Best Practices in Static Code Analysis
Stable and secure applications always begin with the quality of their code. There are many approaches to testing the code and ensuring its high quality. Being one of them, static code analysis is the practice of thoroughly checking the code and debugging it without actually running the application. But before we delve deeper into best practices in static code analysis, let’s start with the qualities of a good code. It’ll help you better understand the importance of this method of code analysis.
When writing the code, every programmer should remember that, in the future, someone else might be working on their code. That’s why it’s important to always write the code in a way that allows another programmer to understand it faster. Otherwise, it can happen that the time required to grasp the code will exceed the time needed to introduce the changes.
Sometimes clients want to modify their existing application. But when a dev team sits down to work, it might turn out that its code is of such bad quality that cost-wise, it’s better for the client to actually write the app from scratch.
The code should execute requests fast and efficiently while using fewer resources. If the code executes the requests too long or consumes a lot of server resources, this should be addressed.
How the application performs is extremely important for the end user. An efficient app handles heavy website traffic better, without crashing or losing speed.
Ease of Extension
In case an application needs an additional feature in the future, the existing code should be written in a way that allows for easy extensibility, without the need to write everything from scratch.
When writing the code, you should think about its future potential reusability. Why write the same thing twice when you can write it once and make sure the necessary changes for a future application can be easily added?
These are just a few of the important features of a good code. To get a full idea of what makes it, add to that stack the testability, usability, quality standards, and a lot more.
Writing Quality Code Takes Time
The more you care to write quality code, the longer it’ll take you to do it and the more complicated the process will be. But of course, every programmer along with gaining experience, picks up certain habits that speed up work and make quality coding easier.
How to Check Code Quality
You can do this manually, going over line after line of code. With this approach, however, you still are bound to miss something. Besides, let’s be honest, it’s time-consuming and monotonous and, as a result, less efficient.
Here to the rescue come the invaluable static code analysis tools, which can spot and fix errors automatically.
Static code analysis tools let you quickly find errors lurking with the code without the need to run the app. They help maintain high code quality.
Below are some of the tools you can use:
- PHP Mess Detector
- PHP Copy Paste Detector
- PHP Codesniffer
- PHP Metrics
My all-time favorite static code analysis tool is PHP Metrics, version 1 or 2. The tool generates a graphic representation of code’s complexity, maintainability, and accessibility for new devs. Also, when the probability of bugs in the code is reduced, PHP Metrics will indicate it, too.
Just one look at that graph tells me exactly where I should check or refactor the code.
Main Features of Static Code Analysis Tools
- Analyzing code syntax
- Finding duplicates
- Checking if the code meets quality standards
- Determining if the code was written according to best practices
- Identifying vulnerabilities (SQL injections, outdated features, data loss)
- Suggesting how to improve performance
There are also static code analysis tools that can automatically fix errors in the code. For example, PHP Coding Standard Fixer can improve the code so that it complies with code quality standards.
The Benefits of Static Code Analysis Tools
- Fast execution of requests
- Ease of use
- Integration with continuous integration (CI) and IDE tools
Plus, a lot of them are free.
How Static Code Analysis Tools Improve the Code
First, they improve the performance and security of your applications. The code becomes cleaner, and its readability increases. It’s also easier to be upgraded and modified.
Additionally, by analyzing results from these tools and fixing indicated errors, you can learn how to write high-quality code that’s free of errors. Also, by using static code analysis tools and adding another testing stage, you decrease the costs of fixing errors later.
Code quality has tremendous importance in the process of building refined and robust applications. High-quality code can be easier and faster to modify and extend. Plus, the very costs of working with good codes are much lower. By using static code analysis tools during coding, you are employing a tested and effective solution to improve the final quality of the code. As a result, you can save time, resources, and money.
Polcode is an international full-cycle software house with over 1,300 completed projects. Propelled by passion and ambition, we’ve coded for over 800 businesses across the globe. We follow best practices in software development to deliver products that exceed the expectations of our clients. If you’d like to talk in detail about your IT project, contact us. We’ll be happy to help you get your idea off the ground.