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Code Reviews - Not Just for Code

Summary: Code reviews are not just for code. And now there's a tool available.

Every day dozens of people send me link to videos. Whether they are on Youtube or some other site my response is nearly always the same: click, delete. Though I'm sure they are funny or interesting, it just takes too much time to sit through that five minute (times dozens) gem.

But there are a few exceptions, and one that caught my attention is a short presentation from the folks at SmartBear Software. These are the folks behind CodeCollaborator, a quite wonderful software package that eases the painful process of code reviews. This presentation ( shows how the latest version can also be used to perform reviews of non-textual files, like schematics.

Back in the days of the steam engine, when I was a young engineer, PCBs were laid out by hand, using black tape on Mylar to position the PCB tracks. The cost to produce a board was astronomical, so every schematic was subject to a peer review designed to find many of the most common sorts of problems. Things are roughly similar today, since stratospheric IC fab costs mandate both reviews and expensive simulations. But way back then, as now, there were no real tools around to facilitate the review.

Till now.

CodeCollaborator is now, in my view, a must-have tool for hardware teams. I've recommended it in the past for firmware developers, but its new ability to help folks review and annotate any document is profoundly important and takes the tool far beyond its previous niche in the software group.

If you've worked on a Word document using multiple reviewers with the track-changes feature you know how efficient it is to use the annotations to edit and correct a file, and to ensure that the changes are both accurate and appropriate. CodeCollaborator has long offered such capability for text files, like source code. But the ability to do the same for schematics and other files raises the notion of collaborative review to a new level.

Check out the video; it's pretty impressive.

Published November 15, 2010