How to count lines of code: A complete overview

Counting lines of code can be used as one of the metrics to assess your developers’ productivity and the efficiency of code bases. Therefore, in this blog, we dive into the different methods to count lines of code and what we think about this metric. 

Let’s dive in! 

Methods to count lines of code

There are several ways to count LOC, some more efficient than others with different objectives. So we have a list for you to use the best method that suits your needs. 

Manual Counting

Counting lines of code manually involves going through each line of code and tallying the lines while excluding comments, blank spaces, and non-executable lines. 

To do this, open the source code file and count the lines with a paper or text editor. Go through it line by line and check for executable code. 

Once you are done, note the total count.

However this method might sound simple, yet it is tedious and prone to errors. Automated tools are more accurate and efficient, and we will discuss them in the following methods. 

Count Lines of Code Command 

The Count Lines of Code (CLOC) command is a tool that automates counting lines of code. 

Here’s how to use the CLOC command:

  • Install the CLOC tool on your system.
  • Open the terminal or command prompt and navigate to the code directory. You can use the command ‘cd’ followed by the path to reach it. 
  • Run the CLOC command: cloc <directory> (replace <directory> with the path to the code).
  • If you want to count the lines of the entire directory, simply replace the directory with a dot ‘.’ 
  • Wait for the results, which will include the total lines, blank lines, comment lines, and lines of code for different programming languages.

Here is an example of the tool and its results.

The automated categorization of lines into different types and comprehensive statistics using CLOC makes it superior to manual counting. You can trust the reliability and efficiency of this tool to save you a lot of time and effort.

Use statements to count lines of code 

While the above methods show the lines of code, if your code increases in more blanks, comments, and statements, then the number gets inflated without any value added to the functionality. 

Therefore, statements count is much more helpful in understanding the executability and functional efficiency of the code. 

In languages like C, C++, C#, or Java, a statement ends with a semicolon (;). And in languages like basic and VB, several statements can be added with a colon (:). Thus, the way it is done differs, but the logic remains the same. 

The executability (XQT) is calculated by dividing the number of executable statements (STMTX) by all the statements (SMT). 

Here are some specifics of this method: 

  • Counting statements provides insight into how the arrangement of statements affects the flow control within a program. Loops and conditional statements show you how many times a code section can be executed based on the scenario, 
  • You can identify the different code branches based on the multiple paths a code could take in each iteration. 

While this does provide code complexity information, it still needs to be a fool-proof method. Factors such as data dependency and error handling can hamper the executability of the code. 

IL Instructions 

When measuring developer productivity, it’s crucial to select the appropriate metrics. Simply counting lines of code may not be dependable. Instead, experts advise measuring the number of executable statements within the runtime environment, which is a more comprehensive and precise comprehension of progress.

Here are the steps: 

  • Compile the code: Use a language-specific compiler to transform the high-level code (e.g., C#, Visual Basic) into an intermediate language (IL).
  • Obtain the IL code: After compilation, you’ll have an assembly or executable file containing IL instructions.
  • Analyze the IL code: Open the IL code using a text editor or an IDE that supports IL syntax highlighting. You’ll see a series of IL instructions representing lines of code.
  • Count the lines: Simply count the number of lines in the IL code to determine the total lines of IL code.

Following these simplified steps, you can easily count the lines of IL code in your program.

Do you need to count lines of code?

Counting lines of code has been a long-time metric; however, every tool and method gives different answers. 

Using it as a tool for productivity can be problematic because it is not comparable or fair unless you compare the same team’s code within the same team for the same code, language, and style. 

Here are some more points for you to consider: 

  • One developer may write concise code, and another might write more extended code to accomplices the same task. If LOC is a metric, then you might not be fairly judging the quality of their code. 
  • Lines of code are reused through existing libraries, and the rest is written to achieve the desired outcome. However, in such cases, you cannot ignore the reused code nor determine it as original. But that doesn’t negate the developer’s efforts. 
  • Productivity for developers is beyond writing code. Planning, testing, debugging, peer-to-peer reviews, and collaboration can take much time. Therefore reducing productivity to LOC will not be a fair assessment. 

LOC can give you glimpses into code complexity, code length, and executability, but that’s where its importance should stop.  


As stated above, counting lines of code isn’t the right metric to determine the quality of code and developers’ productivity. It can be used as intended – as a metric to help you along the way.

Typo is one such tool that provides you an in-depth insight for assessing code quality by understanding the context of the code as well as gives a 360 view of your developers’ experience.

Kshitij Mohan, CEO and Founder of Typo, aptly states, “Measuring developer productivity solely by lines of code is like assessing a painting by its brushstrokes. It focuses on solution complexity rather than the complexity of the problem at hand. And like most metrics, it means very little without context.”

Key features:
• Supports top 10+ languages including JS, Python, Ruby
• Understands the context of the code and fixes issues accurately
• Operates code efficiently
• Standardizes code and reduces the risk of a security breach
• AI chatbot for intelligent, evidence-based anonymous conversations
• Identifies key priority areas that affect developer productivity and efficiency