How to Write Clean and Maintainable Code
Writing "clean" code is essential to becoming a great software developer. It's not just about making it easier for others to understand your code, but it also ensures that your code will continue to work correctly, even if someone other than the original developer needs to modify it.
But how do you write clean and maintainable code? It's not something that can be answered in a single sentence, as there are many best practices and techniques that you can apply. In this article, we'll explore some of the most important ones that you should keep in mind to write better code.
Keep It Simple
One of the fundamental principles of writing clean code is to keep things simple. The more complex your code is, the harder it is to understand and modify.
If your code has too many nested branches and conditionals, it's a sign that you need to simplify it. You can do this by breaking it down into smaller functions or methods, each doing a single thing. This way, your code becomes easier to test, read, and maintain.
In addition, you should also avoid using overly clever code that is difficult to understand. Code should be intuitive and easy to understand, not a puzzle that needs to be solved.
Use Descriptive Names
Naming things is hard. However, the name of your variables, functions, and classes should be descriptive and make sense. This way, other developers can easily understand what they do without having to look at the code in detail.
Avoid using single-letter variables, unless they are simple counter variables like
y is not very useful, and it's better to use more descriptive names, such as
Similarly, don't use abbreviations unless they are commonly known and make sense. If your code has a variable
usrnm, others might not know what it stands for, and it's better to use
username instead, even if it's longer.
Function and method names should also be descriptive and tell what they do. For example,
calculateTotal is much more meaningful than
Keep Functions Short
Functions or methods that are too lengthy are hard to read and understand. Ideally, you should aim to keep them under 20 lines of code.
If your function is longer than that, it's a good indicator that you need to break it down into smaller ones. You can do this by identifying common patterns or sections of code that can be extracted into separate functions.
By keeping functions short and only doing one thing, they become more reusable and easier to test. Moreover, it also makes them easier to debug if something goes wrong.
Write Self-Documenting Code
The best code is self-documenting, meaning that it's easy to understand without requiring additional comments. You can achieve this by using descriptive names, as we discussed earlier.
However, there are cases where additional comments can make your code easier to understand. For example, if a piece of code is complex, and you can't use descriptive names to explain it, you should consider adding a comment to help others understand what it does.
Comments should be written in plain English and explain why the code is there rather than what it does. For example, instead of writing
//add one to the counter, write something like
//increment the customer count by one.
Use Meaningful Comments
While your code should be self-documenting, there are times when you need to use comments to explain your code. When you do, make sure that your comments are meaningful, concise, and add value to the code.
Avoid writing comments that simply repeat what the code is doing. For example, instead of writing
//for loop to iterate over elements, write
//use a for loop to check each element in the array.
Moreover, you should avoid commenting out code that you think should be removed later. It's better to use version control to keep previous versions of code, rather than cluttering your current code with unused snippets.
Write Consistent Code
Consistency is crucial in writing clean code. You should choose a coding style and stick to it throughout your codebase.
Your code should be consistent in naming conventions, indentation, and formatting. You can use tools such as linters and style guides to enforce these rules and help you identify inconsistencies.
Using consistent code across your codebase makes it easier to read and maintain. Moreover, it can also help you identify bugs and issues more quickly, as you'll always know what to expect when you look at your code.
Unit Test Your Code
Unit testing is a vital part of writing clean and maintainable code. By testing your code, you ensure that it behaves as intended and does not introduce regression bugs when you make changes later.
When you write unit tests, you should aim to do so even before you write your code. This way, you can ensure that your code behaves as intended before you even run it.
Moreover, by writing tests beforehand, you can better understand the requirements of your code and what it should do. This helps you write cleaner code that performs better, runs faster, and is easier to maintain.
Writing clean and maintainable code is essential for becoming a great software developer. The techniques and principles we discussed in this article can help you achieve this goal and write better code that is easier to read and maintain.
Remember to keep things simple, use descriptive names, keep functions short, and write self-documenting code. Additionally, write comments that add value, use a consistent coding style, and unit test your code to ensure it behaves as intended.
It may take some time to learn and apply these best practices, but with practice and perseverance, you can become a great software developer who writes clean and maintainable code.
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