Code review is an essential practice in software development that involves the examination of source code by one or more peers to identify issues, improve quality, and ensure adherence to coding standards.
It is a crucial part of the software development process as it helps catch potential bugs, improves code readability, and fosters collaboration among team members.
In this article, we will explore the different types of code review, when it’s worth conducting a code review, popular tools that support the code review process, and best practices to ensure an effective code review process.
What Is Code Review
Code review is a systematic process of evaluating source code to identify and fix issues such as bugs, security vulnerabilities, performance bottlenecks, and maintainability problems.
It involves one or more reviewers carefully examining the code, looking for potential problems, and providing feedback to the author of the code.
Code review is typically performed before merging the code into the main branch or releasing it to production, and it is an integral part of the quality assurance process in software development.
What Are The Types Of Code Reviews?
There are several types of code review, each with its own benefits and limitations. The most common types of code review include:
Formal Code Review
Also known as “inspection” or “technical review,” formal code review is a structured and rigorous process that involves a team of reviewers examining the code in detail.
The reviewers follow a predefined set of guidelines and checklists to identify issues, provide feedback, and suggest improvements.
Formal code review is time-consuming and requires dedicated effort, but it can be highly effective in finding and fixing issues early in the development process.
Lightweight Code Rreview
Also known as “peer review” or “pull request review,” lightweight code review is a more informal and collaborative process that involves peers reviewing each other’s code before it gets merged into the main branch.
It typically involves using version control system tools such as Git or Mercurial, where developers create pull requests and request feedback from their peers.
Lightweight code review is less formal than formal code review but can still be effective in identifying and fixing issues, especially when performed iteratively and frequently.
Automated Code Review
Automated code review involves using tools and software to automatically analyze source code for potential issues such as coding standards violations, security vulnerabilities, and performance problems.
These tools use predefined rules and algorithms to scan the code and generate reports with feedback.
Automated code review can be integrated into the development process and provide quick feedback on code quality, but it may have limitations in detecting more complex issues that require human judgment.
When Is It Worth Doing A Software Code Review?
Code review is worth conducting in various scenarios to ensure code quality and maintain the overall health of a software project. Some common scenarios when code review is beneficial to include:
Before Merging Code Into The Main Branch
Code review helps catch potential bugs, security vulnerabilities, and other issues before the code is merged into the main branch.
his ensures that only high-quality code is integrated into the project and helps prevent introducing new issues into the codebase.
During Code Refactoring
Code refactoring involves making changes to the code to improve its structure, readability, and maintainability.
Code review during code refactoring can help identify areas that need improvement and ensure that the refactored code adheres to coding standards and best practices.
When Onboarding New Team Members
Code review is a valuable practice when onboarding new team members as it helps them understand the project’s codebase, coding standards, and best practices.
Reviewing their code helps identify any potential knowledge gaps and provides feedback for improvement.
Before Releasing To Production
Code review before releasing code to production helps catch potential issues that could impact the software’s stability, performance, or security.
It ensures that the code meets the quality standards and is ready for production use, reducing the risk of introducing critical issues into the live environment.
When Troubleshooting Production Issues
Code review can be beneficial when investigating and resolving production issues.
Reviewing the code involved in the issue can help identify the root cause and provide insights into potential fixes or improvements to prevent similar issues in the future.
Useful Tools That Support The Code Review Process
There are several popular tools available that support the code review process, ranging from standalone tools to integrated features within version control systems.
Some of the popular tools include:
GitHub is a widely used web-based hosting service for version control using Git. It provides built-in code review features such as pull request review, where team members can review and provide feedback on code changes before merging into the main branch.
GitLab is another popular web-based hosting service for version control using Git that provides built-in code review features similar to GitHub. It also offers additional capabilities such as continuous integration and deployment, making it a comprehensive tool for end-to-end software development.
Gerrit is a web-based code review tool that integrates with Git and is commonly used in open-source projects. It provides features such as fine-grained access control, change tracking, and inline commenting for code review.
Crucible is a standalone code review tool by Atlassian that supports multiple version control systems such as Git, Mercurial, and Subversion. It provides features such as customizable workflows, commenting, and reporting to facilitate effective code review.
Reviewable is a web-based code review tool that integrates with GitHub and provides a visual interface for reviewing and discussing code changes.
It offers features such as code commenting, inline discussions, and integration with other development tools.
These are just a few examples of the popular code review tools available, and there are many other options to choose from depending on the team’s specific requirements and preferences.
Code review is a crucial practice in software development that helps improve code quality, catch potential issues early, and foster collaboration among team members.
There are different types of code review, including formal code review, lightweight code review, and automated code review, each with its own benefits and limitations.
Conducting code review is worth considering in various scenarios, such as before merging code, during code refactoring, when onboarding new team members, before releasing to production, and when troubleshooting production issues.