Code Thumbnails: Using Spatial Memory to Navigate Source Code

R. De Line, M. Czerwinski, B. Myers, G. Venolia, S. Drunker, and G. Robertson. Code Thumbnails: Using Spatial Memory to Navigate Source Code. In Proceedings of IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing 2006.

The paper presents a method called Code Thumbnails for supporting code navigation and understanding. The main idea of this approach is to represent a mini map of the code in the developer suite. The shape of the text can act as a visual landmark to support perceptually the navigation activity. The article build upon a large body of research on spatial memory and spatial cognition, where different studies have shown that adding real world landmark can greately benefit navigation in virtual reality.To evaluate the impact of this visualization, the author asked a number of developers to identify and correct a certain part of a code in a given amount of time. They used two independent variables: the presence of the landmarks and the file versus the method type for the visualization. Results showed significants effects for the variables.

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