Comparison of Findbugs, PMD and Checkstyle

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By Markus SprunckRevision: 1.2; Status: final; Last Content Change: Aug 15, 2014;

The static code analysis tools Findbugs, PMD and Checkstyle are widely used in the Java development community. Each has an own purpose, strength and weaknesses. The following article compares the most important aspects and gives some recommendations for the introduction in your teams. 

Direct Comparison of Findbugs, PMD and Checkstyle

Table 1: Most important aspects of tools
 Findbugs [1]

 PMD [3]
 Checkstyle [2]
  Version  2.0.2  5.0.0  5.6
  License  Lesser GNU Public License  BSD-style license  Lesser General Public License
  Purpose  finds - as the name 
 suggests - bugs in Java
 byte code
 looks for potential problems,
 possible bugs, unused and
 sub-optimal code and
 over-complicated expressions
 in the Java source code
 scans source code and looks for
 coding standards, e.g.
 the Sun Code Conventions, JavaDoc
 Strengths - finds often real defects
- low false detected rates
- fast because byte code
- finds occasionally real defects 
- finds bad practices
 - finds violations of coding conventions
 Weaknesses - is not aware of the sources
- needs compiled code
- slow duplicate code detector

 - can't find real bugs
 Number of rules
in Sonar]
 414  234 

 Rule Categories  Correctness
 Bad practice
 Dodgy code
 Multithreaded Correctness 
 Performance Malicious 
 Code Vulnerability
 Security Experimental

 - Basic JSF 
 - Basic JSP
 - XPath in XSL

 - Design 
 - Coupling 
 - Jakarta Commons Logging 
 - Basic 
 - Strict Exceptions 
 - Security Code Guidelines 
 - Java Logging 
 - Android -Controversial 
 - Comments 
 - Type Resolution 
 - Empty Code 
 - String and StringBuffer 
 - Code Size 
 - Braces 
 - Unused Code 
 - Unnecessary 
 - J2EE 
 - JavaBeans 
 - Migration 
 - Import Statements 
 - JUnit 
 - Naming 
 - Finalizer 
 - Optimization 
 - Clone Implementation
 - Basic Ecmascript 
 - Unnecessary 
 - Braces 
 - Basic XML
 Block Checks
 Class Design
 Duplicate Code
 Javadoc Comments
 Naming Conventions
 Size Violations

How to Introduce Findbugs, PMD or Checkstyle?

As you may see in the direct comparison - the tree tools have some aspects and/or rules in common, but they give just in the combination 100% functionality you may need in your project.

In the beginning (first weeks) the best is to start with Findbugs rules. You will not have a lot discussions about the warnings with the developers. Almost all warnings of Findbugs are without doubt possible defects or things which are harmful in some way. After the developers are used to work with static code analysis you should start with some PMD rules and later with the more style questions from Checkstyle. Be careful with the Checkstyle rules - just activate what is really necessary and accepted by the team.

My recommended way to use the three tools is Codehaus Sonar. The dashboard of Sonar summarizes the results in one report, enables to manage a central rule set and an excellent Eclipse Plug-in for local analysis is available. 

Please, do not hesitate to contact me if you have any ideas for improvement and/or you find a bug. 


[1] Findbugs (
        Is a static code analysis tool that analyses Java byte code and detects a wide range of problems. 

[2] Checkstyle (
        Is a development tool to help programmers write Java code that adheres to a coding standard. 

[3] PMD (
        Scans source code and looks for potential problems possible bugs, unused and sub-optimal code and
        over-complicated expressions;

Change History

 Revision  Date  Author  Description
 1.0  Feb 7, 2013  Markus Sprunck   First version
 1.1  Feb 11, 2013  Markus Sprunck  How to Introduce Findbugs, PMD or Checkstyle? added 
 1.2 Aug 15, 2014 Markus Sprunck Add links

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