Code Complete, 2nd Ed.

Paladion
By Paladion

April 16, 2005

We take a look at the "Code Complete" book by Steve McConnell on
software construction and guidelines to write good softwares

Code CompleteSteve McConnell's "Code Complete" is a handbook on software construction and has become a classic in its own right. Now in its second edition, "Code Complete" weaves together a wealth of best practices on creating good quality software, drawing on academic research and the wisdom of experts. The book goes beyond championing any specific development methodology and instead presents a wide range of guidelines and tips for the practical programmer. Assertions are backed by research data wherever available and by strong reasoning where research results are inadequate. For instance, when discussing the limitations of developer testing, Steve quotes the 1978 Glenfold Myers study where a group of experienced programmers were given a program with 15 known defects. While the average programmer detected only 5 of the 15, even the best found only 9. [The errors that went undetected most often were due to wrong outputs not being examined thoroughly.]

Code Complete takes a broad view of software construction activities and nothing it would seem is out of bounds. Full chapters have been dedicated to topics ranging from how to write good conditional statements, to layout and style. [Did you know that the optimal number of blank lines in a program is 8 to 16 percent? Above that, research shows that the time to debug increases dramatically!] The book even has a chapter on personal character: it presents insights into the attributes of good software developers - including intelligence, humility, intellectual honesty and laziness. Interestingly, Steve asserts that "the purpose of many good programming practices is to reduce the load on your gray cells" and then goes on to cite elegant examples to prove his point.


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