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Advanced Code Search : A Case Study

This morning I stumbled on a complex test to write. The need was to create and show a custom Form (written with Windows Form) that relies on the System.ComponentModel.BackgroundWorker to do initialization stuff without freezing the UI. The test is complex because after creating and showing the form, it must wait somehow to release the UI thread for a while to let the BackgroundWorker achieve the RunWorkerCompleted on the UI thread.

I know that this is something we’ve done in the past and I know this is tricky enough to not reinvent the wheel. But with a test suite of over 13.000 tests this is quite challenging to find where we did that. So I decided to use NDepend querying facility to search.

First I analyze all NDepend assemblies, test assemblies included. Then I generate a code query to match all classes that derive from Form. This can be done from the NDepend Search panel : search Form by name in third-party types and then use a right-click menu to generate the code query:

The CQLinq code query generated is:

60 classes are matched:

Let’s refine this query to match all methods that create any of those form classes.This could be achieved by iterating over (all methods) x (all form classes), but the NDepend.API extension method ThatCreateAny() acts like a join and operates in a linear time. For our search scenario, waiting a few seconds to get a search result is not a problem. But for a code rule written with CQLinq, this is important to run it as fast as possible in a few milliseconds, to run all queries and rules often in Visual Studio within a few seconds, hence the query performance entry on the documentation.

280 methods are instantiating some form classes. Let’s refine the query to match only tests method. The cleanest way would be to check for the usage of TestAttribute, but here just checking for parent assemblies names that contain “Test” is enough:

Still 122 test methods matched.

Before filtering the result even more, let’s refine the query to display for each test the form class(es) it instantiates. This can be achieved with a LINQ range variable formsCreated that we use in the result:

We can now browse which form(s) are instantiated by each test:

Finally let’s browse only tests that use some asynchronous related code. Many ways can be used to check for asynchronous usages. The easiest way is certainly to look at methods called by a test method, and check which ones have named related to async stuff. I tried a few words like “Async” “Sync” “Thread” “TimeOut” “Wait”… and “Wait” worked:

In the source code of the highlighted test I had everything I needed for my scenario, including a link to a tricky stackoverflow answer that we found years ago. I found what I needed within a few minutes and had a bit of fun. I hope the methodology and the resulting query can be adapted to your advanced search scenarios.

NDepend and .NET Fx v4.7.2: an extension method collision and how to solve it easily

In Oct 2017 I wrote about the potential collision problem with extension methods. At that time the .NET Framework 4.7.1 was just released with this new extension method that is colliding with our own NDepend.API Append() extension method with same signature.

The problem was solved easily because just one default rule consumed our Append() extension method, we just had to refactor this method to use it as a static method call instead of an extension method call:  ExtensionMethodsEnumerable.Append(...)


Unfortunately with the recent release of .NET Framework 4.7.2, the same problem just happened again, this time with this extension method:

This time 22 default code rules are relying on our ToHashSet() extension method. This method is used widely because it is often the cornerstone to improve significantly performances. But this means that after installing the .NET Fx v4.7.2, 22 default rules will break.

This time the problem is not solved easily by calling our ExtensionMethodsSet.ToHashSet<TSource>(this IEnumerable<TSource>)  extension method as a static method because in most of these 22 rules source code, changing the extension method call into a static method call require a few brain cycle. Moreover it makes the rules source code less readable: For example the first needs to be transformed into the second:

We wanted a straightforward and clean way for NDepend users to solve this issue on all their default-or-custom code rules.  The solution is the new extension method ToHashSetEx().

Solving the issue on an existing NDepend deployment is now as simple as replacing .ToHashSet()  with  .ToHashSetEx()  in all textual files that contain the user code rules and code queries (the files with extension .ndproj and .ndrules).

We just released NDepend v2018.1.1 with this new extension method  ExtensionMethodsSet.ToHashSetEx<TSource>(this IEnumerable<TSource>). Of course all default rules and generated queries now rely on ToHashSetEx() and also a smart error message is now shown to the user in such situation:

We hesitated between ToHashSetEx() and ToHashSet2() but we are confident that this problem won’t scale (more explanation on suffixing a class or method name with Ex here).


Actually we could have detected this particular problem earlier in October 2017 because Microsoft claimed that the .NET Fx will ultimately support .NET Standard 2.0 and  .NET Standard 2.0 already presented this ToHashSet() extension method. So this time we analyzed both C:\WINDOWS\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v4.0.30319\netstandard.dll and NDepend.API.dll to double-check with this code query that there is no more risk of extension method collision:

We find back both Append() and ToHashSet() collisions and since NDepend.API is not concerned with queryable, there is no more risk of collision: