I finally got to the end of Code Complete by Steve McConnell. I started reading it over a year ago. It’s a very big book!
Now you either already own this book or you are wondering whether to buy it. There are two purposes for this book:
1. Read it
2. Reference it
The first option, which I took, is very expensive. It’s not a book that you can skim read and properly understand. It needs to be read slowly. I estimate about 40-50 hours to read it all the way through. The price of the book itself is nothing compared to the cost of reading it.
But it contains tons of great advice on better software development. Steve’s writing style is very strong. It is a serious book, but is also lightly peppered with just enough humour and wit to make it an enjoyable read. You can get good value for money out of this book.
The book has seven sections which are:
Laying the Foundation
Creating High-Quality Code
If you plan to read it, I recommend planning a schedule of one chapter per week. This way, you can have it completely read in 35 weeks. Each chapter will take you somewhere between 30 mins and 2 hours.
I especially recommend reading this book if you are an undergraduate – you will get the most benefit out of this book and it will help you become a much better developer. The more senior you are, the more content there will be that seems obvious, but everyone will find plenty of food for thought in this.
The other option is to buy it as a reference. The book is designed so that it can easily be used for this. I strongly recommend any and every software house has at least one copy of this book available. It can be used as part of code reviews as an independent source of advice, and steer the development team in the right directions.
Taking advantage of just one or two pieces of advice on writing more maintainable code will pay back much more than the cost of it.
Code Complete 2nd edition is 11 years old now, but on the whole it has aged remarkably well. Many of the concepts still feel fresh and modern, and most of the advice is timeless. There will probably never be a 3rd edition, so don’t wait for it.
I’ve just ordered a copy of McConnell’s rapid development book. Should keep me extra busy until at least Christmas!