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After the first years of programming, many software developers are faced with a seemingly insurmountable wall. This wall often takes the form of a Coding Style so polluted with all sorts of third-party hacks and plugins that the product seems to have no future in terms of development.
Overcoming this problem separates advanced developers from experienced programmers who create successful applications. Unfortunately, many programmers bang their heads against this wall with no hope of getting to the other side.
If you think you’re up to the challenge, you need to learn how to write maintainable, reusable, and testable code. Depending on the talent, this can take months, years or decades. But don’t despair, there are at least 5 tips that can help you improve your Coding Style right away.
Improve your programming style
- Make your code readable
Writing your own new code is often fun, you know what to do and you do it to the best of your ability. However, trying to figure out someone else’s poorly written code can be a real nightmare. What people often forget is that Coding Style is read more than it is written. For this reason, software engineers have developed programming conventions over the years, most of which have been codified by standards such as Zend Framework Coding Standard, PSR-1 and PSR-2, or Google’s style guides.
Coding standards define everything from indentation, use of whitespace, naming conventions, declarations, and more. Its goal is to help engineers create readable, well-organized, and easy-to-maintain code.
For example, they very often forbid the use of vague names for variables and emphasize the importance of descriptive names
To make the code even more readable, you can add some comments. Writing helpful reviews is harder than it looks. Developers tend to make all sorts of assumptions and often expect others to know things about their code that they don’t know at first glance.
Although it takes a lot of time, patience, and effort to learn the art of commenting, it’s an important skill every developer should have.
- Avoid global variables
Suppose you are building a simple application with a login page and realize that you need to display the username in multiple places. You can approach the problem from different angles, but creating a global variable is arguably the path of least resistance.
The problem is that global variables are time bombs that can explode on a single error and prevent a function from working for a long time.
Since global variables are everywhere, you may find yourself using a global variable when you think you’re using a local variable, or vice versa. Global variables also make testing much more difficult and code difficult to understand.
Of course, there are cases where it makes sense to use global variables, e.g. B. if you are writing a simple plugin or using a language that has little support for local variables, but these are exceptions. In general, if you want your code to be more readable for your teammates, you should avoid using global variables as much as possible.
- Read other people’s code
Coding is about solving challenges, and there’s rarely just one way to solve any given challenge. In many cases, the same problem can be approached from multiple angles, and it is often difficult to decide which of the possible solutions is the best.
If you’re a programmer, you probably use the first solution that comes to mind and move on because you don’t have enough time to come up with something better. That’s why
it’s so important to study other people’s code in your free time.
If you read other people’s code, you can see how the author has solved a problem that you would probably approach differently. The next time you encounter a similar problem, you will probably remember that there is another possible solution that might be better than yours.
However, it’s important to remember that while studying other people’s code is a great way to learn how to code better, copying code you didn’t write is not. In fact, blindly applying solutions that have worked for others can slow down your personal development, which is the last thing you want.
- Embrace code refactoring
Most writers hate reading their own work, and most clients hate hearing what works. While the process of code refactoring, or restructuring existing code without changing its external behavior, isn’t exactly sexy, it’s more than necessary.
“By continuously improving the design of the code, we make it more and more user-friendly. This is in stark contrast to what usually happens. little refactoring and a lot of focus on adding new features quickly. If you get into the hygienic habit of continually refactoring, your code becomes easier to extend and maintain,” says Joshua Kerievsky, author of Refactoring to Patterns.
Code refactoring is a deep subject, but the most important rule is that you should always try to break down long functions and methods into smaller pieces. If your functions are longer than twenty-five lines, you can probably split them into two or even three smaller functions and make your code more readable.
- Use version control software
From Git to Fossil to Mercurial, there are many version control tools available today that all developers can use. This detailed comparison of version control software is a good place to start.
While good code is fun to work with, maintain, and reuse, poorly written code complicates the development process and gives its author a bad reputation. You still have a long way to go if you want to get better at coding and become a seasoned developer that others admire, but these 5 simple tips are a great place to start.