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The Art of Coding: 6 Practices the Best Software Developers Use

Summary: The best software developers exercise certain practices when coding. Here are our picks of the top 6 best practices that take software developers from good to great.

Programming languages have been around for quite some time. When the first recognizable computer was created in the 1940s, programmers wrote hand tuned language programs; however, it was quickly realized that this approach to programming took quite a bit of effort and intellect. The 1950s saw the design of the first programming languages. Over the next 40 years, many languages were developed for software developers including: FORTRAN, COBOL, SQL, Ada, Eiffel, Wolfram Language, and C++.

The Internet Age of the 1990s brought the next historic period of history in regards to programming languages. During this era, programmers saw a rapid spread of functional languages, “rapid application development” languages, and scripting languages. After years of optimization and implementation, scripting languages grew to be the most prominent languages used on the World Wide Web. During this time, and over the last 20 years, Haskell, Java, Ruby Rails, and PHP grew in popularity and laid the foundation for the coding languages software developers use today.

In this day and age, programming languages are continuing the evolve and the most notable languages of the 21st century include C#, Java, CSS, and Swift. Software developers are working to make all development languages open source and increase functional programming support in mainstream coding languages.

Every software developer has a preference when it comes to the programming language they use. Regardless of if a developer is using CSS, C#, Java, Ruby Rails, or PHP – coding is an art. Like other arts, coding requires certain practices to ensure that the finished product is as perfect as possible. There are certain practices the best software developers use when coding. We’ve outlined six practices to follow and ensure coding is the best it can be in both form and function.

6 Practices the Best Software Developers Use

1. Keep Indentation Consistent

It is very important to pick an indentation style and stick with it throughout programming. There are multiple established approaches to indentation style, but the style a software developer chooses is not what matters. What truly matters is that the indentation style chosen is consistent.

Consistent indentation practices produce coding that is easier to navigate through and allows developers to quickly address issues. If a software developer contributes to a project that has already established an indentation style, the best practice is to continue following that style.


2. Clear Commenting & Documentation

Thankfully, in the last 5 years, Integrated Development Environments have improved greatly. IDEs make it extremely easy to comment in the coding a software developer is creating. Comments help other software developers clarify what functions are meant to do within the coding which is extremely helpful in open source coding efforts or group efforts to develop software. There are many IDE options out there for software developers to choose from and there are also many tools used for commenting.

While commenting can be helpful in coding, it is important to avoid obvious comments that could risk unnecessarily cluttering the backend of hte software.


3. Avoid Deep Nesting Techniques

Nesting code through tabbing can help to organize lines of coding, but deep nesting often makes code harder to read instead of easier. Deep nesting is the practice of using multiple tabs to organize lines of coding, but is often more confusing than clarifying. By reducing the amount of tabs in coding, software developers improve readability. This, in turn, allows coders to easily access and navigate code in a situation where an error needs to be fixed or a change needs to be made.


4. Limit Line Length

Like consistent indentation and avoidance of deep nesting, limiting the line length of coding can greatly improve readability. A great example of properly execute line length limitations can be found in newspapers. The human eye can more easily read tall, narrow columns of text instead of long, horizontal lines. A good practice is to apply this same methodology to coding, so the programming language is easy to read.


5. Organize Folders & Files

If a software developer wanted to, they could write an entire program in one folder; however, it would be a nightmare to navigate and keep up. The best practice is to use a framework or create a system based off of an existing folder and file structure. With an organized set of folders and files, maintenance and management of a software developer’s program will be much easier. An organized folder and file system will also be beneficial to other software developers who may join the project.


6. Complete Code Refactoring

“Refactoring” is a technological term for “cleaning up” and every software developer should practice refactoring code. The main goal of refactoring is not to fix bugs or add functionality. Instead, refactoring improves the readability, cleanliness, and quality of the recently developed code. The best time to refactor code is the day after it’s been written. This way the coding is still fresh and familiar to the software developer. After refactoring, it will be much more readable and reusable months later. A common saying in the world of software developers is “refactor early, refactor often”.

More often than not, software development is a group effort and it is important to implement the best coding practices for overall success. These six coding practices are a great place to start for software developers looking to improve their code quality. No matter what program language a software developer decides to use, these practices will improve the quality of the coding.

By following the practices outlined above, the completed programming will be easy to navigate, change, and understand. This, in the end, will ensure success for the program functionalities and the team involved in maintaining and debugging the code days, weeks, months, and years into the future.

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