Ten Million Lines of Code

QuickBooks 2012

Ten million lines of code in the codebase for this product.

How many lines of code are in the applications you code on? I think that the largest applications I’ve been heavily involved in contained tens of thousands of lines of code. This was code that I actually had to search through to find a particular module to improve or refactor. I know lines of code aren’t a great measurement of the value or complexity of an application, but they do represent an amount of overhead that you need to deal with. The more lines of code, the harder it can be to change, test, and deploy the application.

Quickbooks, from Intuit, is a very popular program that exists on multiple platforms, localized in different regions, with a variety of editions and features, including a subscription version that gets new features as they are released. On the Windows platform, that system consists of 10mm lines of code in a single codebase, with different features turned on and off through a license key.

Ten million lines of code.

Wow, that’s quite a branch of code. They manage that with a variety of techniques, one of which is fast becoming a requirement in technology. They use a continuous integration process that builds a new copy of the application every 15 minutes if any changes have been checked into their version control system. If there are any warnings or errors, all developers who checked in code are notified and they must track down the changes. The closer to development time a bug is found, the easier and cheaper it is to fix, so this is a great way to speed development.

They have a few other cool ideas, like building in parallel, and using separate builds for specific tools that handle different types of code analysis. However you look at it, this is quite a system for smoothing the software development lifecycle and managing a large, complex codebase. If you do corporate development, you might not have quite the same challenges, but I’m sure applying continuous integration, automated builds, and good source control habits can help you produce cleaner code, much faster than ever before.

Steve Jones

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