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Andrew Podner: NPATH Complexity Demystified

Note: This article was originally published at PHPDeveloper on 15 November 2012.
PHPDeveloper

In a new post to his site today Andrew Podner takes a look at NPATH and tries to "demystify" some of the concepts around it.

"NPATH, which counts the acyclic execution paths through a function, is an objective measure of software complexity related to the ease with which software can be comprehensively tested."[1] This is the definition from an article written in 1988 by Brian Nejmeh. As informative as this is, my eyes glazed over half way into it. So what the heck is acyclic execution anyway?

He defines the term in a bit easier to understand language and includes an example function to help illustrate how NPATH is measured.

The goal is to limit your NPATH complexity in a given method down to 200 or less. [...] As with other complexity metrics, this one can be checked with PHP Mess Detector (phpmd). The importance of staying under the 200 path threshold is realized when you develop tests and start trying to debug.