Drag-and-Drop Refactoring: Intuitive and Efficient Program Transformation

Yun Young Lee, Nicholas Chen, and Ralph E. Johnson

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

Track: Technical Research
Session: Composition
Refactoring is a disciplined technique for restructuring code to improve its readability and maintainability. Almost all modern integrated development environments (IDEs) offer built-in support for automated refactoring tools. However, the user interface for refactoring tools has remained largely unchanged from the menu and dialog approach introduced in the Smalltalk Refactoring Browser, the first automated refactoring tool, more than a decade ago. As the number of supported refactorings and their options increase, invoking and configuring these tools through the traditional methods have become increasingly unintuitive and inefficient. The contribution of this paper is a novel approach that eliminates the use of menus and dialogs altogether. We streamline the invocation and configuration process through direct manipulation of program elements via drag-and-drop. We implemented and evaluated this approach in our tool, Drag-and-Drop Refactoring (DNDRefactoring), which supports up to 12 of 23 refactorings in the Eclipse IDE. Empirical evaluation through surveys and controlled user studies demonstrates that our approach is intuitive, more efficient, and less error-prone compared to traditional methods available in IDEs today. Our results bolster the need for researchers and tool developers to rethink the design of future refactoring tools.