Simplicity, Clarity, Generality
Kernighan and Pike
Several chapters of "The Practice of Programming by
B.W. Kernighan and R. Pike" contain rules or guidelines that
summarize a discussion and are listetd in the Appendix of
that book. Kernighan and Pike warn that the points were
collected for easy reference and
that each was presented in a context that
explains its purpose and applicability:
Each truth that I discovered became a rule that
served me afterwards in the discovery of others.
| - Rene Descartes, Le Discours de la Methode
- Use descriptive names for globals, short names for locals.
- Be consistent.
- Use active names for functions.
- Be accurate.
- Indent to show structure.
- Use the natural form for expressions.
- Parenthesize to resolve ambiguity.
- Break up complex expressions.
- Be clear.
- Be careful with side effects.
- Use a consistent indentation and brace style.
- Use idioms for consistency.
- Use else-ifs for multi-way decisions.
- Avoid function macros.
- Parenthesize the macro body and arguments.
- Give names to magic numbers.
- Define numbers as constants, not macros.
- Use character constants, not integers.
- Use the language to calculate the size of an object.
- Don't belabor the obvious.
- Comment functions and global data.
- Don't comment bad code, rewrite it.
- Don't contradict the code. Clarify, don't confuse.
- Hide implementation details.
- Choose a small orthogonal set of primitives.
- Don't reach behind the user's back.
- Do the same thing the same way everywhere.
- Free a resource in the same layer that allocated it.
- Detect errors at a low level, handle them at a high level.
- Use exceptions only for exceptional situations.
- Look for familiar patterns.
- Examine the most recent change.
- Don't make the same mistake twice.
- Debug it now, not later.
- Get a stack trace.
- Read before typing.
- Explain your code to someone else.
- Make the bug reproducible.
- Divide and conquer.
- Study the numerology of failures.
- Display output to localize your search.
- Write self-checking code.
- Write a log file.
- Draw a picture.
- Use tools.
- Keep records.
- Test code at its boundaries.
- Test pre- and post-conditions.
- Use assertions.
- Program defensively.
- Check error returns.
- Test incrementally.
- Test simple parts first.
- Know what output to expect.
- Verify conservation properties.
- Compare independent implementations.
- Measure test coverage.
- Automate regression testing.
- Create self-contained tests.
- Automate timing measurements.
- Use a profiler.
- Concentrate on the hot spots.
- Draw a picture.
- Use a better algorithm or data structure.
- Enable compiler optimizations.
- Tune the code.
- Don't optimize what doesn't matter.
- Collect common subexpressions.
- Replace expensive operations by cheap ones.
- Unroll or eliminate loops.
- Cache frequently-used values.
- Write a special-purpose allocator.
- Buffer input and output.
- Handle special cases separately.
- Precompute results.
- Use approximate values.
- Rewrite in a lower-level language.
- Save space by using the smallest possible data type.
- Don't store what you can easily recompute.
- Stick to the standard.
- Program in the mainstream.
- Beware of language trouble spots.
- Try several compilers.
- Use standard libraries.
- Use only features available everywhere.
- Avoid conditional compilation.
- Localize system dependencies in separate files.
- Hide system dependencies behind interfaces.
- Use text for data exchange.
- Use a fixed byte order for data exchange.
- Change the name if you change the specification.
- Maintain compatibility with existing programs and data.
- Don't assume ASCII.
- Don't assume English.
© 2012 The President and Fellows of Harvard College,