The Best Tool to Automate Your Code Reviews

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It’s 2022. The benefits of code reviews are no longer debated. And automating that process has become one of the hottest trends in engineering. 

In the last few years, there has been an explosion in automated code review tools. And many in the industry are comparing what code review tools are doing for engineering to what Salesforce did for sales. 

That’s a lot of hype. So what are the benefits and which tool is best for your company? Get in loser, we’re automating our code reviews.

What is Code Review?

Code review is a technique that helps engineering teams improve the quality of the codebase through collaboration. It’s a process by which multiple developers work together to evaluate each other’s code. The resulting peer review process naturally reduces mistakes.

When done effectively, code reviews improve code quality, improve developer performance, and save engineering teams time.

Benefits of Code Review

Excellent software doesn’t happen by accident. Code reviews should be an essential focus for engineering organizations that want to ship faster. 

Code Reviews Improve Code Quality

Preventing bad code from making it to production is the most obvious of several benefits. Just like with writing, having a second set of eyes on your code can help prevent errors and find bugs. It can even prevent unnecessary code duplication. 

Additionally, code reviews can ensure your project has a consistent coding style, as well as software design and implementation.

Code Reviews Share Knowledge

Another often overlooked benefit of the code review process is its ability to improve the individual skill of developers. By allowing developers direct access to feedback from their peers, a collaborative code review process raises the skillset of all the development team members.

Being willing to make mistakes and accept feedback is also an important part of team culture that code reviews can contribute to. Check out what Hyrum Wright and Titus Winters, Senior Google Staff Engineers, say about how everyone makes mistakes and that it’s okay to be willing to be open and learn from them.

Code Reviews Save Time

It sounds a little backward, right? Do more steps to get faster. Some orgs operate with no code reviews. But there are flaws to this approach. 

Every hour your team has to spend working on a bug, reworking code, or refactoring code is an hour lost to developing new features and delivering business value. It is much quicker and cheaper to invest the time in code reviews upfront.

Does that really work though? It does!  See how automated code review alerts saved Illuminate Education time.

Automated alerts that save time. WorkerB updates developers on long PR review times, while correlating the PR to the relevant project issue. 

Understanding which project issue is affected by the long review time allows engineers to prioritize their time more efficiently. Read Case Study.

Why Use Code Review Tools

The old school way of performing manual code reviews by having a team lead walk over to your desk and guide you through the process has become a relic of days gone by. Even the more modern approach where code reviews are performed via email has become outdated. 

In a distributed world where engineering teams are often thousands of miles away and continents apart, code review tools have become the new normal. And even if your engineering team is co-located you run the risk of falling behind if you haven’t switched to a tool yet. 

Tools improve speed and accuracy. Ideally, these tools integrate with your existing stack and software development process so that they don’t disrupt your flow.

For example, many Git tools already include pull requests to initiate the code review process. A pull request lets you discuss and review the code changes with collaborators before your changes are merged into the base branch. 

But this is still a fairly manual process that can result in significant delays in review time. What happens if no one picks up your pull request? What happens if your reviewer just scans the code and says LGTM?

Do you merge without a review or with just a basic review? If so, then what was the point of the code review at all if there’s still a high risk of bugs being introduced into production. 

For this reason, a new set of automated code review tools have emerged on the market. Automated code review tools have two primary benefits:

  1. They help your developers get back to coding, rather than reviewing, faster.
  2. They assist with better code quality and shorter cycle time.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of 3 of the most popular options available.

Codacy

Codacy helps individual developers and teams check code quality and track technical debt. It supports a wide range of programming languages, helping the tool identify performance issues, code style, compatibility, code duplication, and best practices.   

Pros

  • Integration with GUI clients like GitHub and GitLab
  • Easily tracks duplicated code
  • Push results as comments in your pull requests or as notifications on Slack
  • Intuitive user interface and simple installation

Cons

  • Lacks customization in projects with well-defined standards
  • Lack of filters can narrow issue search
  • Identifies some de facto standards and irrelevant errors

Code Climate 

Code Climate seeks to align initiatives and strategic priorities by accelerating software delivery. Using repos to analyze data, it provides visibility into code quality while providing a maintainability score from A to F.  

Pros

  • Spots bottlenecks and poor code
  • Promotes security with real-time risk alerts 
  • Collects data on development velocity 
  • Offers support for some open source projects

Con

  • Expensive for teams big and small
  • Low customization capabilities for product owner
  • Lacks issue description and filtering

LinearB

LinearB couples metrics around code review time with automation to improve those metrics based on industry standards. Not only can you track metrics like PR size, review depth, PR pickup time, and review time, but you can customize goals to standardize your PR review process across your team. And get your team using automated WorkerB Slack or MS Teams alerts to improve metrics organically. 

Pros

Cons

  • Initial learning curve for terminology
  • Doesn’t connect to Visual Studio or your IDE

Conclusion

The code review process has become an essential component of high-functioning, efficient engineering teams, and tools that automate that process are here to stay. 

Whether you’re a developer or a CTO, automated code review tools benefit everyone within your engineering organization. Schedule a demo of LinearB today!

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