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Code Thumbnails: Using Spatial Memory to Navigate Source Code

Robert DeLine, Mary Czerwinski, Brian Meyers, Gina Venolia, Steven Drucker, and George Robertson


Modern development environments provide many features for navigating source code, yet recent studies show the developers still spend a tremendous amount of time just navigating. Since existing navigation features rely heavily on memorizing symbol names, we present a new design, called Code Thumbnails, intended to allow a developer to navigate source code by forming a spatial memory of it. To aid intra-file navigation, we add a thumbnail image of the file to the scrollbar, which makes any part of the file one click away. To aid interfile navigation, we provide a desktop of file thumbnail images, which make any part of any file one click away. We did a formative evaluation of the design with eleven experienced developers and present the results.


Publication typeInproceedings
Published inVLHCC '06: Proceedings of the Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing
AddressWashington, DC, USA
PublisherIEEE Computer Society
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