Tips and Tricks
- Start early -
Even the best programmers need to debug. Being a good
programmer does not mean that you can write flawless code the
first time through, it means that you can efficiently and
completely solve any problems you encounter. Unfortunately,
this process takes time. There is no substitute for starting
early so that you have plenty of time to address problems as
they come up. Start designing your programs as soon as they are
assigned. Don't wait until the night before the due date to
start writing the code. Give yourself plenty of time to ask
questions of your peers, the TA, and me!
- One function at a time -
As your programs get
larger, it is very important that you write and debug them a
small piece at a time. For example, write one function ,
compile it, and test it. In order to test it, you may have to
write some special code that calls the function and checks to
see that the function has performed the correct activity and
returns the correct result. Make sure it works completely
before you start writing the next function.
- Look it up -
If you come across something that
you don't know how to do, look it up. Your book is the first
place you can look. It can provide you with lots of examples
which help you to understand what the syntax should look like
for a particular statement. There are also lots of great
resources online. I've included a few links below. Finally,
the library also has lots of resources, such as C++ reference
books. One of your goals for this class should be to improve
your ability to find, understand, and use new information.
- Be the program -
If you cannot figure out why a
particular piece of your program is not working, trace through
it step by step, acting as the computer would. Make sure you
understand what every statement does, and how each statement
changes the state of the program. Make sure you evaluate every
expression and execute every statement.
- Practice good design -
As you improve your
programming skills, you should focus on developing good designs
for your programs. Think carefully about how to break your
problem down into subproblems that can be more easily solved.
Also, think about how each piece of your program may be reused
for other kinds of programs. Finally, think carefully about how
the pieces of your program will interact.
- Write good test cases -
Before you submit a
program, you should test it against every possible set of
inputs. This requires you to think very carefully about what
inputs might be. Try lots of different examples. Once you
finish your program, pretend your new goal is to break it. You
are not done with your program until it works for every input.
- Take a break -
If you find yourself getting too
frustrated, take a break. Get up and walk around, get something
to eat or drink, or exercise. Sometimes a fresh perspective can
help you see your program in a completely different way.
- A few sources of help -
- skip the middle