Keeping Code Clean & Lean

When looking for new ideas I commonly download free programs to get ideas and learn new techniques.

I am always amazed how poorly most programs are written.

Variables written such as $TheCostofMyWebsite.One of the most primary rules of programing is to keep everything in lower case. If you make a case error, you would never find it. Compare $TheCostofMyWebsite and $TheCostoFMyWebsite when they are 200 lines apart. Good luck finding that typo.

Another poor characteristic I see is using single digit variables like $a or $b. You might be saving a few cpu ticks, but when anyone is trying to read or use your program, it takes much more brain power to decipher the code.

Using clear concise names is very importnat.I hear from programers, "I know what it means and that is all that is important".

OK, you know what it is TODAY! But 2 years from now, assuming your program is of the caliber to sustain that long of a useful duration, and you go back to make adjustments. Will you still know what $a stands for?

Not likely.

I also see highly complicated methods to achive simple tasks.

Most programs can be cut into a fraction of their size with some simplification. That simplification of the primary elements will make the developmet of more complicated aspects much easier.

Sometimes its something simple like setting up a date format.

I have seen sub routines 100 lines long to set up simple date formating, when all the programer needed to do was parse the /bin/date program with one line of code.

In those cases, it's just inexperience and the absense of knowledge. Something we are all guilty of at some level.

If you plan to write sucessful code, it needs to be lean. It needs to be clean and understandable. Any other programer should be able to read your code and understand what it does.

In most cases, you wont be sharing. But you will need to keep it working.

I Have written thousands of programs and often need to update programs I have not seen for several years. By keeping all my code in the same formatting, all my naming makes sense and all the unfamiliar elements are commented for future reference.

When I pull up a program that is 10 years old, it reads just like one I wrote yesterday. I will admit my coding is much better today and the applications are more powerful, but I have followed the same basic rules I was taught by programers in the past.

I know microsoft is changing the rules, trying to trip up any UNIX potential with messy code and an O/S that mixes up cases. But if you follow the UNIX standards, they also work on windows. The inverse is not true.

In writing the CAPTCHA for Perl program I wanted a simple program that could do what more complicated programs could do in with less code. The entire program is just a few lines and is a stand alone application. Matching other programs that require up to 5 perl modules.

Keep it simple!

Don't make more out of the program than it needs to be.

I have written programs with over10,000 lines of code. When something becomes that big, nearly 300 printed pages, it is critical that you have it well organized.

It may not seem like a big deal when you are writing quick and dirty scripts to format files and run server aps. But when you get into millions of credit card transactions, a line of bad code can be devistating.

At one time a misspelled variable cost me $20,000.00 in unprocessed credit card transactions.

You cannot afford to make mistakes. Start with a good regiment now. If you grow up doing things in a sloppy manner, it may be too hard to correct your poor methods later. It will be like trying to quit smoking.

Bad habits are hard to break.