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Assessing software quality and understanding how events in its evolution have lead to anomalies are two important steps toward reducing costs in software maintenance. Unfortunately, evaluation of large quantities of code over several versions is a task too time-consuming, if not overwhelming, to be applicable in general. To address this problem, we designed a visualization framework as a semi-automatic approach to quickly investigate programs composed of thousands of classes, over dozens of versions. Programs and their associated quality characteristics for each version are graphically represented and displayed independently. Real-time navigation and animation between these representations recreate visual coherences often associated with coherences intrinsic to subsequent software versions. Exploiting such coherences can reduce cognitive gaps between the different views of software, and allows human experts to use their visual capacity and intuition to efficiently investigate and understand various quality aspects of software evolution. To illustrate the interest of our framework, we report our results on two case studies.
Date of Conference: 15-19 Sept. 2008