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JTourBus - Simplifying Program Understanding by Documentation that Provides Tours Through the Source Code


Many small and medium-sized systems have little or no design documentation, which makes program understanding during maintenance enormously more difficult when performed by outsiders. Thus, if only minimal design documentation is available, which form should it take to maximize its usefulness? We suggest that it is helpful if the documentation describes a tour through the source code, leading the user directly to relevant details. We present the design and implementation of an Eclipse plug-in called JTourBus that provides incremental interactive navigation of such tours. We report a controlled experiment with 59 subjects in which we validated JTourBus against equivalent documentation in a plain text format for the 27 KLOC JHotDraw framework. The results indicate that the resulting program understanding can be achieved faster with JTourBus than with a plain text documentation.



Screenshot of the JTourBusRoutes view in Eclipse after jumping to the second stop of the second tour. The example is taken from the source code used in the experiment.


  • Oezbek, C., Prechelt L. JTourBus: Simplifying Program Understanding by Documentation that Provides Tours Through the Source Code. In Proceedings of the 23th IEEE International Conference on Software Maintenance (ICSM'07), IEEE Computer Society, Paris, October 2-5, 2007. (PDF, PPT, References tourexp-iscm.bib)

  • TagSEA - "Tags for Software Engineering Activities in Eclipse" is a research collaboration between the University of Victoria's Computer Human Interaction & Software Engineering Lab and the IBM Watson Research Centre.
  • Tours - Waypoints, Tags, and Tours: Applying Social Bookmarking to Software Development is research at IBM Watson Research Center.

Experiment Workspaces and Task

The following document describes the task given to participants to solve with the prepared workspaces images of JHotDraw.

The following workspaces were used in the experiment. Both are based on a stripped-down JHotDraw 6 beta.

  • contains a modified JHotDraw including JTourBus-tours for the JTourBus group.
  • contains JHotDraw plus a single text-document "handler-docu.txt" and was used by group Plain-text.

Developer Access

The latest development snapshots of JTourBus can be accessed via Git:

git clone

For write access to the repository please contact Franz Zieris.


Versions of JTourBus for use with Eclipse 3.2 and later can be downloaded by using the update sites


Please send comments and/or questions to Christopher Oezbek.

Topic revision: r9 - 14 Jun 2013, FranzZieris
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