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The Productive Programmer (Theory in Practice (O'Reilly)) [Paperback]

Neal Ford
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: 25.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

13 July 2008 0596519788 978-0596519780 1

Anyone who develops software for a living needs a proven way to produce it better, faster, and cheaper. The Productive Programmer offers critical timesaving and productivity tools that you can adopt right away, no matter what platform you use. Master developer Neal Ford not only offers advice on the mechanics of productivity-how to work smarter, spurn interruptions, get the most out your computer, and avoid repetition-he also details valuable practices that will help you elude common traps, improve your code, and become more valuable to your team. You'll learn to:

  • Write the test before you write the code
  • Manage the lifecycle of your objects fastidiously
  • Build only what you need now, not what you might need later
  • Apply ancient philosophies to software development
  • Question authority, rather than blindly adhere to standards
  • Make hard things easier and impossible things possible through meta-programming
  • Be sure all code within a method is at the same level of abstraction
  • Pick the right editor and assemble the best tools for the job

This isn't theory, but the fruits of Ford's real-world experience as an Application Architect at the global IT consultancy ThoughtWorks. Whether you're a beginner or a pro with years of experience, you'll improve your work and your career with the simple and straightforward principles in The Productive Programmer.

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The Productive Programmer (Theory in Practice (O'Reilly)) + Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship (Robert C. Martin)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 226 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (13 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596519788
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596519780
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 17.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 454,647 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

About the Author

Neal is an Application Architect at ThoughtWorks, a global IT consultancy with an exclusive focus on end-to-end software development and delivery. Before joining ThoughtWorks, Neal was the Chief Technology Officer at The DSW Group, Ltd., a nationally recognized training and development firm. Neal has a degree in Computer Science from Georgia State University specializing in languages and compilers and a minor in mathematics specializing in statistical analysis. He is also the designer and developer of applications, instructional materials, magazine articles, video presentations, and author of the books Developing with Delphi: Object-Oriented Techniques (Prentice-Hall, 1996), JBuilder 3 Unleashed (Sams, 1999) (as the lead author), Art of Java Web Development (Manning, 2003), and No Fluff, Just Stuff Anthology: The 2006 Edition (editor and contributor). His language proficiencies include Java, C#/.NET, Ruby, Object Pascal, C++, and C. His primary consulting focus is the design and construction of large-scale enterprise applications. Neal has taught on-site classes nationally and internationally to all phases of the military and to many Fortune 500 companies. He is also an internationally acclaimed speaker, having spoken at numerous developer conferences worldwide.If you have an insatiable curiosity about Neal, visit his web site at He welcomes feedback and can be reached at

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars pretty good 3 April 2010
Easy reading, the author is obviously an experienced hands-on programmer. The author makes good solid points and presents good down-to-earth tips for fixing pains you recognize. No academic stuff, just plain 'you need this shovel to dig that hole, not a spoon'. Which is perfect.

You get a lot of "i knew this already"'s, but in general you pick up a few good tips here and there. It covers Linux, OSX and Windows - which obviously has it's share of overhead as you probably don't use all 3 OS'es. I found nothing magically super groundbreaking, but wasn't really expecting too either.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This book is pretty interesting and an easy read. It's all about productivity - choosing and using the right tools, gains acheived by using the keyboard instead of the mouse, things to look for and excell at with editores and IDEs, and even coding principles to achieve cleaner and more reusable and testable code. The book is thin, so its not jammed with every single possible detail, making it quite light on the reading. You get the principles clearly presented and some examples to make the ideas even clearer.

Most of the code is Java, but is easily read and understood by anyone who works with .Net (like me). There's also some dynamic language stuff in there. The code is very readable. Overall, and more important than the code, are the principals mentioned and the recomended methods, to help you make yourself more productive when programming.

The book is worth reading and should probably be complemented by one of the Robert Martin series books like Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship (Robert C. Martin)or Agile Principles, Patterns, and Practices in C# (Robert C. Martin).
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4.0 out of 5 stars The title tells it all 23 Aug 2011
a very pragmatic book. Even if 30% of the points developed in the book suit your needs, there are more than worth reading. and the 70% remaining might just help opening your eyes. Easy reading, although precise and relevant
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5.0 out of 5 stars As expected 15 Feb 2011
By Mongol
Concise, to the point - and definitely not for beginner. It is neither handbook nor a set of receipts - rather, a book of stories "once upon a time in one of the projects we did this and it worked. Next time we did that, and it did not work".

Author does have something to say so the book well worth reading.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  40 reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concise work for productive, common sense development 13 Sep 2008
By James Holmes - Published on
This is a terrific book for boosting your productivity in two areas: how you work, and how you code.

The first section of the book, Mechanics, focuses on tools you can use to boost your productivity as you're working with your system. Ford launches off into an exploration of lots of little crazy tools that help you automate or ease repetitive tasks. You'll find lots of goodies from virtual desktops to shortcut tips/launchers, to using Ruby to script everything from splitting up SQL to automatically sorting your laundry and washing it for you.[1]

All these little tools and tricks add up to drastic decreases in the amount of friction you're forced to suffer through while doing your daily job. Cutting this friction lets you focus on the job at hand, instead of trying to bend your environment to your will.

The second section of the book, Practice, discusses ways to speed your development. There's an awful lot of goodness in this portion of the book, ranging from re-emphasizing critical aspects of object oriented programming, to object and method composition. Ford walks through a lot of great stories meant to get you to re-evaluate why you do things a certain way. The infamous Angry Monkeys story gets pulled out as an example, and Ford also concisely covers development principles like the Law of Demeter, Occam's Razon, and his Polyglot Programming meme.

The book's concise, amazingly well written, and a definite must-have for your bookshelf.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Mechanics of a Pragmatic Programmers daily work 28 July 2008
By Michael Hunger - Published on
I've been reading Neal's blog for a while. So I've been looking forward to the book. (I even accidentally ordered it twice - one was the pre-buy at amazon, which I forgot about).

I spend the last two days reading the book and found it quite helpful. There are a lot of concrete tips and examples for immediate use and daily improvement of your mechanic skills. Many of the experiences regarding the effective use of the tools at hand that he describes are well known to me. I can't really understand how developers are not keen to improve their productivity.
Neal's book is a good addition to the PragProgs masterpiece. It concentrates more on the mechanics and on some principles of productive software development. So the triad of values-principles-patterns got a son named mechanics.

What I missed in the book was:
* a comprehensive list of the notes at the end.
* Christopher Alexanders appearance as one of the philosophers.
* the notion of cheat sheets/refcards
* references to Martin Odersky's Scala the scalable language
* references to Kent Becks "Implementation Patterns" (especially in the SLAP section)

As being a developer myself I was a bit disappointed by the quality of the examples (the solutions not the starting points) and a bit by the correctness of the text (typos). I spotted several errors, some bad designs and some uninformed choices even on the first read of the book. I'll post them to the errata page.

Neals suggestion of an online repository of productive programmers tools, tips and mechanics is a great idea. I'd really like to join this effort.


13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book but not without faults 10 Jan 2009
By Markus Oehler - Published on
I saw Neal the first time at DLW Europe. I'd like to check out the speakers online before deciding which talks to attend - the results were not positive at all; IT consultant (we've had our share at work) + spending lots of time speaking on conferences, that's a combination not likely to give me warm feelings. I still ended up in attending his talk because of lack of alternatives and thank god I did. Neal isn't only a great speaker but he also had something to say and the necessary experience and war stories to back it up. I ended up by attending every presentation of Neal plus - back at work - giving a presentation of his talks to my fellow co-workers.

Finding out that he now has written a book - I instantly had to read it. And the book is certainly a valuable read that I'll keep around as reference at least for a while. There's lots of great tips about tools, automation, ... that will certainly find their way into my professional life. However, it did not blow me off my feet. I've read "Pragmatic Programmer - From Journeyman to Master" before (a perfect book in my opinion) and this book does not quite measure up to it. The style is not as perfect - the information not as well-presented. However what I miss most is that Neal sometimes present a topic but then does not follow up with "How to get started" - most notably with "Polyglot Programming" and "Test driven design". I know that both topics are maybe out of scope of the book but then at least a reference to another book, website, ... would have been great. So even if I'm all psyched to up try to apply this principles now at my current projects, I know from past experience that adding new languages in any mix more often result in time wasted time because of integration issues... and how to start TDD on a project that's been going on for 15 years without any unit tests is beyond my imagination.

Don't get me wrong - it's a great book and well worth the read; it just needs some polishing to get it to excellent...
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good collection of tips, possibly interesting software practices 4 Jan 2011
By John Brady - Published on
The Productive Programmer targets the developer audience, with the stated goal of discovering patterns and practices which make a developer more efficient. If you are not a developer, this is not the book you're seeking.

The first section of the book, which I found to be of greatest value, is a collection of tips and suggestions intended to streamline your interaction with the computer. These would most applicable to those working outside the constraints of "locked down" corporate desktops, since many of the ideas presented involve the installation of open source software - that may not be an option in some environments. Specific tools, of course, aren't the point, it's the concept of saving keystrokes, automating where you can and scripting anything you'll repeat that matter, and the author succeeds in making these points.

One negative aspect to these tips is that because the book attempts to cover the primary workstation operating systems, discussions about Linux, Mac and Windows can be interspersed. I found that format distracting.

In the second segment, the book discusses a collection of programming practices and parables. These chapters seemed to center on Java foibles; the author makes cogent observations about coding principles, but the specifics didn't resonate with me because they don't apply to my usual programming environments (Perl/Python/Ruby). These are still worth reading, since Ford has obviously seen his share of real-world projects, and his "take" on a problem may lead you to some new pathways.

I received free access from O'Reilly to an electronic copy of this book for the purpose of writing this review.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Make the computer work for you, not the other way around. 28 Aug 2008
By Amazon Customer - Published on
I expected a list of cool tips and tricks, but this book is much more. The Mechanics section organizes the tips into 4 broad approaches to productivity. This allows Ford to not only provide interesting tricks, but also help you think about ways to improve your personal productivity in ways that make sense in your environment.

Much of his advice contradicts the point-and-click, user-friendly mindset of many computer users and suggests that to be really productive you need to be able to take charge of the computer.

The second half of the book focuses on more high-level approaches to productivity. How do you make certain the code you write is the best it can be and solves the problem you need to solve? How do you avoid writing code that does not need to be written? How do you get the most out of your tools?

This book is a must read for programmers and other computer power-users. The first section gives many tricks that would apply for anyone who is trying to do a lot of work with a computer.

My only quibbles with the book are that I would have liked to see even more tips and I would have liked a bit more attention paid to Linux, which is where I spend most of my time. Many of the tools Ford recommends have versions for Windows or Mac OSX, but not Linux.
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