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Code Inspections

Inspections, like walkthrough, can be used throughout the software life cycle to assess and improve the quality of the various work products. The goal of the code inspection is to identify and remove bugs before testing the code. Code inspections are one of the most powerful tools for eliminating bugs. Inspection team consist of one to four members who are trained for their tasks.

Design and code inspections were first described by Fagan. An inspection team consists, of four persons, who play the roles of moderator, Reader, Recorder and Author.

Moderator: The moderator must be technically very competent. He is the person who leads the inspection process. He or she paces the meeting, coaches other team members, deals with scheduling a meeting place and disseminating materials before the meeting, and follows up on rework.

Reader: The Reader takes the team through the code by paraphrasing its operations.

Recorder: A recorder notes each error on a standard form. This frees the other team members to focus on thinking deeply about the code.

Authors: The Author’s role is to understand the errors found and to eliminate unclear areas. As code inspections are never confrontational, the Author should never be in  position of defending the code.

Items to be inspected in a code inspection are as follows:

1.    Data Declaration
(a)    All variables defined?
(b)    Correct length, type and storage classes assigned?
(c)    Arrays and strings initialized properly?
(d)    Any variables with similar names?

2.    Computation
(a)    Mixed mode computation?
(b)    Computation on non-arithmetic variables?
(c)    Computation on variables of different length?
(d)    Intermediate result overflow or underflow?
(e)    Division by zero?
(f)    Variables value outside meaningful rage?

3.    Input/Output Statement
(a)    File attributes correct?
(b)    Open statements correct?
(c)    Format specifications match Input/Output Statement?
(d)    Buffer size matches record size?
4.    Control Flow
(a)    Multi-way branches exceeded?
(b)    Will each loop terminates?
(c)    Will program terminates/
(d)    Any loop by passes because of entry conditions?

5.    Interfaces
(a)    Number of input parameters matches argument list?
(b)    Types of input parameters match the argument variables.
(c)    Global variables definitions consistent across modules?
(d)    Constant passed as arguments

6.    Other Items
(a)    Mission function?
(b)    Input checked for validity?
(c)    Are compound conditions specified properly?

An interesting aspect of inspection is the observation that, different programmers tend to make different kinds of characteristics errors. Errors found during an inspection can be cycled back to the programmers who make them and a feedback is them produced, helping programmers try to eliminate those types of errors from their subsequent work, thus improving quality and productivity.

Advantages of code inspections

Some of the advantages of code inspection are as follows;
•    Lists all potential design flows that can make software code less maintainable and costly to develop.
•    Indicates all defects that otherwise are difficult to fix during normal operational testing and usage.
•    A detailed error feedback is provided to individual programmers. So that it makes easier for them to make changes in the code.

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