Developers often find themselves spending most of their time writing the perfect code. They seem to be relentlessly typing statements in their software development tools, thinking, stopping, typing again, and a few clicks later, voila! There it is, the code you just wrote. However, is writing code enough? No, it would be best if you made the process of reading code easier.
The developer’s community often says that you can only become a great coder if you are fully adept at reading code easily. However, reading code is not as simple as it sounds. It requires a lot of dedication, attention to detail, practice, and trying to get into the minds of the writer. Understanding how to read code is essential in order to be better in hands-on with the new avenues you will be undertaking in the long run as a coder.
Most coders have trouble reading code correctly!
Yes, that’s right. Even though it sounds like a regular part of their jobs, coders encounter different problems in reading code.
There might be multiple reasons why a developer faces difficulty reading code or the codebase. Sometimes, they can read code but may find it complex to understand the extremely large chunks of code and its correlation. Also, most coders cannot understand the intention and the design of the code written by someone else. They usually do not understand the nuances of the missing fragments, if any, while reading code or how it will proceed to connect the dots.
Alas, the ability to understand all these intricacies is rare in most programmers today. Coders can “read code” but most of the time they fail to comprehend it and its nuances from a larger perspective.
So, the actual problem is not that coders are not adept at reading code. The problem is that coders do not have great code reading comprehension to effectively read the code.
Programmers read codes almost every day during their careers. But the primary question here is: when was the last time you focused on reading code effectively? When was the last time you wondered how to strategize your code reading skills and follow up a great technique to read code better, faster, and in detail?
More often than not, if you are a developer, you probably are either not reading code effectively or are misreading it.
Contrary to popular belief as a developer, you will not always be busy typing code. You will be working in a team with other people where your codebase will be much larger than you would have imagined. It is extremely important to be able to navigate around code, no matter how familiar or unfamiliar the code seems. Therefore, reading code is one of the most important skills you should be learning!
Here are a few scenarios when code reading is imperative in a developer’s life.
Curiosity is the best way to start reading code the right way. When you come across different codes in your everyday life, you will automatically figure out the significance of learning codebase reading skills.
Try to analyze from the perspective “What did the writer of such code think at the time?”. Although it might take some extra time and effort to use this pattern, it will help you discern different reasons behind every single step.
And, if you are working as a part of a huge team, code reviews are the ultimate way to improve your coding skills, especially code reading skills. You just need to relax and follow your instincts. If you find a line of code that is strange-looking to you, or something that does not make sense to you, start by reading code. You can also talk to the codebase writer or the developer who is previously associated with the code where necessary and discuss the points. With this approach, you would probably get a sense of the requirements you wouldn’t have anticipated earlier. You will begin to make sense of why the code is structured the way it is!
So, when you are finally writing the code, you should be thinking about the reader of the codebase. Put yourself in the shoes of a potential reader who will be reading code later. This will force you to think better and justify every step and decision you will take.
Every single code choice will then be derived from different initial requirements, which will improve upon your ability to start working backward, reading and understanding code and all the requirements of the end product.
The best way to understand and read code written by others is by doing the following:
Find a particular thing you are sure about that the code does, and start tracing the actions back to the end. Imagine for instance that the code you are looking at is creating a small list of all kinds of movie titles. Try to figure out where exactly in the codebase is such a list/file being generated. Find out those specific lines.
So, to read code better, move a step backward from there. Figure out the way to place such information into the file. Move another step back and then figure out where the information is coming from. Keep going back to figure it all out.
Using this method is going to help you through different arenas inside reading code better. This will also give you better insight into different things like:
But doing this, more often than not, you are going to start understanding the structure and organization of a codebase. Once you start reading code the right way, you will eventually grasp hold of writing it better in the future.
Reading code and writing code go hand in hand. They are more or less two different sides of the same coin. They are forever going to be linked together, inextricably. So, focusing on just one problem, for instance, writing code better is like just coming across half the horizon in this big world. To be a better software developer, you should take both, writing and reading code hand-in-hand.
Keep repeating this process until you can naturally enhance your understanding of reading code the right way, without any external help.
The primary reason why this works so well is that the codebase is technically designed to counter different sets of complex problems. You will always have to keep going “backward,” like a chain reaction to understand what’s going on.
The better understanding you grasp of all different parts in a code, the better you will get at understanding the entire codebase in no time.
And in some years, the more you are into reading code, the easier it will be to grasp, read and understand the meaning behind every step. Gradually, reading code will come naturally to you. You will become faster and better with every passing day.
Indeed, reading code is an incredibly underrated and undervalued skill.
Any developer who faces trouble reading code or understanding other’s codes, it is terrible news in the long run, even if they can write code amazingly well. A coder that reads and then writes code the right way will prove bountiful for an organization and its career.
Anyone who has these undervalued skills of reading code well and learning their way around different nuances will need less instruction. They can easily pick up the latest trends and practices to follow them through and through.
Tell us the skills you need and we'll find the best developer for you in days, not weeks.