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/********************************************************************** class: GigaTron (GIGATRON.CPP)
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author: Dwight K. Coder date: July 4, 2014
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Routines to control the twenty-first century's code evaluation tool. The entry point to these routines is the EvaluateCode() routine at the bottom of this file. **********************************************************************/
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Here s a particularly hard style to maintain:
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' ' set up Color enumerated type +--------------------------+ ... ' ' set up Vegetable enumerated type +------------------------------+ ...
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It s hard to know what value the plus sign at the beginning and end of each dashed line adds to the comment, but easy to guess that every time a comment changes, the underline has to be adjusted so that the ending plus sign is in precisely the right place. And what do you do when a comment spills over into two lines How do you align the plus signs Take words out of the comment so
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32. Self-Documenting Code
Page 15
that it takes up only one line Make both lines the same length The problems with this approach multiply when you try to apply it consistently. A common guideline for Java and C++ that arises from a similar motivation is to use // syntax for single-line comments and /* ... */ syntax for longer comments, as shown here:
Java Example of Using Different Comment Syntaxes for Different Purposes
// This is a short comment ... /* This is a much longer comment. Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. */
The first comment is easy to maintain as long as it is kept short. For longer comments, the task of creating long columns of double slashes, manually breaking lines of text between rows, and similar activities is not very rewarding, and so the /* ... */ syntax is more appropriate for multi-line comments. The point is that you should pay attention to how you spend your time. If you spend a lot of time entering and deleting dashes to make plus signs line up, you re not programming; you re wasting time. Find a more efficient style. In the case of the underlines with plus signs, you could choose to have just the comments without any underlining. If you need to use underlines for emphasis, find some way other than underlines with plus signs to emphasize those comments. One way would be to have a standard underline that s always the same length regardless of the length of the comment. Such a line requires no maintenance, and you can use a text-editor macro to enter it in the first place.
6 KEY POINT
5 CROSS-REFERENCE
6 details on the Pseudocode
Programming Process, see 9, "The Pseudocode 8 Programming Process."
Use the Pseudocode Programming Process to reduce commenting time If you outline the code in comments before you write it, you win in several ways. When you finish the code, the comments are done. You don t have to dedicate time to comments. You also gain all the design benefits of writing in high-level pseudocode before filling in the low-level programming-language code. Integrate commenting into your development style The alternative to integrating commenting into your development style is leaving commenting until the end of the project, and that has too many disadvantages. It
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32. Self-Documenting Code
Page 16
becomes a task in its own right, which makes it seem like more work than when it s done a little bit at a time. Commenting done later takes more time because you have to remember or figure out what the code is doing instead of just writing down what you re already thinking about. It s also less accurate because you tend to forget assumptions or subtleties in the design. The common argument against commenting as you go along is When you re concentrating on the code you shouldn t break your concentration to write comments. The appropriate response is that, if you have to concentrate so hard on writing code that commenting interrupts your thinking, you need to design in pseudocode first and then convert the pseudocode to comments. Code that requires that much concentration is a warning sign. If your design is hard to code, simplify the design before you worry about comments or code. If you use pseudocode to clarify your thoughts, coding is straightforward and the comments are automatic.
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