The Productive Programmer (Theory in Practice (O'Reilly)) 1st Edition, Kindle Edition
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While I don't like giving negative reviews, I figured it would be useful to other potential readers to give a no-fluff review of the book -- here we go:
This book is a decent book for new programmers. If you're fresh out of college, and have never before done any sort of real programming work, you'd likely find this book a quick and review-ish read. Most of the content of this book is extremely obvious stuff, I could summarize most of the book by stating the following points:
- Optimize your computer to get work done (use hotkeys, learn your editor well).
- Automate boring stuff that wastes times (running Excel reports, etc.).
- Focus on what you're working on and try to maintain flow.
The above three points are discussed and primarily talked about in the first 1/2 of the book. The rest of the book is dedicated to well known programming principles which I won't get into here -- suffice to say, if you're a programmer, you've likely already heard of and used them.
For any experienced developer, this book feels... Like a recipe. It comes off (to me) as being a well planned book with good intentions, but that (unfortunately) ends up covering a seemingly small array of things and only lightly touching on each subject. While other great books like The Pragmatic Programmer spend a lot of time covering productivity principles in great detail, this book seems to skimp on the content and focus on brevity in less less interesting topics.
While I really wanted to love this book (I'm a junkie when it comes to programming productivity stuff), I simply can't recommend this book to anyone but new developers looking for a quick read.
Most of the book covers the mechanics of programming, the first part, describing tools can help, and how to use them. The writing style is technical and informative, but light and often philosophical. It has well placed and sometimes whimsical anecdotes and historical background.
The author provides really solid, common sense advice, examples and tips on things as diverse as encapsulation (do *you* automatically defeat it?), EJB's and JSF (complexity management), and testing (TDD, polyglot programming).
While the book is relatively "thin" by today's standards, there are no wasted pages -- and no unnecessary fluff. Every page is full useful information and examples, and Mr. Ford never loses sight of the bigger picture.
While some, including this reviewer, would point out the flaws in YAGNI (You Ain't Gonna Need It), Bertrand Meyer has done a much more complete and instructive example in his book on Agile.
Some of the tips of the book are restating the lessons of The Pragmatic Programmer; while the importance of that book cannot be understated, Ford goes one step further to explicitly spell out the good coding practices by recommending (usually open-source) tools to help your endeavors, including version control, code coverage tools, multiple clipboards, macros, emphasis on keyboard over mouse, and distraction reducers/eliminators, just to name a few. You might want to be by a computer when you read this books, as Ford supplies web links that are definitely worth checking out. Because the emphasis of the book is on modern languages, Ford also discusses some of the peculiarities that arise when using object-oriented programming as well as suggestions on how to prevent getting bogged down in overhead, making your code easier to read, and so on.
I definitely recommend this book. After finishing the book and test-driving some of Ford's recommendations, I can say that I've been a more productive programmer, even though I don't really code in Java or Ruby. I do wish there were a bit more discussion in terms of C/C++ or other older languages and scientific (number cruncher) applications, but nevertheless I did learn a great deal of helpful hints from this book.
One refreshing aspect of the book is that, although Ford refers to practicing several tenets of agile development, the writing is not doctrinaire.
I'd strongly recommend this book for anyone who writes code for a living.
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