analyse and document complex pieces of code, particularly what is known as legacy code" Kay says, adding "This is code that may have been in a system for some time and where the original programmer may long since have moved on. Code Rocket helps identify how that code works and what it does".

The Space Technology Centre at the University processes large amounts of data and has had to develop some unique computing tools to cope with the unique demands of its operations. "The Centre is a great example of an operation which has a lot of code to maintain, a lot of it generated over many years of its activities, and Code Rocket is ideal for maintaining and documenting all of that" said Russell.

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I took part in some of the code rocket trials, specifically the Visual Studio diagramming and pseudocoding addons, they were good.

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