In-Depth

A New Take on Software Reuse

Google Code Search brings a new perspective on how you can engage in reusing existing code.

Google, Inc. recently launched Google Code Search, a free Web tool that enables you to search from among more than 425 million lines of code to find classes, algorithms, or other code snippets to use in their own applications. This search tool, available at www.koders.com, provides an unprecedented resource to developers looking for samples on how to perform a particular action, or actual code to use in multiple applications.

The availability of source code searching prompts a wide variety of questions about utility and legality. Searching for source code is not the same technical feat as searching for text. Rather, searching for source code involves entering in a text description and getting back source code, a different entity.

Darren Rush, cofounder of Koders.com, which was acquired by Google and became Google Code Search, explained how this technique works on the Koders site. The Koders search engine examines and catalogs the metadata found within many code files. If the code is well-documented, then it is easier to categorize, and the categorization is more accurate. The Koders search engine offers you a source code search that results in better responses.

This solution applies to the variety of licenses under which source code might become available. Said Rush, "Enterprises operate under many different policies with regard to open source software." Some enterprises accept any type of open source license, while others restrict the licenses with which they permit their developers to work. Google Code Search incorporates information on the type of license from the file metadata and provides it as part of the search results.

Google Code Search is also available for cataloging and searching source code within an enterprise. Used in this way, you can search only for the code that has been created or used within that organization. While not as powerful as a full Internet search, Google Code Search might better serve the reuse policies of enterprises.

While the industry has recognized the potential of software reuse for a number of years, its efforts have focused around class libraries, object, and UI components. Software reuse has achieved a measure of success with these tools, but there remains ample room for growth. Will code search, as exemplified by Google Code Search, be the next technique for reaching greater efficiencies in reusability? While the concept is intriguing, there are still many hurdles to overcome.

About the Author

Peter Varhol is the executive editor, reviews of Redmond magazine and has more than 20 years of experience as a software developer, software product manager and technology writer. He has graduate degrees in computer science and mathematics, and has taught both subjects at the university level.

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