You are required to read and agree to the below before accessing a full-text version of an article in the IDE article repository.

The full-text document you are about to access is subject to national and international copyright laws. In most cases (but not necessarily all) the consequence is that personal use is allowed given that the copyright owner is duly acknowledged and respected. All other use (typically) require an explicit permission (often in writing) by the copyright owner.

For the reports in this repository we specifically note that

  • the use of articles under IEEE copyright is governed by the IEEE copyright policy (available at
  • the use of articles under ACM copyright is governed by the ACM copyright policy (available at
  • technical reports and other articles issued by M‰lardalen University is free for personal use. For other use, the explicit consent of the authors is required
  • in other cases, please contact the copyright owner for detailed information

By accepting I agree to acknowledge and respect the rights of the copyright owner of the document I am about to access.

If you are in doubt, feel free to contact

The Arbitrary Complexity of Software


Henrik Thane, Mårten Larsson

Publication Type:



There exists yet no holistic engineering knowledge on how to design and verify software systems. The existence of silver bullets for software has been refuted several times during the last 10 years, but still the notion remains. In this document we present an overview of software measurement based on a literature study. A measurement program is essential in all engineering disciplines in order to enable evaluation of different designs characteristics. But, to this day, despite research for the last 30 years, there has not been put forth any satisfactory measurement technique that captures the complexity of software. We do in this paper however propose how a model that captures the control-flow, data-flow and data structure complexity of software could be devised. The model should be based on empirical data, preferably on errors in software. If a measurement model devised upon this proposal is fruitful we might be able to analyze the alleged silver bullets and perhaps refute or confirm them once and for all. And, finally relevant design principles might emerge.


author = {Henrik Thane and M{\aa}rten Larsson},
title = {The Arbitrary Complexity of Software},
month = {May},
year = {1997},
url = {}