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When you start working on source code of a project which you are not familiar with, it would be hard to understand it and it’s concepts and aspects. So in this situation several ways could help you to become fit with the project’s structure:

  • Build And Run The Program: this way helps you to find external libraries, compiler, linker options. Also you can read logs to understand it better.
  • Find High-Level Logic: find out how it initials and terminates itself.
  • Draw Some Flowcharts: it’s hard to keep all the information in your head, so try to draw some flowcharts or state diagrams while reading.
  • Examine Library Calls: if the program uses external libraries, try to examine them and read documents about them.
  • Search For The Keywords: try to search keywords which you wish to know about them in source code.
  • Leverage The Power Of Code Comprehension Tools: uses some tools to read source code and generate diagram which can help you to find answers of your questions.
  • Print The Code: by this way you can highlight some parts of source code and easily write your comments in paper. (Note: before getting any print, kindly think about the nature.)
  • Write UnitTests: it will help you to write some codes which increase your knowledge about how source code suppose to be.
  • Add Comments In The Source Code: comments in source codes could help you and others to understand the code behavior.
  • Clean Up The Code: try it rewrite some parts of source code with different ways.
  • Read Some Other Projects Source Codes: it will help you to understand some other ways of implementation.

Also try to read books to improve your knowledge, career and profession.

Reference: http://wiki.c2.com/?TipsForReadingCode

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