Sunday, July 03, 2016

NDepend Pro review


NDepend is a tool for performing code analysis with regards to different aspects like Code complexity, Code Coverage, static code analysis similar to the one done by StyleCop, Dependency management and many more useful features. In a typical enterprise application there are different  tools used to achieve these things. I have worked mostly with .Net framework in my prefessional experience and Microsoft Visual Studio is the default option to perform many of these things. I have used other tools like NCover for measuring code coverage. Back in 2011 I had used NDepend specifically to measure the Cyclomatic Complexity of different modules in our application.

How did I come across NDepend Pro?

Recently I was approached by NDepend developer to try the Pro version and evaluate its features. This post is about my experience of using NDepends (almost after a gap of 5 years) and see how it has evolved over the period of time.

I started with a very small codebase which I had developed for simulating the Martingale theory. The code is availabe on github. The codebase is very simple. It consists of a library which computes the amount for a particular trade based on the payout percentage. There are set of unit tests which are used to test the functions of the library. There is also a console application which acts as the client for invoking the library functions.

Analysis results

Below is the output of the analysis done using NDepend pro. Lets look at some of the details available via different tabs


NDepend Analysis Results

The summary breaks down into following categories on the dashboard

  1. # Lines of code
  2. # Types
  3. Comment %
  4. Method complexity
  5. Code Coverage by Tests (Allows you to import code coverage data from other tools)
  6. Third-party usage
  7. Code Rules

I find the Code Rules section personally very useful as it gives you hyperlinks to drill-down further into the details.

Dependency Graph

dependency graph

This graph gives a visual representation of the relationship between different assemblies. The best part I like is the interactivity of the graph. You can hover over the nodes and the affected nodes are dynamically highlighted using different colors. In the above example we have only 3 namespaces. But you can imagine how useful this can be in a real project when you have 100’s of classes and different namespaces involved.

There are multiple options to customize the way Depepndency Graph is represented. The default is based on the number of lines of code. But you can change it to any of the options shown below

Dependency graph options

Dependency Matrix

Dependency Matrix gives a matrix view of how different assemblies are dependent on one another. I find this feature very helpful as it gives within an instance a quick representation of the links between different assemblies in the application. The tools which I have used in the past like Visual Studio, NCover etc do not provide such feature.

Dependency Matrix

A well designed application will have good distribution of classes across different assemblies. You will also be able to see what could be the impact of replacing one thing with another. Lets take an example. Assuming you use a third party component like Infragistics in your application and for some reason you wish to replace it with something else. Using depepndency matrix you could find out which assemblies are dependent on Infragistics.

There are multiple options available via the context menu which gives in depth analysis of the code. I have not yet explored these options so far.

Metrics Heatmap

Metrics Heatmap

Heatmap is a feature which shows how classes are spread across different namespaces based on the cyclomatic complexity. The default measure of cyclomatic complexity can be changed to various other options like Il Cyclomatic Complexity, Lines of Codes, Percentage Comments etc etc.

For a small codebase like my sample Martingale theory tester, this analysis using NDepend is quite interesting. To make full use of the wonderful features the tool provides I intend to use this on a much larger codebase. I was recently refering to the CQRS Journey code from Microsoft Patterns and practices team. Let me see what I can discover from this decent size code using NDepend. I will keep the readers of this blog posted with the details in future posts.


I have always been a fan of code quality tools. NDepend has lot to offer in this area. I particularly liked the Dashboard and Dependency Matrix along with Dependency Graph. I have scratched just the top of the surface and I am excited to try other features offered by the tool. The feature I am interested in exploring more in future posts is the benchmarking of codebase. Based on my past experience and whatever little I have seen so far of the latest version, I would highly reccomend NDepend for code analysis. I personally find the integrated nature of the tool which provides so many aspects related to code quality in one single place. You can chose to run it as a standalone application which is what I did on this intance or you can integrate it within Visual Studio IDE. I also like the fact that it integrates nicely into the build process which is a must in todays world. Interoperability with other tools like TFS, TeamCity, SonarCube is another benefit.

I personally like the options offered to customize the default settings and configurations. The rules for example are mainly derived from what Visual Studio uses by default. You can always chose to filter the rules not relevant to your analysis. Another nice feature is the Code Query Language offered by NDepend using LINQ. This gives you a great ability to explore your code using queries.

There is so much to explore in NDepend that it is impossible to do it in one blog post. One feature which I did not cover in this post is the Queries and Rules Explorer.In my opinion it deserves a dedicated post. I will try to cover some of these features in future. Until next time Happy Programming.

1 comment:

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