Deep Intellisense is a Visual Studio 2008 plugin that surfaces information from various silos (source control, bug tracking, mailing lists, etc.) to provide developers with instant context-sensitive feedback on any source code they are reading in the editor. Deep Intellisense works with Visual Studio Team Foundation System projects (such as those hosted on CodePlex), email archives (from Outlook) and Sharepoint sites.
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Deep Intellisense is based on the Bridge, a graph of developers and their activities like source code checkins, bug database entries, and mailing list messages where each entry is linked to another when there is a relationship between them. For example, a source code checkin was authored by a particular developer. A tester opened a bug report. A user emailed a stack trace from a crash to the recipients of a mailing list. Deep Intellisense presents a code-centric view of this graph: for any code entity (class, method, field, property) that you click on, it shows the related checkins, bugs, mailing list messages, and people discovered through transitive two hop graph traversals.
Deep Intellisense presents three views: Current Item, Event History, and Related People.
<Screen shot of Current Item View>
The current item view shows the current code entity that is selected in the Visual Studio editor. It summarizes the checkin, bug and discussion forum messages that are related to the particular code entity. If you clicked on a method call, or use of a class or variable, Deep Intellisense may have trouble recognizing exactly what the fully qualified name of the entity is (Deep Intellisense works at a parse-level, but performs no semantic analysis). In this case, it will show a pulldown menu to let you pick from a set of alternatives. A button allows you to search for this symbol in MSDN.
<Screen shot of Event History View>
The event history view shows a sorted list of bugs, checkins and discussion forum messages that we have discovered are related to the selected code. By clicking on the bug title, change set, or message title, you can bring up further information. If you click on the associated person's name, you can email them to ask them a question. This view also allows you to dynamically filter the entries you see using a word wheel, and lets you sort the entries by date, person and event type.
<Screen shot of Related People View>
The related people view pulls out all of the people related to the code and lists them in alphabetical order. It shows the number of bugs, checkins and forum messages each of them has created about the particular code that is selected. In addition, you can click on a person's name to send him an email with a question. There is a little social tagging in Deep Intellisense: if you like a person's checkins or messages and want everyone to pay attention to them, clicking on the green thumbs-up icon will attach the icon to all events by that person in the event history view. If the person is irrelevant to your code investigation, clicking on the red thumbs-down icon will hide their corresponding events from the event history view. To see these hidden events again (and turn off the red thumbs-down icon), click the Show All button in the related people or event history view.
We built Deep Intellisense to address a number of research findings:
We interviewed 3 developers and 2 testers to better understand how they performed their daily tasks. We focused on specific tools and techniques that enabled them to get their jobs done.
During these interviews several common themes emerged between the SDETs and the SDEs:
Interestingly, we also found two pieces of information that was not interesting to either group:
In addition to the commonalities between developers and testers, we also found that they had some role-specific qualities:
After interviewing each developer about their work practice, we provided them with a series of low-fidelity mockups of Deep Intellisense. The intent of this exercise was to focus our development effort on providing information that is relevant to developers and testers, in a format that is usable to them, as they undertake their daily activities. After seeing how they responded to the mockups, we settled on three main design goals for Deep Intellisense:
By context-relevant we mean that instead of always providing file-level granularity for a particular change, Deep Intellisense should provide listings of only those changes that affected the class, field, or method of interest. We chose to work within the developer's current environment because developers already have an overwhelming number of independent tools at their fingertips; we didn't want to exacerbate this situation. We chose not to try to replicate existing tools (notably source code control, bug database and diff tools) as developers are already familiar with these; instead we focused on making interactions with these tools more effective.
Gina Venolia. Textual Allusions to Artifacts in Software-related Repositories. In the 3rd Working Conference on Mining Software Repositories (MSR), Shanghai, China, May 2006. [pdf]
Developer Awareness Tools
Mining Software Repositories