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Use Your Resources

Posted by Zane Harnish under Development

Insights

I was tempted to title this article something to the tune of “Reinventing the Wheel”. If you didn’t notice, I decided not to. It just seemed too cliché. You’re welcome.

So earlier I wrote an article titled “The Dangers of Copy & Paste Programming”. If you haven’t read it, you should. It talks about the problems that can occur when you just copy open source code into your project without taking the time to implement it properly and revise it to make it fit your use. I also mentioned the fact that anyone who relies entirely on copy and paste will fall behind. In this article, I’d like to look at the other side of this. The other way to fall behind the times is to waste time building everything from scratch and ignore the wealth of openly available code at your fingertips. Make sure to use your resources.

Sometimes a client asks you to do something. Actually, that’s usually what a client does. But sometimes when they ask you to do something, it is unique to their situation; however, most of the time they are looking for the implementation of a common feature. In the situations where they really do need something truly exclusive, it only makes sense that you will have to build it yourself. When you are dealing with the more likely situation where the client needs you to do something that has been done many times before, looking towards open source is an obvious starting point.

Every once and a while, you get lucky and come across some code that does exactly what you need it to. In this case, feel free to use it as is. Often you can’t find a perfect fit. When that happens, just face the fact that you may have to make some slight modifications. The best open source projects make this extremely simple, having great documentation available and ample comments spread throughout the code.

My final word of warning is to make sure you are careful when you copy and paste. Remember that it could break something. Be sure to thoroughly test everything.

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