Review-based comparison of design pattern detection tools

Rodrigo Moreira, Eduardo Fernandes, Eduardo Figueiredo

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


Context: Design patterns are reusable solutions for recurring problems of software design. Although useful for software analysis, detecting design patterns is often challenging especially in large and complex software systems. In this context, several tools have been proposed for automating this process. Objective: Past attempts to summarize existing detection tools contain gaps in their scope, such as the lack of a comparison of the output provided by the tools in terms of precision and agreement. We address some of these gaps through a literature review and a comparison of design pattern detection tools. Our goal is to assist practitioners and researchers not only looking for useful tools, but also exploring opportunities for their improvements. Method: We present a systematic literature review of design pattern detection tools based on strict guidelines. We compare the performance of four tools in detecting six design patterns based on precision, recall, F-measure, and agreement. Results: From the 42 tools found, only ten are available for download. Altogether, the tools detect all 23 design patterns summarized by the Gang of Four’s book. The comparison results suggest that some tools are more suitable for specific design patterns, e.g., the FINDER tool for Composite, Decorator and Visitor. We also observed a low agreement among tools. Conclusions: Despite the high number of tools published, design pattern detection tools are mostly ineffective and unavailable for use. Particularly, practitioners might struggle to find a tool that matches their expectations. The available tools provide inaccurate yet complementary detection results; thus, solutions for either improving or combining tools are needed. Researchers are encouraged to propose novel tools capable of filling this literature gap.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication29th International Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (PLoP)
Number of pages16
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Publication date2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes


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