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Understanding the Use of Inheritance With Visual Patterns

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Executive Summary

The goal of this paper is to visualize inheritance in object-oriented programs to help its comprehension. The authors propose a single, compact view of all class hierarchies at once using a custom Sunburst layout. It enables to quickly discover interesting facts across classes while preserving the essential relationship between parent and children classes. They explain how standard inheritance metrics are mapped into their visualization. Additionally, they define a new metric characterizing similar children classes. Using these metrics and the proposed layout, a set of common visual patterns is derived. These patterns allow the programmer to quickly understand how inheritance is used and provide answers to some essential questions when performing program comprehension tasks.

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