There are many ways code can be improved upon, and debugging your code is the most basic (and critical!) of them all. However, doing one big round of debugging at the end of your project can be maddening—it’s really something that should not be left to the last minute. Today we have five strategies to help you debug your code as you go, or to make sure that you have less to worry about if you insist on debugging at the end.
Watch Your Variable and Method Names
Did you make sure to use consistent spelling, capitalization, and punctuation in your variable and method names? In some languages, the difference between MyVariable, myVariable, and myvariable won’t matter, but in many languages they denote a completely different item. The best way to ensure consistency is choose one convention, write it down, and stick with it. When in doubt, reference your notes instead of trying to rely on your memory.
Did You Close Your Loops and Other Elements?
Items like loops always need to come to some form of resolution, like a do while loop without a terminating condition. You may already know that, but some other items also need to be closed. Take for example the JOptionPane in Java, which needs to be closed up in the method that uses it—it will not automatically close like other elements do.
Check Your Punctuation
In the world of grammar, punctuation can save lives; in the world of code it can be the difference between a line of code that executes and one that does not. For example, an errant / might not seem like a big deal, but it’s enough to change your variable into a comment. Take special care to ensure your punctuation is correct. Sometimes you can rely on your editor to give you a heads up by coloring punctuation errors in a warning color, but not all text editors include this feature.
Test in Small Increments
Testing your code’s major changes all at once can lead to a lot of confusion. When you add a new feature to an existing program, or create a new element on a current work in progress, run the debugging tool in your software immediately after each change. This helps to isolate your errors quickly and easily.
Make a Plan with a Code Document
If you learned to code on your own, you may not be familiar with the idea of a code document. A code document is similar to an outline: it lists all of the elements you will need in your program. That way you make sure you have everything where it needs to be. These documents were originally designed for group coding projects.
Practicing these simple strategies can make debugging your code much less painful by making the process both easier and faster. Good luck!