The Art of Therapeutic Refactoring: Strategies for Sustainable Code Evolution

Feb 18, 2014

Refactoring is making code better. We all want to make things better. Making thing better makes us feel good.

We watched Therapeutic Refactoring by Katrina Owen to see what pointers she could give about making things better. Turns out, quite a few. She tells a story about a horrible block of code from an untested segment of a legacy application.

Legacy applications are talked about by programmers with a mix of anxiety and apprehension. If a legacy application has no tests you never know if a change you made just broke something you haven't noticed. At Resolve when we pick up a client with an existing codebase there's a chance it will be one of those legacy applications with no tests.

Fortunately, Katrina lays out, step by step, how to add tests to a legacy application that will tell you what the application currently does. Once you have these not only can you develop new features without fear, you can start refactoring!

Katrina walks through refactoring her example code. She finished the story by discusses removing "codejunk," bits of code that don't do anything and make it hard to understand what other code does. Next comes the moral of the story, why refactoring makes us feel good; it gives us back our brains and stops us panicking. When we aren't panicking we write better code for the future.

Refactoring makes existing and future code better, clearly a good programming and business practice.

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