I was going to write a couple of reviews covering the various code reviews tools I’ve tried over the past year or so, but the notes I made on each one seem to have mysteriously vanished. And since it wouldn’t be fair on the various tools we used to try and remember why we moved on, I’m just going to cover the one tool we stuck with… ReviewBoard.
This was one of the features that I really wanted from a review tool. No installs, no applications that need to be running in the background, simply a web address to access and an e-mail address for notifications.
Easy To Use
When you first look at the UI it’s pretty obvious what you need to do and how you can review the work in front of you. As with any UI, it has it’s quirks but I’ve not had anyone say “I can’t use this!” like I did with some other tools we tried.
It’s easy to have a conversation in ReviewBoard and this is what I always want to see when code is up for review. Clicking on other people’s comments and seeing a clear ‘Reply’ button and being able to see the entire thread on the main page allows people to dive right in.
ReviewBoard doesn’t block people who are not on the review from seeing the code and making their own comments. As long as they are signed up to the site they can see anything being reviewed and what has been reviewed in the past. If I’m writing an internal blog post about a feature or implementation I am working on, I always add a link to the code review allowing everyone to have their say. After all, there is a good chance that they might use the code at some point in the future, so why shouldn’t they?
Quick to Review
Once you get notified of a review you have been assigned, getting to that review is as quick as hitting the provided link and selecting the diff. to review. Everything is done in-page and with a click on a button your entire set of comments and reviews will be published for everyone to see. It can be hard to persuade people that reviewing code will make them more productive, and having a fast process can make the argument easier.
Nothing is perfect and ReviewBoard does have its bugs, but when you can raise an issue on their bug tracker and know that someone will actually look at it you start to feel a little more secure about any problems you find.
Having only one group of people use a tool can sometime be a benefit as it can be tailored specifically for you, but that can be a dead-end. ReviewBoard is widely used by some pretty big companies and you know it stands up to a certain level of quality and that the development being done will be for a wide range of users.
I’ve used tools in the past that didn’t work. They would fall over, become unresponsive or simple not do what they should. I’ve not encountered any of that with ReviewBoard. A few people using it have found some issues that get in their way, but as I’ve already mentioned these are quickly noted and will hopefully be resolved in the future.
So those are some of the main reasons we’ve stuck with ReviewBoard. It’s very easy to get hold of and install, so I really would recommend that if you want to try something new, then give it a go.
What Else Did I Try?
While I don’t want to go into the whys and why-nots of each tool I tried, I thought I would list some of the tools we did try so you can give them a go. What might not have been suitable for us could pretty much fit the hole you are looking to fill, so go and check these out too.
Thanks and remember to enjoy your code reviews!