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. --Amazon.com
"Code complete" is the phrase used by programmers to announce the completion of a software program. Drawing its examples from a variety of computer languages, this book focuses on programming technique rather than the requirements of a specific programming language or environment. Steve McConnell developed True Type and Windows for the Microsoft Corporation. Topics include: front-end planning, applying good design techniques to construction, using data effectively, using common and advanced control structures, secrets of self-documenting code, testing and debugging techniques, improving performance with code tuning, managing construction activities, and relating personal character to the development of superior software.See all Product description
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This book is worth a read for all of us, at any level. Ok, maybe a beginner wouldn't get it, but if you've been hacking code long enough to know the modern languages are abstractions and simplifications of what came before then you'll read through the parts that seem less obvious.
Maybe or maybe not a spoiler, but if in doubt, try writing a test case, see how it pans out. Simple and obvious. Most of what is in this book is simple and obvious, but then we do all need that pointing out often and frequently!
It's not a bible of coding, there is no such thing, but it is something we should all have a go at. I didn't rail against anything Steve had to say (unlike, say, Cooper), but that isn't to say he or I are right. I do think he is sticking to making sensible observations about what he thinks is worth saying from a lifetime of coding, as oppose to trying to be exciting. For that alone, I recommend him.
Massive read though :)
I also purchased the second edition digitally, but after 5 years of purchasing this I still have the physical copy and occasionally read through it.
I would recommend also reading Test Driven Development by Example and Clean Code.
Every company that develops software products should have this in their library: you do have a library of software development books don't you?
This last should be the 13th Joel Test.
I have followed the citations back to some of the studies and books that are cited in Code Complete and you can trust me that Steve McConnell has transformed some pretty dry material into something that is very readable and incredibly well cited (especially all of the hard data).
This is a book you read if you want to take software development seriously.
At first I thought he was being a little too thorough by backing up almost every piece of advice with hard evidence / research statistics etc. But, by reading a chapter by night and working at the 'programming coal face' by day, I have found myself seeing real benefits from that 'teaching approach'.
Whilst programming I often ask "Shall I do this, shall I do that?", I find it very easy to recall not only which solution is best, but why. Its liberating to make a decision based on my own judgement, rather than "just cos some guru said so in a book".
He doesn't give you a set of recipes, but a set of tools and principals and I cannot think of anyone who would not benefit from having this on their bookshelf.