So, what do people do in the IDE? In this case Visual Studio. Sven has made a plugin on top of Resharper that logs that kind of activities people do (clicks, mouse moves, shortcuts, open & close docs, typing etc.), and conducted a large scale industry study with it. Existing studies have concentrated more on academic users, or on testing.
The study consisted of something between 27-89 developers* over 4 months, which resulted in 200 hours of VS use and over 3 million interactions. The combined low level events into activities, in the categories of: code edit & execution, navigation, IDE configuration, project management, building and other.
So, with all that data we can figure out cool things!
RQ1 How do developer spend their in-IDE time?
A developer spends 39.8% (3h24m) of her daily work time with the application focus away from the IDE. This contradicts with previous work by Minelli et al who reported 66% of inactivity. This study was done in Smalltalk, so maybe the IDEs or the languages, or the users are different.
Sven does not have time to go over all finding, but he presents another highlight:
22.4% of time is spent on navigating the IDE, both by searching, and by using IDE features (like got declaration) There is a strong correlation between inactivity and navigation. Sven thinks that there are two possible explanations for this: Either inactivities happen when
the developer becomes unsure about some property of the codebase, which she then navigates to look up. Or, while navigating
the codebase a developer regularly stops to read and understand.
Both alternatives suggest that the amount of navigation may correlate with the need for code understanding.
Do you want to read the whole thing? You can.
Very interesting findings, I would love to see more of this.
* Due to privacy rules they were not allowed to track individual users.