New for Visual Studio 2008 - Code Metrics

While we've already briefly spoken about Code Metrics when we announced it, I thought I would discuss it in a little more depth, in particular the metrics it provides.

As mentioned previously, Code Metrics is a new tool window that helps users find and act upon complex and unmaintainable areas within an application.

The following shows the results of running Code Metrics over a fictional business application:

Code Metrics Results tool window

As you can see from above, for Visual Studio 2008, we're providing five metrics. These are detailed below.

Class Coupling

At each level, this indicates the total number of dependencies that the item has on other types. This number excludes primitive and built-in types such as Int32, String and Object. The higher this number, the more likely changes in other types will ripple though this item. A lower value at the type level can indicate candidates for possible reuse.

The following shows how coupling is calculated:

Class Coupling

For example, as you can see above, Account is coupled to two other types, Address and Order, whereas Country is not dependent on any other type.

Depth of Inheritance

At the type level, depth of inheritance indicates the number of types that are above the type in the inheritance tree. For example, a type that derives directly from Object would have a depth of inheritance of 1. At the namespace and project level, this indicates the highest depth of inheritance of all the types contained within it. This number does not take into consideration the depth of any implemented interfaces. Deep inheritance trees can indicate an over-engineering of a problem and can increase the complexity of testing and maintaining an application.

The following shows how depth is calculated:

Depth Of Inheritance 

For example, in the above inheritance hierarchy, ListControl and Label have a depth of inheritance of 3, whereas Component has a depth of inheritance of 1.

Cyclomatic Complexity

At each level, this measures the total number of individual paths through the code. This is basically calculated by counting the number of decision points (such as if blocks, switchcases, and do, while, foreachand forloops) and adding 1. This number is also a good indication on the number of unit tests it will take to achieve full line coverage. Lower is typically better.

The following shows how complexity is calculated:

 Cyclomatic Complexity

Lines of Code

At each level, this is a measure of the total number of executable lines of code. This excludes white space, comments, braces and the declarations of members, types and namespaces themselves. Lower is typically better.

The following shows how the lines are calculated:

 Lines of Code

Maintainability Index

At the member and type level, this is an index from 0 to 100 indicating the overall maintainability of the member or type. At the namespace and assembly level, this is an average of the maintainability index of all types contained within it. This index is based on several other metrics, including Halstead Volume (which factors in the number and use of operands and operators), Cyclomatic Complexity and Lines of Code. A low number indicates code that is complex and hard to maintain.

The Maintainability Index column also includes a icon that gives a quick indication as to the overall maintainability and complexity of a particular item. The following table shows the range at which an icon is shown:






High Maintainability

Between 20 and 100 inclusive


Moderate Maintainability

Between 10 and 19 inclusive


Low Maintainability

Between 0 and 9 inclusive


These icons allow you to see at a glance any trouble spots that you should start to focusing on or filling bugs against.



Now that you know what these metrics measure, and how they are calculated, the next thing you'll want to know is what you should do when you start to see some red in your application. In a future post, I will cover why should should care about each metric, and how to go about fixing some of the common issues that cause particular metrics to high (or low in the case of Maintainability Index).