If you are a newbie to programming, you may have received so much advice that you do not know where to start. Career programmers have things they want you to know, and there are many things universities don’t teach which will make your work easier. Even if you think you know almost every programming trick, you will find there are more. Many beginners have a fundamental understanding of how programming works, and they have written a variety of codes of varying complexity. Any huge project you take part in as a beginner prepares you for a bigger one in future, and for a successful career in software development. New programmers will find this article useful since it has a lot of invaluable advice.
Read enough code
Look for the code that excellent programmers have written. Do not settle on code from good programmers, get the best. This is easy to do since there are many open sources today. If you are learning Java, you can access Cruise Control from Continuous Integration (CI) server or Tomcat project. It may be tempting to start from main (), but you may end up spending too much time reading command-line parsing and set-up code. It is preferable to scan file names, and look for any activity that interests you, and read such files. Do not attempt to wear yourself out by trying to understand the entire project, and ins and outs of the design. Go through the comments from various readers and authors, and you will learn how they did it. Other than reading code, practice it. Freelancer.com is an awesome platform to earn yourself a living, while making sure you spend your time on projects you enjoy. Browse through the numerous programming projects already posted to learn more.
Understand your tools well
Most of the programmers lose a lot of programing time since they do not understand programming tools well. You will not lose too much time in writing, rewriting, and debugging code if you know how to use the programming tools properly. The most important ones are the build system, language, IDE, and VCS. After practicing for a few weeks, you should understand all keystrokes in Integrated Development Environment (IDE), so that you only use the mouse when you are sure that you will save many keystrokes. Once you know the keystrokes, you automatically know the commands. If you find yourself knowing the mouse only, then you only know the menus which you click on to save one or two entries. It is pure discipline to know Integrated Development Environment (IDE). In order to know large programming languages such as C++ and Java, you need high discipline. They are huge languages, and their libraries are also massive. The best way to approach them is by reading. Read various codes that have features which are unfamiliar to you, and you will try your best to know them. Look for good programming books (and not blogs). Read about various programming features outside of what you know, and you will find that your knowledge base expanding. Understanding build systems and VCS make you a preferred team player, who never tends to waste time as a result of ignoring critical operations.
Before you write your code, plan it well
This is one of the most challenging items a beginner has to know - but it is the most beneficial. Do not think about it as formal design, since that may be a hard task for a newbie. The best approach is to use a mind map. The mind map has details such as the requirements of the code, how to implement the code, how to learn what you don’t know, the objects to create, and how to write the code. After you have figured out how to proceed, waste no more time, but get writing. It will be easy to write it, document, and get it right. Save the notes you have used to write a functional code so you can use them for future reference.
Know command line tools
As a developer, you will spend a lot of time working with code editor or IDE. Be that as it may, it is imperative to spend some time learning how command line can make your work easier. You will find yourself on a machine, and you need to do a lot of things, yet the tools are very few. Understand every detail of various command tools such as diff, sed, awk, vi/vim, comm, and find. The programmer who began using Microsoft tools before moving on to Linux said that learning the ins and outs of the command line is a useful utility that a beginner cannot ignore. If you understand the basic command tools, you will find it easy to recall the code you wrote several decades back.
Make use of the debugger
There is no single programmer who does not make mistakes during coding. This is the norm, and you should not worry about it. As you code, you will spend majority of your time looking for bugs. According to Dave Varon who is a bioinformatics developer based at Novartis, a debugger can overshadow the initial costs of your coding time. Dave urged the IT World to learn how to use the debugger. Take some time to configure your debugger. If you write code and you do not receive the results you anticipate, debug it. Set breakpoints and step through your code, and this will save you days of frustration. If you understand debugging, you will have moved a step further in learning various programming tricks that you may not have known.
Know how to write tests
The best programmers insist you need to know how to do unit testing, since it is a crucial step on your way to become a top-notch programmer. Unit testing simply means writing tests that prove your small units of code are correct, and are working as they should. According to Richard Handloff who is based in Strategic Power Systems Inc., learning how to write unit tests early in your programming career is the best way to be a high-class programmer.
Use others to plan well
The conventional thought from many people is that programmers work in a solitary state. Ben Miller from Sinclair Digital Ventures insisted that working as a team is a critical virtue to develop if you need to succeed in your career. Any big project means that several small parts come together, fit together, and divide the problem. This can lead to many engineering challenges if one is not careful. Before you optimize a single algorithm, work with the rest of the team to ensure you are not duplicating duties. This makes coding easy, and each person enjoys it. Coding requires unity of purpose. Do not think no one can improve a certain masterpiece you have written. Your colleagues in the programming class have some questions that only you can answer, and vice versa. Develop a good rapport with your colleagues. Do not get stuck doing something that your colleague can help you with.
Learn the underlying systems
If you need to know more about software development, learning programming languages is vital. Also, it is important for developers to know what is going on below the stacks. A lot of languages abstract developers from what happens at the system level, and this is important since developers focus on their work more. However, if you are a newbie and you hit a snag in your work, you need a deep understanding of what is happening under the hood as you seek to debug your code. Do not just learn programming, understand how networking is done, file systems, and how computers function.
Do not be afraid to code even if you are a beginner. If you have ventured into the software development world, you should try to understand the intricate details of programming. Some things will never come automatically, and you have to go to class. You will develop other tricks as you scale the ladder of programming.
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