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221 of 231 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2000
I bought this on a friend's recommendation, but expected yet another book rehashing the same standard rules: write comments, don't duplicate code, have plans for your projects, eat your vegetables.
Hunt and Thomas vastly exceeded my expectations. This book is never dry, often humorous, and always educational. They don't always say what you expect them to say (e.g., about commenting code), and I didn't always agree with them, but every sentence is full of thoughtful analysis.
One of the best features is their incredibly practical advice -- while yes, this book does teach philosophy and encourages thought, it also provides many immediately-implementable suggestions.
If you aren't a programmer with 10 years experience, buy it anyway -- it is not just for experienced programmers. While you will absorb less of the book, there is still enough to learn, and it's a great book to keep and re-read.
The book includes a pull-out card of the pithy sayings the authors use to sum up each section. Perhaps my mind just doesn't work the way theirs does, but I didn't find their summations to be helpful all the time -- I found myself frequently having to flip back to the section to remember what a particular phrase meant. But it's still useful.
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67 of 70 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2000
This is, simply, a wonderful book. It is a book that celebrates the real depth of great programming -- something that is too often forgotten or ignored. This is not an idiot's guide to anything -- it is a remarkably entertaining set of dozens of tips to becoming better at what you do, especially if that happens to be programming.
The tips are deceptively simple at times, but only a truly naive or inexperienced reader would miss the rich depth that their combination presents. In fact, that is the real beauty of this book -- it does not present some short-lived miracle-cure approach -- instead, it weaves together small bits of wisdom and practical advice into a powerful work-style.
They have some controversial views -- these authors are witty and opinionated -- but agreeing or disagreeing with each individual idea is not the point -- "seeing the forest" is.
There are numerous specific code examples, but the book is a fun and easy read -- strangely, I also think it would be a wonderful book for someone who is NOT a programmer, but who works with them, perhaps a business manager having a major system built. Even skipping all the really technical parts, it would be a wonderful set of benchmarks to assess how good your programmers really are -- much more powerful than "he has 3 years of C++, 2 years of Linux"...
I am hoping this writing team will follow this book with some specific guides as well, but this one is destined to be a classic. These guys really know what they are talking about, and, as a wonderful bonus, they are terrific writers, as well!
The book has gotten great reviews on slashdot, as well as a couple of programming magazines, including Dr Dobbs and Software Development -- they were well deserved. Buy IT!
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2000
...and what's the difference? I've often felt that the difference was attitude. Programmers (or "professionals" if you prefer) were continually thinking about what they did, why they did it and how they could do it better. And I don't just mean searching for a new language ("maybe I should learn Java this week?").The rest of us are just tooling around doing the best we can and wondering why it sometimes doesn't work.
"The Pragmatic Programmer" is clearly written by and for professional programmers. Reading it with attention will force you to think deeply about the way you develop software. If your first response is "but this isn't pragmatic" or "I don't have time to do these things" then I encourage you to think again. Perhaps the barrier is change itself. Sure, applying the practices in this book may slow you down in the short term (you always go slower when you're learning a new skill) but the benefits to establishing these practices as habits are enormous.
We are working through this book as part of a weekly study group at our office. This seems to be a great way to investigate things you're uncomfortable. And I don't agree with every practice in this book, but please think about them as deeply as you can before you reject them!
Whenever I interview someone I ask them what book has most influenced the way they develop software. If they answer "The Pragmatic Programmer" (or "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance") then they have the job!
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
As a programmer, I like to think of myself as pragmatic. Programming is the most precise discipline there is and justifies the cynical joke, "How many character changes does it take to turn `success' into `failure'? Answer: Only one if you are a programmer." However, pragmatic is a very subjective word, so the obvious question that any reader interested in this book would ask is, "So what criteria do the authors use to define a pragmatic programmer?"
In listing the criteria and explaining their reasoning, the authors show their depth of understanding of what is both right and wrong with the current state of the development art. Every keystroke or mouse click that we perform has a consequence, not only today, but in the future. When performing them, we should always be looking ahead to the future, whether that be thinking about how the code will be maintained, how the users will respond to what they find or how your current skill set is expanding or contracting. This eye on the future is the primary theme of the book.
The tips are kept simple, which is effective and is consistent with the secondary theme of the book. Complex systems are what we build, but in totality we cannot comprehend them. Only by breaking a project down into manageable parts can we hope to interact with it in an effective manner. Furthermore, the inertia against changes is much less severe when they are small and simple. Whether it be Ockham's razor, Einstein's statement about the simplicity of theories or simply reciting the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) mantra, reducing complexity is effective.
Some very good analogies are used to explain the principles, with my favorite being the broken window tale. The basic story is simple, abandoned buildings or automobiles on the street remain untouched until a window is broken. Left unrepaired, this sends a message that the object is fair game so within a very short time, vandals destroy the rest. The same thing happens in software development. Once a subpar feature is passed as acceptable, the signal to everyone is clear, and the quality of the remaining work suffers.
Granted, most of us in development are severely time challenged and have little to spare to either read or perform code clean ups. However, this is a book where the interest paid over the short and long term will dominate the initial investment. Applying even a few of these principles will help reduce the load in the future as you begin spending less time in all phases of the software cycle. It takes approximately a one percent increase in efficiency to save a half hour a week. This is a book that should be read by all programmers, especially those who wish to control their own destiny.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on November 2, 1999
Someone said to me today:
"Humans have been humans for a long time now, but we don't seem to be getting any better at it."
The statement struck me because it is clear, concise, and absolutely true; So is this book. What's more, this book tells you how to be a better human.
The Pragmatic Programmer explains, step by step, how to master the craft of programming. It describes tricks, techniques, but more importantly *attitudes* that most people learn the hard way over several decades- if at all. What's more, it lays it all out in a neat, approachable, and immediately applicable way that is independent of specific technologies and languages.
I've been looking for many years for a book like this to give students. Now I've got it. It'll go on my shelf next to "The Mythical Man Month" and will probably be popular and applicable for just as long.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 15, 2004
A friend of mine recommended this book to me a year ago and I finally got around to reading it. Not only do I wish I had taken him up on his recommendation immediately, I wish that I had read it years earlier. The book's subtitle "from journeyman to master" really sums it up nicely.
The book contains practical advice from experienced programmers that will help you become a more effective software developer. Unlike many books which dogmatically preach a specific methodology, this book focuses on (not-so-)common sense practices that are simple yet effective, as well as highlighting potential pitfalls to be avoided. Many of them can be applied to your own development process without requiring radical changes, while others will require team- or project-wide changes. Fortunately the nature of the recommended practices is such that you don't have to adopt all of them to be effective. You can pick and choose which ones are most appropriate and gradually incorporate them into your development process.
The range of topics covered is fairly broad, but the important themes are writing easy-to-maintain, reusable code, identifying and adjusting requirements quickly and effectively, managing large projects, and avoiding bad habits and developing good attitudes. Although I don't absolutely agree with everything the authors present, the justification they provide is thought stimulating and will probably change how you do things even if you don't consciously decide to adopt any of their practices.
I found the exercises (and their accompanying solutions) scattered throughout the book to be extremely useful in internalizing the principles being taught, as well as gauging how well I approach problem-solving. I'd highly recommend working through them as you read the book.
Finally, it's worth mentioning how enjoyable this book is to read. The authors' sense of humor and sprinkling of anecdotes make this an easy read without in any way detracting from the content.
If you're a brand new programmer, you probably won't appreciate many of the ideas presented in this book, but come back after you have a year or two of experience. Successful, experienced programmers will find that this book confirms many of the things you're already doing, while providing a lot of useful ideas to become even better. Even if you're not a programmer, but manage or otherwise work with programming teams, you'll find a lot of helpful information here. If there were one book I could require all of my coworkers to read, this would be it.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 1999
First, I should tell you that I did review this book... I got to read it and write a document about my opinion of the book, and it is excellent. There are many books on the market that push one technology or philosophy... this book has a collection of honed practices. It contains sections on your programming tools, code design, project management (among other topics). In short, it is a book that talks about how to become better at what you do for a living. This advice is coupled with excellent examples and stories that make for interesting and memorable reading.
I can't emphasize this point enough. This book isn't a collection of stories that support the author's methodology or design technique. It isn't a book designed to sell his software tools. It is a book that will teach you to work more effectively. It talks about practical tips for prototyping projects (different ways to prototype, which is appropriate when, how to justify the time and expense to your manager), how to deal with and communicate effectively with customers, co-workers and managers.... if it sounds like The Pragmatic Programmer covers a lot of topics, that's because it does.
If you work with software or manage people who do, you owe it to yourself to read this book! I've been writing code (and reading these types of books) for nearly 10 years, and this is the best one I've ever read.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 1999
This book is decades overdue. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned programmer, it's not too late to learn effective and efficient ways to design and code industrial strength applications. In today's competitive software environment, one cannot risk working without the techniques presented by the "Pragmatic Programmers."
Andrew Hunt and David Thomas definitely know what they are talking about. Each chapter emphasizes new ways to improve and strengthen your current skills. If programming is your intended profession, don't waste another day doing things the wrong way. Start with the right frameset and place yourself among the "Pragmatic Programmers."
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2001
When I first came across this book, I'd been a professional programmer for four years. In that time I adopted certain habits, styles of coding, that just seemed to make sense. But this book brought those techniques into sharp, formal relief. It showed me why they were right, and, in some cases, why I hadn't taken them far enough.
After reading this book I understood my craft better. I learned to think not just about the work itself, but the assumptions I had made in diving in to it. I learned to think about and improve my approaches to the work. I was able help the team breath more quality into our software.
It's a year later, and I've purchased a copy of this book for each member in my development team, paid for from our training budget. I was desparate for them to understand the idea of 'writing shy code' (a.k.a. separation of concerns), and of fixing 'broken windows' (don't let defects go! fix them before they accumulate) among other practices of experienced programmers.
This book delivers a powerful dose of common sense for anyone who creates and successfully delivers software for a living. As a bonus, you get a pull-out sheet of the authors' tips and tricks. You won't regret adding this book to your library.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 1999
Take it from a programmer of ten years: The book was fabulous! It provides a philosophy about programming - something they don't teach you in college! The concepts extend to many different facets of information technology. All of the developers in my group are getting copies!
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