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2008-08-19

Efficient Software Development Process with Open-Source Tools for .NET

When a software is been built, a series of characteristics must be pursuit in order to deliver a quality product during the development process:
  • Agility
  • Testability
  • Readability
  • Extensibility
  • Automated Documentation
It it important to say that I presume many readers of this text are already convinced about the advantages brought by object oriented programming when compared to traditional development and the tools presented below support this kind of programming paradigm besides the goals specified above.

Object-Relational Mapping Tool: Castle Project Active Record

One of the most time-consuming things in software development is mapping classes in tables.
This process is partially automated by tools such as NHibernate but the Active Record offered by Castle Project not only maps classes to tables but it is also capable to generate the database from the object model which confers agility to the software process.
http://www.castleproject.org/activerecord/index.html

Source-Code Standards: FXCop

Although it is free, FXCop is not a free-software since its code is private owned by Microsoft.
Anyway it is very a useful tool whose objective is to verify if quality metrics and/or naming conventions of a project are been followed appropriately by the team members.
By using naming well defined and known programming conventions, code readability is enhanced and different projects can be understood by every programmer in a software company.
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb429476(VS.80).aspx

Unit Tests: NUnit

It is the most used automated testing tool for .NET . These tests play an important role in a software project since they bring more confidence to developers to change software when needed since they can point out when a certain piece of the software might be broken due to some modification. Obviously NUnit brings testability to the software development environment.
http://www.nunit.org/index.php

Test Coverage: PartCover

How can you know what parts of your code is being covered by automated tests ?
This process is called test coverage and it is the objective of PartCover.
Altough NCover is largely mentioned in the net, PartCover is becoming increasingly
important as a test coverage open-source project.
http://sourceforge.net/projects/partcover/

Automated Documentation: NDoc

Documentation can be a time consuming task but without it, the software extensibility and maintainability can slow down considerably specially for people outside the project and unaware of coding practices. One of the fastest ways to get documentation is generating it from the source-code. NDoc can generate developer level documentation from the XML tags in the C# source-code.
http://ndoc.sourceforge.net

Web Framework: MonoRail

The Castle Project seems to understand what is to have an agile development. Having this in mind, MonoRail is a web framework that truly obeys the MVC Design Pattern without slowing developers down. Besides agile, this framework lets us to have an improved readability also compared to traditional ASP.NET programming.
http://www.castleproject.org/monorail/gettingstarted/index.html

Continuous Integration: Cruise Control .NET

Prior sections some tools for software quality were presented such as FXCop, NUnit, PartCover and NDoc. Although useful it is very easy for one of the team members to forget to manually execute some of this tools during the development process. Remembering and executing these tools can also be error prone since some member of the team can forget to execute some of these tools.
In order to overcome these drawbacks and others, continuous integration rised as one the most known practices from Extreme Programming (XP). ( See XP in http://www.extremeprogramming.org/ )
Basically continuous integration is performed by a build tool such as Cruise Control ( http://cruisecontrol.sourceforge.net/ ) that is responsible for executing specified tasks necessary prior to software delivery to the users such as compilation checking, unit tests executing, quality metrics verification and finally publication. However another combination of tasks can be though such as email notification and many others.
Generally the continuous integration process is executed manually or during the night when there is low activity but it is possible to trigger this process through a version control system such as SVN prior to accept a commit requested by a team programmer.
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