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Programming on Purpose: Essays on Software Design
by P. J. Plauger
Prentice Hall PTR/Sun Microsystems Press
Sales Rank: 133,374 - Avg. Rating: 5 (out of 5)
Released: 05 November, 1997 - ISBN: 0137213743
Our Price: $24.80

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Rating: 5 (out of 5)
Summary: Simple, powerful ideas
Comment: Few books I review get 5 stars. This is one of them. Programming on Purpose is a collection of essays originally written for Computer Language magazine. Although the original publication of this collection was in 1993, the materials in the book date back considerably further. Are Plauger's observations and nuggets of advice still relevant? Absolutely.

When you read modern classics like Design Patterns (Gamma, et. al.) you might mistakenly think that such works are revolutionary instead of evolutionary. Going back and reviewing books like this should correct any such misconception. Here's an example:

In his discussion "order out of chaos", Plauger writes "When you encounter a situation where data is presented in chaotic order, but must be processed in some definable order, you have a sorting problem. Forget about data structures or structured programming for the time being. Instead, cast the problem in a form that can be handled by known sorting technology, then apply it."

In short, Plauger urges you to "see the patterns" in the problem. If books that purport to teach design patterns were so pragmatic and clear they might be more successful! Plauger has many such clear, lucid thoughts, elegantly expressed. Here's another:

"My major concern here is the Principle of One Right Place--there should be One Right Place to look for any nontrivial piece of code, and One Right Place to make a likely maintenance change." Of course. Good OO design, indeed any good system design, should support this notion. Yet, how many systems and their designers do not?

UML design tools and other wizard-like code generators may produce the superstructure of our programs (under our design and direction, of course), but what goes between those curly braces often, if not always, dictates the final quality of our work. Plauger provides powerful insight into our craft that shouldn't be missed by anyone who codes for quality.

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