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What's the Fuss About Static Code Analysis?

by
Subir Chakraborty
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January 28, 2022
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The relationship between people, computers, and code is quite complex. Even though most codes are developed to be run on computers, their purpose is not limited to that. They are also developed to be carefully read and comprehended.

Unfortunately, modern software development does not go hand-in-hand with understanding code. Furthermore, software codes that cannot be understood, maintained, or enhanced have higher rates of defects. 

What is Static Code Analysis?

Static code analysis is one such technique that developers and programmers employ to analyze the source code based on specific predetermined criteria. This technique is carried out before program execution and is used to detect functional errors and vulnerabilities in the soon-to-be deployed software. It’s easy to maintain coding conventions for development teams in this case due to the presence of predetermined criteria. Furthermore, such analysis helps identify vulnerabilities, thus providing roadblocks against security flaws and bugs.

Developers also can review the code manually, but this may result in bugs being passed through due to human error. And software bugs end up costing a significant amount of time and money, making it imperative to produce codes without bugs. Additionally, more agencies are jumping onto the static code analysis bandwagon. Thus, static code analysis is now considered to be a key aspect when writing code for Android applications

Advantages of Using Static Code Analysis in Android Applications:

  • Faster, accurate, and efficient as compared to manual code review.
  • Helps identify potential bugs, vulnerabilities, and errors that unit testing or manual testing might have missed.
  • Helps imbibe proper code practices.
  • Scans every line of code, thus helping in achieving a high-quality code.
  • Assists in defining project structure that can be configured and customized for specific needs in a project. 

Popular Static Code Analysis Tools

  • Android Lint

Android Lint comes packaged by default with Android Studio. This tool checks project source files to identify potential bugs and optimize usability, correctness, security, accessibility, and internationalization.

  • Detekt

Kotlin, a multiplatform programming language, has its version of static code analysis, known as Detekt. This tool is based upon the abstract syntax tree provided by the Kotlin compiler. Detekt offers highly-configurable rule sets making it sought after. Additionally, Detekt also provides the features of code smell analysis, complexity reports on the lines of the code, and cyclomatic complexity. Furthermore, it also supports legacy Android applications by providing the code smell baseline feature. This can also be used in Gradle builds using the Gradle plugin. 

  • FindBugs

FindBugs analyzes Java Bytecodes, especially the .class files, to search for potential bugs and design flaws. This tool needs compiled code to be employed. The key aspects of FindBugs include Bad Practice Correctness, Multithreaded Correctness, Dodgy Code Detection, Performance Malicious, Code Vulnerability, Security Experimental, and Internationalization.

  • Checkstyle

Checkstyle analyzes the project’s source code for bugs and flaws while also working towards enhancing the code’s standard. It also helps in verifying the source code for coding conventions. 

  • Ktlint

Ktlint requires little or no customization, making it simple to use. This tool allows you to focus on the importance of code clarity and community conventions over personal preferences. This aspect makes the code more readable and easier to understand. Ktlint does offer customization features; however, that is at the discretion of the developer or programmer. It also provides developers with the option of adding their rules to discover potential bugs, check for anti-patterns, etc.

Linting in Static Code Analysis

You might be wondering, what the hell is linting? Well, in a nutshell, linting is the process of analyzing code for potential errors. Let’s look at how you can use linting to diagnose errors. Developers use various style guides, such as Java Code Style and Kotlin Style Guide

In this case, we are going to use Ktlint, a linter that is synonymous with the Kotlin platform, since this format offers simplicity, extensibility, and an active developer community.

So, how to use Ktlint for your Android project?

  • Open your root build.gradle project and add a plugin from:

https://github.com/JLLeitschuh/ktlint-gradle 

dependencies {
classpath: org.jlleitschuh.gradle:ktlint-gradle: version Versions.ktlintPlugin
}
plugins {
   id("org.jlleitschuh.gradle.ktlint") version Versions.ktlintPlugin
}


  • The next step is to set up the Ktlint rules:
ktlint {
   version.set(Versions.ktlint)
   debug.set(true)
   verbose.set(true)
   android.set(false)
   outputToConsole.set(true)
   reporters.set(setOf(ReporterType.PLAIN,ReporterType.CHECKSTYLE))
   ignoreFailures.set(true)
   kotlinScriptAdditionalPaths {
       include(fileTree("scripts/"))
   }
   filter {
       exclude("**/generated/**")
       include("**/kotlin/**")
   }
}
  • The last step in the process is to open the terminal and check the command:
./gradlew ktlintCheck

In this case, the following sample warning will appear.

Develop World-Class Android Applications

We understand and realize the importance of developing bug-free applications, and this thought is backed up by our stable of excellent Android developers, who employ numerous static code analysis techniques and tools to develop superior applications without any flaws or errors.

If you are looking for an app development company, we are primed to be your partners in achieving success. But, that’s not all; we’ll be by your side, whether it's the discovery, strategy, or execution phase, working towards implementing your grand idea.

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