Active Texts
for Structuring and Documenting Source Code

(H. Mössenböck,

Source code is usually not read sequentially but selectively. It is helpful to connect related pieces of source code even if they are physically apart, and to get annotations on frequently used names in a program. We have developed hypertext facilities that allow a better structuring and browsing of source code. The objects can be embedded into source code without disturbing the compiler. The most useful facilities are folding, linking and annotating of text pieces.

Folding allows a user to collapse a piece of text and to replace it by a certain background text (e.g., a pseudocode statement or a comment). The user can switch between the two texts with a simple mouse click. This can be used to structure programs according to the method of stepwise refinement, to fold away lengthy comments, or to shrink a program text to a skeleton of procedure headings.

Linking allows a user to connect related pieces or text and graphics by defining the starting and the end point of a link in either of the two document kinds. By clicking at the starting point, the end point of the link will be shown in a new window.

Finally we allow the user to define dictionaries of terms with associated textual or graphic explanations. Wherever such a term appears in the source code the user can click at it and gets a popup window with the corresponding explanation.

H.Mössenböck, K.Koskimies: Active Text for Structuring and Understanding Source Code. SOFTWARE ­p; Practice & Experience 26(7): 833-850, July 1996. (postscript).