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Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction Paperback – 27 May 1993

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A modern-day classic on software engineering, Code Complete focuses on specific practices you can use to improve your code and your ability to debug it--and ultimately deliver better, more efficient programs in less time. With every bit of advice the book proffers you'll improve your ability to write elegant, self-documenting, maintainable software. McConnell doesn't focus on the idiosyncrasies of any single language, but on the general issues developers face: naming subroutines and variables in meaningful ways, designing control structures, finding and correcting errors in code, and many, many more. Code Complete is packed with code samples demonstrating good and bad programming practices and checklists that you can use to vet your own work.

From the author's preface: "My primary concern in writing this book has been to narrow the gap between the knowledge of industry gurus and professors on one hand and common commercial practice on the other. Although leading-edge software-development practice has advanced rapidly in recent years, common practice hasn't. Many programs are still buggy, late, and over budget, and many fail to satisfy the needs of users. The research and programming experience collected in this book will help you to create high-quality software and do your work more quickly and with fewer problems."

From the publisher: "Whatever your background--experienced developer, self-taught programmer, or programming student--this ingeniously organised handbook contains state-of-the-art information that can help you write better programs in less time with fewer headaches. Code Complete is not a panacea, but it is an encyclopedic treatment of software construction, the most important part of the software-development cycle. It contains some 500 examples of code (good and bad) and includes ready-to-use checklists to help you assess your architecture, design approach, and module and routine quality.

Perhaps most important of all, Code Complete provides a larger perspective on the software-development process and the role of construction in the process that will inform and stimulate your thinking about your own projects, enabling you to take strategic action rather than fight the same battles again and again.

The concepts discussed in Code Complete are applicable to any procedural language in any computing environment.

From the Publisher

'We were impressed by Code Complete...a pleasure to read, either straight through or as a reference. An invaluable $35 reference.' — PC Week. This runaway bestseller is a practical guide to software design that discusses the art and science of constructing software. Examples are provided in C, Pascal, Basic, Fortran, and Ada, but the focus is on successful programming techniques.

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4.7 out of 5 stars

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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 18 July 1997
Format: Paperback
The subtitle of McConnell's book is "A Practical Handbook of Software Construction". I have found that it lives up to this claim excellently. Like Brook's classic "The Mythical Man-Month" Code Complete offers practical advice on the real-world challenges of software development. Code Complete contains 33 chapters, which can be read as separate essays.

To entry-level programmers and computer science students, this book is an excellent primer on the fundamentals of the industry. For experienced programmers, this book is an great way to review your own development strategies and best practices. For project managers, Code Complete serves as a great source of ideas for process improvement, as well as a great learning tool to pass on to new entry-level hires. My employer has used several chapters out of Code Complete as the basis for discussion topics.

McConnell writes in an easy-to-read, entertaining style that has made him one of the most popular authors in the field. His book "Rapid Development", is also an extremely popular book on software development, and many (including me) are anxiously awaiting his next work, "Software Project Survivial Guide".
In short, Code Complete belongs in the library of every serious developer.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 10 Oct. 1996
Format: Paperback
Titled "Code Complete", McConnell's book is the definitive reference on the phase between requirements definition and pure testing. This is a book that should actually be Required Reading for programmers; some sections of it should be tattooed on the forehead of anyone wanting to manage a development team.

After touching on requirements and specs, the author goes through the various topics that merit a developer's interest, including routine design, quality assurance, and anything you might think of. Yet he does not dictate; McConnell presents hard data why you should adopt some methodology, and then offers you a selection of methods, but he never claims that his view is the only correct one.

This alone distinguishes him positively from the likes of Booch, Rumbaugh, Jacobson and so on, who peddle their books to further their seminar operations.

The author's reading list and the annotated bibliography alone are worth the price.

By the way, to use this book most effectively, leave it lying around ... until one of your co-workers snarfs it. Then, leave another copy lying around. Repeat until your environment is fully saturated and keep a final copy to yourself. (I went, since 1993, through eleven copies of "Code Complete", and the pay-off was worth it!)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 18 May 1998
Format: Paperback
Buy this book only if you are SERIOUS about programming. Because if you're not, you'll never get through it.
McConnell's book is an exhaustive guide to the nitty-gritty details of programming. There are entire CHAPTERS devoted to choosing names for variables, and dozens of pages covering every style of indenting since 1950. I am devouring programming books for my future career, and I am glad that I got this book. It covers all aspects of the design and coding process, with a heavy emphasis on readability and maintainability. It helped me to correct some bad coding practices that I developed.
I was most impressed by the references. McConnell has drawn together hundreds of papers, articles, and books written since the 60s and digested them all for you in this compact volume. He frequently quotes statistics and studies to support his claims. (Indenting lines 3-5 spaces boosts comprehension by 68%, but indenting by 6 or more spaces decreases it by 32%)
I got a real chuckle on his advice about how to deal with bosses who want to see code during the planning stages -- get printouts from previous projects and leave them around your desk, then lie!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By "steve_a_h" on 24 Sept. 2003
Format: Paperback
There are many great books on how to design software, there are many great books on how to manage software projects and the are thousands of books on programming and programming languages (not all great). But, I don't think there are any books that fill the niche filled by CC. As the title says it is about software construction, that means it is about writing software in a professional way on a professional project. It is about writing code that can be maintained for years ahead.
This is not "how to program" - for that you probably want a language specific book anyway. This is more like "how to be a programmer". The difference may seem subtle, and if you have never worked as a professional developer it may be a little vague, but there is a difference between writing code for yourself or even for a university course and writing code for a living. As an undergraduate, for example, you may want to write a recursive routine to demonstrate your knowledge but in a "real-life" project recursion is a last resort. This book explains that difference and leads the way to a preofessional approach to software development.
Highly recommended for developers. Manager could read it but to be honest they would be better off investing their time in other books, such as Rapid Development. No, this one is aimed squarely at those on the code face and should be essential reading to anyone starting a career in software.
My only gripe is that it is now 10 years old so there are no examples in Java, C++, Perl, C# etc... The examples that are given are clear and easy to follow but it would be great if an updated edition could be produced. Also, another nice-to-have would be some coverage of OO development. Don't let this put you off, just because it is not 100% up-to-date does not mean it is not 100% useful.
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