Industry Experiences with Large-Scale Refactoring
Software refactoring plays an important role in software engineering. Developers often turn to refactoring when they want to restructure software to improve its quality without changing its external behavior. Small-scale (floss) refactoring is common in industry and is often performed by a single developer in short sessions, even though developers do much of this work manually instead of using refactoring tools. However, some refactoring efforts are much larger in scale, requiring entire teams and months or years of effort, and the role of tools in these efforts is not as well studied. In this paper, we report on a survey we conducted with developers to understand large-scale refactoring and its tool support needs. Our results from 107 industry developers demonstrate that projects commonly go through multiple large-scale refactorings, each of which requires considerable effort. Our study finds that developers use several categories of tools to support large-scale refactoring and rely more heavily on general-purpose tools like IDEs than on tools designed specifically to support refactoring. Tool support varies across the different activities, with some particularly challenging activities seeing little use of tools in practice. Furthermore, our analysis suggests significant impact is possible through advances in tool support for comprehension and testing, as well as through support for the needs of business stakeholders.