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Pimp your code

Aug 13, 2018 | 2 minutes read
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Joining a new software development team typically means new coding guidelines and rules. If you are lucky and no guidelines are in place, it is your obligation to take care and define them. To my opinion, coding guidelines make sense and are important for the product quality. They deliver a good foundation for collaborative developments and easy maintenance. I am not talking about a 50 pager, where everything is defined - no - only the most important things should be part of the guideline, for example:

  • Indentation
  • Placement of braces
  • Important naming conventions (depending on the programming language)
  • Namespaces
  • Source code documentation
  • Header for each file (e.g. licensing)

Make sure that the team agrees on those items, and write them down, either on the team’s wiki or directly as a text file in the code repository. This also makes it easy for new hires to start quickly and get comfortable with the new environment.

A tool which comes in pretty handy is Artistic Style (astyle). Artistic Style is a source code indenter, formatter, and beautifier for the C, C++, C++/CLI, Objective‑C, C# and Java programming languages. It is available for different platforms (e.g. Windows, Linux, MacOS) and can also be easily integrated into your favorite development IDE.

Astyle accepts command line parameters which control the behaviour of the cod formatting engine. An elaborate documentation can be found here . For Linux and MacOS-based systems, you can create a .astylerc file in your home directory which is taken in case of no command line parameters (pretty handy!).

To make sure that your code is always checked in according to the defined rules, you can also define a pre-checkin hook in your source control management tool. Your colleagues will thank you, and the repository always is inline with the team’s coding guidelines.

My experiences have shown, that a defined set of foundational rules helps the whole team by making the code more readable and maintainable. Using a tool such as Artistic Style tool is pretty handy and helps to keep the code clean.