Programming is hard. It’s one thing to understand a coding language and algorithms but it’s a whole new ballgame trying to create a complex application that works like you want it to. In many ways, writing good clean code isn’t too different from photography, cooking or drawing – it looks much easier than it actually is.
Nevertheless, good clean code is a worthwhile goal because it simplifies troubleshooting, maintenance and documentation. Whereas technical tools, such as Appoptics offering Java performance monitoring, can provide technical insights on the workings of the program, clean code is about making program code easier to read and follow.
Here are a number of tips to help you realize clean code.
1. Use Descriptive Names
What are functions, classes and variables? There are many ways you can describe them but they are essentially an interface between a developer and the core logic of a software application. Ergo, when you utilize non-descriptive and unclear names for functions, classes and variables, you obfuscate the underlying logic from anyone who reads the program code.
That includes yourself since if you are a full time programmer, you may not remember the meanings if you were to come back to read it years later. For example, you should use distancefromXtoY instead of dxy.
2. Get Rid of Redundant Code
This is a habit every programmer struggles with every so often. A typical scenario is you read a line of code you’ve written and think of ways of optimizing or fixing it. You proceed to comment it out then rewrite a new line just below the original line. Despite the new line of code working, you opt to retain the commented out old code in case you need to revert back to it.
One such instance may not seem significant. However, over time, you end up with numerous blocks of code that aren’t needed and yet bulk up the source files. To avoid the need for commenting out code, make use of source control.
3. Readability Trumps Cleverness
Many developers equate clean code with clever code. The rationale here is that fewer lines of code means cleaner code. This isn’t necessarily true though. Just because a chunk of code takes up fewer lines does not mean it’s easier to understand.
Writing clean code means brevity becomes a secondary outcome. The programmer must primarily think about whether a person who’ll read the code years in the future will still understand it.
4. Maintain a Consistent Style
Programming tutorials are good but can have a negative influence on newbies. Some tutorials use conflicting coding styles and habits which can be a source of confusion. Whereas there’s no one style that’s superior to all, the important thing is to identify one style and stick to it.
Whether you prefer spaces to tabs, preceding each method call with a space or having each brace on its own line, do that consistently. Think through what works for you and stick with it within and across your programming projects.
5. Write Useful Informative Comments
Once newbies are taught to use comments, they are urged to employ them as frequently as they can. Unfortunately, this lesson seems to have been learned too well. Developers have swung to the other extreme with the result that the average chunk of code tends to have an excessive amount of comments.
Often, the comments describe or explain things that are pretty obvious thus missing the point of what a useful informative comment should be. A good comment is one that explains the why of code as opposed to the what. As long as the code is clean, it should be clear what it’s supposed to do.
A programmer who’s unlearning bad coding habits and learning how to create clean code is similar to a novelist honing their skills in writing clean prose. There’s no silver bullet when it comes to writing clean code but there are certainly many incorrect techniques. It’s a gradual learning process that can take years to master. Nevertheless, clean code is a worthwhile goal for anyone keen on building a long-term career as a programmer.