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Importance of Coding Standards

Programming Help for Beginners

We write programs to instruct computers. When programming using a high level programming language like C++ or Java, we are using a syntax that is somewhat closer to human languages. However, we use these programs as inputs to either compilers or interpreters to be converted to computer understandable binary format. For this reason, as far as the program code adheres to the syntax of the used programming languages, the compilers and interpreters never bother about the layout or visual formatting of the program code. However, as human programmers, we ourselves need to bother about the aesthetics of the program code.

What is a Coding Standard?

A coding standard is a set of guidelines, rules and regulations on how to write code. Usually a coding standard includes guide lines on how to name variables, how to indent the code, how to place parenthesis and keywords etc. The idea is to be consistent in programming so that, in case of multiple people working on the same code, it becomes easier for one to understand what others have done. Even for individual programmers, and especially for beginners, it becomes very important to adhere to a standard when writing the code. The idea is, when we look at our own code after some time, if we have followed a coding standard, it takes less time to understand or remember what we meant when we wrote some piece of code.

Coding Standards Make a Difference

Look at the following example:

int volume(int i, int j, int k) {
int vol;
vol = i * j * k;
return vol;
}

Looking at this code at a glance, it takes some time for one to understand that this function calculates the volume. However if we adhere to a naming convention for variables and method names, we could make the code more readable.

Here are few sample conventions:

  • use meaningful variable names
  • use verbs in method names
  • use nouns for variables
  • use 4 spaces to indent
  • int calculateVolume(int height, int width, int length) {
    int volume = 0;
    volume = height * width * length;
    return volume;
    }

    It takes more time to type this code, however this saves far more time. This code is far more readable than its original version. With a little bit of effort, we could make the code much more understandable.

    The Benefits

    It is not only the readability that we get through a coding standard in programming. Writing more secure code could also be encouraged through a coding convention. As an example, in C++ we could say that each pointer variable must be initialized to NULL.

    char* myName = NULL;

    This ensures that we would not corrupt memory while using this pointer variable.

    Code readability is just one of the aspects of maintainability. Coding standards help a great deal with program maintainability, our ability to change programs with ease. Consistency imposed through a coding standard is a key factor to achieve success in maintaining prorams.

    Defining Your Own Coding Standard

    A programmer can define his or her own coding convention and adhere to that in writing programms. However there are many coding conventions available on the Internet. Those who program in Java should have a look into http://java.sun.com/docs/codeconv/html/CodeConvTOC.doc.html - Code Conventions for the Java Programming Language by Sun.

    For C++ coding standards, I would recommend that you have a look into http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/webdev/AppB.Cpp_Coding_Standards.htm - C++ Coding Standards from BBC.

    http://oopweb.com/CPP/Documents/CPPHOWTO/Volume/C++Programming-HOWTO-14.html - C++ Programming HOWTO has some C++ Coding Conventions and also a bunch of links that lead to several coding standards that you can pick from.

    John Dirk
    Programming Consultant
    http://www.programminghelp4u.com/
    Programming ( Assignment / Project ) Help

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