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CGI Programming with Perl


16.2. Coding Guidelines

Programmers inevitably develop their own style for writing code. This is fine so long as the developer works alone. However, when multiple developers each attempt to impose their own style on a project, it will inevitably lead to problems. Code that does not follow one consistent style is much more difficult to read and maintain than uniform code. Thus, if you have more than one developer working on the same project, you should agree on a common style for writing code. Even if you are working alone, it is a good idea to look at common standards so that your style does not become so different that you have problems adapting when you do work with others.

Here are some topics that a style guide should cover, along with suggestions. These suggestions follow the syntax that was used throughout this book, largely based upon the style suggested in the perlstyle manpage:

  • Flags and pragmas . This covers the first couple of lines of your code:

    #!/usr/bin/perl -wT use strict;

    You may want to require taint mode on all your scripts or allow certain exceptions. You may want to enable warnings by default for all of your scripts too. It is certainly a good idea to require that all scripts use strict and minimize the use of global variables.

  • Capitalization . This includes the capitalization of variables (both local and global), the capitalization of subroutines, the capitalization of modules, and the capitalization of filenames. The most common convention in Perl is to use lowercase for local variables, subroutines, and filenames; words should be separated by an underscore. Global variables should be capitalized to make them apparent. Module names typically use mixed case without underscores. Note that this convention is quite different from the mixed case conventions of other languages like JavaScript or Java.

  • Indentation . This should specify whether to use tabs or spaces. Most editors have the option to automatically expand tabs to a fixed number of spaces. If spaces are used, it should also indicate how many spaces are used for a typical indentation. Three or four spaces are common conventions.

  • Bracket placement . When creating the body of a subroutine, loops, or conditionals, the opening brace can go at the end of the statement preceding it or on the following line. For example, you can declare a subroutine this way:

    sub sum {     return $_[0] + $_[1]; }

    Or you could declare it this way:

    sub sum {     return $_[0] + $_[1]; }

    This very trivial distinction somehow manges to generate serious discord among some developers. The latter is familiar to programmers who have written a lot of C, while the former is more common in Perl.

  • Documentation . You don't need to decide whether to document your code or not; obviously you should. However, you may want to decide certain standards for it. Remember that there are different levels of documentation. Documentation can include comments within your code adding explanation to sections of code. Documentation can also include an overview of the purpose of a file and how it fits into the larger project. Finally, a project itself may have goals and details that don't fit within particular files but must be captured at a more general level.

    You should decide how you will capture each of these levels in your documentation. For example, will all of your files use Perl's pod format to capture an overview of their purpose? Or will you use standard comments or capture documentation elsewhere? If so, what about your shared modules? If developers must interface with these modules in the future, pod is a convenient way for them to find the information they need to do so.

    You also may wish to create standard templates for comments that appear at the beginning of a file and at the beginning of each subroutine. We have omitted large blocks of comments in this book because we review each section of code afterwards. However, most production code should include details such as who wrote the code, when they wrote it, why they wrote it, what it does, etc. A revision control system that captures some of these details can help immensely.

  • Grammar . This defines the rules for choosing names of variables, subroutine calls, and modules. You may wish to decide whether to keep variable and subroutine names long or allow abbreviation. You may also want to make rules about whether to use plural terms for naming data structures that contain multiple elements. For example, if you pull data from a database, do you store the list in an array named @rec or @record or @records? Long names and plural names for compound data are probably more common. Similarly, the names of subroutines are typically actions while the names of modules (which are also class names for object-oriented modules) are typically nouns.

  • Whitespace . One thing that can certainly contribute to making code easier to read and thus maintain is an effective use of whitespace. Separate items in lists with spaces, including parameters passed to functions. Include spaces around operators, including parentheses. Line up similar commands on adjacent lines if it helps make the code clearer. One the other hand, one shouldn't go overboard. Code with lots of formatting is easier to read but you still want it to be easy to change too, without the maintainer needing to worry too much about reformatting lines.

  • Tools. You may wish to standardize on tools such as modules for development. It helps if everyone agrees on one particular method of generating output, such as CGI.pm, an HTML template module, etc.

  • Additions. This list is by no means exhaustive, so keep your style guide dynamic. If issues come up that are not covered by the style guide, work out a solution and then update the guide.

Don't forget to document other general development and architectural guidelines too, such as those we have discussed earlier in this chapter and throughout the book. However, keep in mind the goal is to be organized, not bureaucratic. You should not be heavy handed about guidelines. It is not possible, nor desirable, to make everyone's code look the same. The goal is simply to allow developers to work with each other's code without difficulty. Also, style decisions should be determined by discussion and consensus, not dictated. Keep it fun.


16. Guidelines for Better CGI Applications17. Efficiency and Optimization


Copyright © 2001 O'Reilly & Associates. All rights reserved.



CGI Programming with Perl
CGI Programming with Perl
ISBN: 1565924193
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 1999
Pages: 120

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