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Working Effectively with Legacy Code (Robert C. Martin) [Paperback]

Michael Feathers
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

22 Sep 2004 Robert C. Martin

This book provides programmers with the ability to cost effectively handlecommon legacy code problems without having to go through the hugelyexpensive task of rewriting all existing code. It describes a series of practicalstrategies that developers can employ to bring their existing softwareapplications under control. The author provides useful guidance about how touse these strategies when refactoring or making functional changes to codebases. One of the book's key points is that it teaches developers to write teststhat can be used to make sure they are not unintentionally changing theapplication as they optimize it. Examples are provided in Java, C++, and Csharp,and the book assumes that the reader has some knowledge of UMLnotation. Strategies using UML and code in C++ and Java primarily whilelanguage independent advice will be delivered in side bars and appendices forlanguage specific users.


Frequently Bought Together

Working Effectively with Legacy Code (Robert C. Martin) + Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code (Object Technology Series) + Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship (Robert C. Martin)
Price For All Three: 82.65

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Product details

  • Paperback: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall; 1 edition (22 Sep 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0131177052
  • ISBN-13: 978-0131177055
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 17.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 61,051 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

From the Back Cover

Get more out of your legacy systems: more performance, functionality, reliability, and manageability

Is your code easy to change? Can you get nearly instantaneous feedback when you do change it? Do you understand it? If the answer to any of these questions is no, you have legacy code, and it is draining time and money away from your development efforts.

In this book, Michael Feathers offers start-to-finish strategies for working more effectively with large, untested legacy code bases. This book draws on material Michael created for his renowned Object Mentor seminars: techniques Michael has used in mentoring to help hundreds of developers, technical managers, and testers bring their legacy systems under control.

The topics covered include

  • Understanding the mechanics of software change: adding features, fixing bugs, improving design, optimizing performance
  • Getting legacy code into a test harness
  • Writing tests that protect you against introducing new problems
  • Techniques that can be used with any language or platform—with examples in Java, C++, C, and C#
  • Accurately identifying where code changes need to be made
  • Coping with legacy systems that aren't object-oriented
  • Handling applications that don't seem to have any structure

This book also includes a catalog of twenty-four dependency-breaking techniques that help you work with program elements in isolation and make safer changes.


© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

About the Author

MICHAEL C. FEATHERS works for Object Mentor, Inc., one of the world's top providers of mentoring, skill development, knowledge transfer, and leadership services in software development. He currently provides worldwide training and mentoring in Test-Driven Development (TDD), Refactoring, OO Design, Java, C#, C++, and Extreme Programming (XP). Michael is the original author of CppUnit, a C++ port of the JUnit testing framework, and FitCpp, a C++ port of the FIT integrated-testing framework. A member of ACM and IEEE, he has chaired CodeFest at three OOPSLA conferences.


© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars practical and helpful advice on testing 26 Feb 2006
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This book focuses on how best to treat existing, large and probably poorly designed code, when needing to add features. This is most likely to happen when you have big old code that needs maintaining, but a lot of the advice is directly applicable to open source projects that lack tests and documentation. Therefore this can be considered as a valuable addition to the literature on testing and refactoring.
The advocated approach is rooted in writing unit tests and refactoring. Each chapter is themed around a problem (e.g. "Dependencies on Libraries is Killing Me", "I Don't Understand the Code Well Enough to Change It"), and then a series of techniques are suggested. At the back of the book are a series of refactorings, specifically for dealing with large classes, with some platform specific approaches, such as C++ forbidding the use of virtual functions that resolve to subclasses in constructors.
The code is mainly in Java, with a large number of examples in C++, and a handful in C and C#. You can probably get by with just knowing Java.
To get the most out of this book, I would suggest having read Martin Fowler's Refactoring first. It would also help to be familiar with the JUnit Java testing framework, which is used for the testing examples throughout. If you don't already know JUnit, you can pick up enough knowledge from the many articles on the web, and you certainly don't need to have read a book on Test Driven Development.
A reasonable measure of the quality of a book such as this is if it changes the way you code. It did so for me, and I recommend this as another high quality book in the Robert C. Martin series.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
What is your view of unit tests and test-driven development (TDD)? If you believe that these techniques are merely a passing fad, or largely a waste of time, then read no further, and good luck with that approach! However, if you want to understand how TDD can be a powerful weapon for attacking the 'monsters' of ageing and not-tested code, or want to ensure that new code you write is maintainable, or indeed you (like me) are concerned about how we can effectively improve and develop legacy systems in the context of infrastructure-as-code and end-to-end automation, then Working Effectively with Legacy Code is essential reading.

The reason why we left behind the TDD skeptics (and they still exist, even as I write this in 2012) is that Michael Feathers is very clear about the nature of legacy code: legacy code has no test coverage, and 'code without tests is bad code'. Let's consider the implication of this view: even if your code was written yesterday, if there are no unit tests to characterise or define the behaviour of the code, then the code is legacy, and will be difficult to change without introducing bugs. On this basis, it becomes dangerous, disrespectful to others and perhaps even unprofessional to write code without tests.

We are also urged to expand our view of why we write tests, especially when working with legacy code: instead of specifying correctness, tests can be written to characterise behaviour of code. This is particularly helpful when we are breaking dependencies, as using tests to characterise behaviour helps to build an understanding of how non-tested code actually operates.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! 4 Dec 2009
Format:Paperback
I attended Feathers' speach at JAOO this year and was highly motivated to work with legacy code - I really wanted to try out all the presented techniques! I wished for the next contract to be a legacy project, and lo and behold, wishes do come true.

Given that, I was highly motivated when my copy arrived in the mail and ate it in three healthy bites - not leaving too much time to sleep when you have a wife and two small kids that you want to see too!

MF starts by stating that 'good code is code under test'.

The highligt is to some extend the 20-something page introduction. MF manages to set the arena for working with legacy code and pass on the enthusiasm of getting a job done on difficult terms. I mean, if you can be a success with green field projects, thats fine, but how well do you cope with legacy code?

Following that is a rather lengthy catalog of ways to get code under test. Much of the time you'd nod and say, yes, I've seen mess like this before - so that is how I could have dealt with it!

Having had the time to try to work by the principles, I'd summarize that the book has given me a professional lift. Many a time, I'd have to bypass the good advice due to pressure to produce short-term results, but over-all I'd say that more and more of the 'tricks' gets used and with good results.

Highly reccommended!
Anders, M.Comp.Sc., Contractor, Denmark
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very useful book 20 Sep 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The biggest single problem I had when I moved from working for myself as a programmer back to the mainstream was dealing with other people's code. For nearly twenty years I only had to deal with my own code. Suddenly I had to understand and change other people's code. It was quite a culture shock, and one of the most difficult things I've done.

I wish I'd found Michael's book earlier, it would have helped ease the transition. Of course, not everyone else's code is legacy code, but even if you are not handling true 'legacy' code, this book will help you deal with the problems you face.

The book is in three parts. The first is a discussion of how you go about changing software that is badly structured and has complex interactions and side effects. Where do you start, and how do you make sure that you don't break things further down the convoluted chain of dependencies. The answer to the latter, of course, is testing, testing, testing, and the author makes a good enough case to persuade even the most sloth like to get into the testing mode.

The second part of the book is organised almost like an FAQ with chapters devoted to common problems like 'I don't understand the code well enough to change it'. This one crops up all too often, and is an excellent example of how the author doesn't avoid difficult questions. The final part of the book is a useful catalog of mostly pattern based techniques that can be used to break dependencies.

The book is well written and features clear examples that are written in either C++, Java, C and C#, and the problems caused by the different features, or lack of them, available to the different languages are discussed and work arounds suggested. I enjoyed reading this book.

Highly recommended!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Some useful information.
There are a handful of reviews slating this book for dealing with code less than a decade or two old. Read more
Published 27 days ago by Ian London
3.0 out of 5 stars Code sample formatting on Kindle edition
I would likely give this book a higher score if it weren't for the fact that the code samples contained in the e-book (and there are a lot of them) are so poorly formatted on the... Read more
Published 6 months ago by ALASTAIR TAYLOR
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but limited
It is essentially another refactoring book. It largely assumes you will work with code written fairly recently in a modern language and to which you can apply automated unit... Read more
Published on 8 Jun 2011 by D. Murphy
1.0 out of 5 stars This isn't "legacy" code!
The author claims that "legacy" code is composed of C++, Java, and C# code bases. Well...maybe if you were born only twenty years ago that might seem like legacy code. Read more
Published on 25 Feb 2011 by Michael E. Piazza
5.0 out of 5 stars Legacy Code
This was bought as a present for a friend who was very impressed with it and found it really interesting and useful.
Published on 8 Jan 2011 by Christine Davis
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely useful!
This is definitely one of those books that I will continuously refer to when faced with the task of maintaining legacy software. It has a permanent place on my reference shelf! Read more
Published on 21 April 2010 by David JM Emmett
5.0 out of 5 stars Standard Text
I have a few (5 or so) programming books that I hold in very high regards. This is one of them. I intend to keep this one close to hand. Read more
Published on 20 Feb 2010 by O. Arnold
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
Got the book after attending one of the authors presentations. Excellent advice on how to apply TDD to existing code. Read more
Published on 21 May 2006 by Mr. S. P. Bracken
4.0 out of 5 stars A guide to retrofitting unit tests to existing code.
The books definiton of Legacy code is code not covered by unit tests.
This book covers adding unit tests to existing code. Read more
Published on 30 Dec 2005 by Chris Eyre
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