Writing code has become a crucial part of creating millions of products that our society uses daily. Code is an integral part of almost all the devices that we use today, from cell phones to washing machines, and television sets to artificial satellites above in the sky.
Due to the prevalence of computers, learning to write code has become one of the most sought-after skills in today’s environment. In this article, we will look into what computer code is and go through the tips on how to write better code.
Why Clean Code is Necessary?
Code is a term used to describe the language computers “speak” and “understand”. The instructions present in the code tell the computer to perform actions and their order to perform a certain task. Many types of computer languages are available to write code. Different languages have different programming structures, syntax, and rules.
Software engineering is the process of designing and developing varied products. It’s not just all about learning a language and building some software. As a software engineer or software developer, you are expected to write good software.
Some of the benefits of clean code include the following:
- Problems become easier to solve. Once you start thinking about clean code, your approach to problem-solving changes. Instead of brute-forcing solutions, your algorithms and software design becomes more elegant and intentional.
- Less time is wasted on maintenance. Clean code is easier to read and understand, so you spend less time trying to figure out what certain segments actually do and more time fixing, revising, extending, etc.
- Ideas are more clearly communicated. If you’re working with other programmers, clean code reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings between all of you, which also means fewer bugs in the long run.
Tips to Write Better Code
Now, the question is what makes good software? Good software can be judged by reading some piece of code written in the project. If the code is easy to understand and easy to change then definitely it’s good software and developers love to work on that.
Following are 10 tips to write better code:
1. Consistent Indentation
Indentation is one of the most important aspects of any programming domain. But this is often the most neglected part during the programming and the developers are mostly reluctant to follow it. We need to understand that programming is not only to solve the problem but is also an art of coding. And the most important part is that as a developer you must be passionate about coding and then only you will be able to include the art of coding in your development work.
Style is important, not to make code look pretty, but because it helps with reading, editing, and understanding. The code should be divided into logical units and it’s important to keep the style consistent throughout the whole document. In most programming languages, spaces and indentations do not affect the function. If you are using an IDE, it is recommended that you create a formatted config so every time you use the same one.
Every developer will be more comfortable with one style or another. If you start working on code that was written by someone else, the style should be followed.
Proper code indentation will make it:
- easier to read
- easier to understand
- easier to modify
- easier to maintain
- easier to enhance
2. Including Comments
Comments are specially marked lines of text in the program that are not evaluated. There are usually two ways to include comments. The first is called a single-line comment and, as implied, only applies to a single line in the code. The second is called a Block comment and refers usually refers to a paragraph of text. A block comment has a start symbol and an end symbol and everything between is ignored by the computer.
Comments are very useful to use to explain the code, especially complicated passages. It will help you and others understand why you did what you did. It is obvious that comments definitely help others to understand your code. But it is also helpful for you also. Will you remember what you did after a month or a year?
Of course, there is a fine line between helpful comments and redundant ones. Comments are worthwhile as long as they are a few and written for key passages. Too many comments at every single line will make the code completely unreadable and messy, no matter how neat the style and consistent the indentation.
All programs should be commented on in such a manner as to easily describe (in English) the purpose of the code and any algorithms used to accomplish the purpose. A user should be able to utilize a previously written program (or function) without ever having to look at the code, simply by reading the comments.
3. Meaningful Naming of Identifiers
Usually, computer languages have their own naming conventions. For example, java uses camelCase. Naming needs to stay consistent, otherwise, it will very difficult to find things inside the document.
There are two main ways to name things:
- camelCase: It is a practice of writing identifier names without spaces or punctuation, indicating the separation of words with a single capitalized letter, and the first word starting with either case. e.g., FirstName (denoting the first name), iNumber (denoting the integer variable).
- Underscores: In this case, you write an underscore between each word. e.g., first_name (denoting the first name), i_number (denoting the integer variable).
You will be writing a lot of names for variables, functions, classes, arguments, modules, packages, directories, and things like that. Make a habit to use meaningful names in your code. Whatever names you mention in your code it should fulfill three purposes – what it does, why it exists, and how it is used. e.g., int b; // number of users.
In this above example, you need to mention a comment along with the name declaration of a variable that is not a characteristic of a good code. The name that you specify in your code should reveal its intent. It should specify the purpose of a variable, function, or method. So for the above example, a better variable name would be – int number_of_users. It may take some time to choose meaningful names but it makes your code much cleaner and easy to read for other developers as well as for yourself. Also, try to limit the names to three or four words.
4. Code Redundancy
Repeating code will make your document very long and it will break the reading flow. If you have pieces of code that will be used more than once, it is preferable to make a separate file and include the file path when needed.
A typical example is a web page: most pages will have the same header and footer, but there is no need to copy-paste the same code onto every page, just link to it.
5. Use of Short Statements
Writing long lines of code makes it very difficult to read, moving back and forth horizontally, and losing any sense of what it’s actually written. Style and indentation will help with this.
Keep also in mind, that the terminal window limits characters to 80 per line, so if the code is longer, it will be just cut, making it incomprehensible.
6. Modular Approach
Modular programming is a technique that emphasizes separating the functionality of a program into independent, interchangeable modules, such that each contains everything necessary to execute only one aspect of the desired functionality.
Break your program into smaller functions and modules. It helps in browsing, reading, understanding, and editing the code.
7. Readability and Understandability
A lot of people especially beginners make mistakes while writing code they write everything in a single line and don’t give proper whitespace, indentation, or line breaks in their code. It makes their code messy and difficult to maintain.
It wastes others’ time when they try to read and understand the messy code. So always pay attention to the formatting of your code. You will also save your time and energy when you will get back to your own code after a couple of days to make some changes. So make sure that your code should have a proper indentation, space and line breaks to make it readable to other people.
8. Delete Unnecessary Code
This bad habit is one that most programmers struggle with from time to time. It usually happens when you want to fix or optimize a chunk of code, so you comment it out and do a rewrite just below it—and even though it works, you keep the old code there just in case.
Over time, you accumulate a lot of commented-out blocks of code that are no longer needed yet clutter up your source files. And the funny thing is that in a lot of cases, the surrounding code has evolved, so the commented-out code wouldn’t work even if restored. So, just make it a point to avoid writing repetitive code.
9. Organize your Program into Smaller Files
Having a file with thousands of lines of code doesn’t help anyone, but breaking it down into shorter files organized based on function or feature will help you get right to the point when something needs fixing. Having the whole code organized in files and folders is very good for maintainability, especially if different teams and people are working on it.
10. Unit Testing
Unit testing is a powerful tool for code quality and it has been for decades. Unit tests provide a fundamental check that a code meets its design specifications and behaves as intended.
When done well, unit tests:
- decrease defects and expose them early in the development lifecycle
- increase code readability
- enable code reuse
- improve deployment velocity
- What does indentation in coding mean?
- Why is meaningful naming of identifiers needed in coding?
- What is modular programming?
- What is the meaning of code redundancy?
Why is indentation important in code?
In computer programming languages, indentation formats program source code to improve readability. Programming languages make use of indentation to define program structure. Programmers use indentation to understand the structure of their programs to human readers.
What is modularity in coding?
Modular programming (also referred to as modular architecture) is a general programming concept. It involves separating a program’s functions into independent pieces or building blocks, each containing all the parts needed to execute a single aspect of the functionality.
What are soft skills in coding?
Some of the soft skills needed in coding are empathy, approachability, patience, and open-mindedness.
Writing and reading code may look easy if you know what you are doing, but you are probably not the only one working on the code. If you work in a team, it is a good idea to define best practices, and guidelines, so that it is easier for the other team members to read, edit, review and maintain the code. Following best practices will also help you be a better programmer overall. The main points to always keep in mind while writing code are consistency, simplicity, and readability.