How The Pragmatic Programmer changed my life

April 24, 2008

Okay, that may be an overly dramatic blog post title. Then again, everything you do change your life in some respect, doesn’t it? Whatever…

I’ve found myself reading a lot lately. I finished the really inspiring book The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas a few weeks ago and it has changed some of my development and computer behaviours. They recommend learning a shell (command-line tool) in your respective operating system and also learning a good text editor such as Emacs or Vi, recommendations that I took to heart. The reasons: a promise of more efficiency and flexibility.

I vowed to stop using graphic tools such as Windows Explorer and Finder until I knew the shells in Windows and OS X well enough to never having to use Explorer and Finder again. I never really liked Finder anyway…

So now I’m doing as much as I can in Windows PowerShell and the OS X Terminal as possible to see if it really improves my efficiency and gives me more flexibility. I’ve already started creating deploy scripts to avoid the repetitive task associated with building, copying and zipping different versions of the files needed, and that’s a relief.

The command line is still really frustrating at times, and you have to remember a lot of names and arguments, but I hope it’s for a good thing in the long run.

My Emacs experience so far has been pretty good. Once you get going with it it makes a lot of sense, but it’s a little bit frustrating having to stop to think about what keyboard shortcut you’re supposed to use next. I guess it’ll become second nature after a while and I really like it thus far. Heck, I’ve even written this blog post in Emacs.

Even though this is not meant as a book review, I’d like to say that it was really inspiring even though the chasm between the abstract parts and the concrete tips (like the two above) is a bit too wide at times. And I’d also like to point out that the book is about the entire programming profession, not just command-line tools and text editors.

I’m currently reading Code Complete by Steve McConnell. Maybe that’ll change my life too.

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