A System for Professional Programming
Who would have thought that typing a few thousand lines of code could satisfy the needs of so many people? Yet that happens every time the professional Visual Basic developer delivers a quality product. So how does one ensure this success on a regular basis? How does a programmer work in a professional manner? Quality programming is accomplished by applying a methodology, a standardized way of attacking complex programming tasks. The method described in The Visual Basic .NET Style Guide has three components, representing the three main divisions of the book.
When building a home, once you have the foundation in place, you can move on to the structure of the edifice. The same is true of application development. The structure of a software application includes elements such as the logic of the program, the user interface, and supporting documentation. Also, your own personal style plays a large part in how the structure will form over the lifetime of a development project.
The various aspects of application development structure are covered in the first part of this book, Structure. This section begins with this chapter, and continues on through Chapter 5. In these chapters you will encounter numerous guidelines used in the development of all professional software applications.
Chapter 1, "Professional Programming as Style." The first chapter, which you are now reading, focuses on the goals and activities of professional software application development.
Chapter 2, "Using Declaration." This chapter is dedicated to the importance of object nomenclature and consistency within the source code. The chapter stresses standards and stability throughout all aspects of an application's source code.
Chapter 3, "Commenting and Style." Along with the chapter on documentation (Chapter 5), this chapter discusses the importance of documentation within the source code itself. The professional Visual Basic programmer must demand that adequate documentation appear both within the application source code and in other external forms. The second part of this chapter discusses style, the personality that the developer brings to the source code.
Chapter 4, "User Interface Consistency." The user of any software will always notice problems and inconsistencies within the user interface of an application. This chapter stresses the importance of stable user interfaces, and provides examples of when and how to use various interface components.
Chapter 5, "Documentation." Besides the software itself, the documentation is the most visible component of any application. Therefore, it needs to be every bit as professional as the source code. This chapter focuses on the need for complete, clear, and high-quality documentation, both for the user community and for the technical staff who develop and maintain the application.
The foundation of professional software development appears in the heart of the programmer. The core attitudes that help shape the individual also help to shape the programs written by that individual. If you have a professional attitude, the quality of your attitude will show itself in your applications.
While there are many parts to this foundational attitude, the three elements that affect software development the most are discipline, planning, and ethics. These essential attitudes are discussed in detail in the second part of this book, Foundation, encompassing Chapters 6, 7, and 8. These three chapters appear in the middle of this volume to show that they are at the center, at the focus, of the professional way of software development. Much as the planets revolve around the Sun in our solar system, the other activities of professional programming revolve around these three core elements. Without these elements, quality programming is difficult, if not impossible, to attain.
Chapter 6, "Discipline." Discipline delves into the mind of the Visual Basic programmer, where all quality development begins. After covering the many reasons why discipline is important to the developer, this chapter discusses various methods of instilling discipline.
Chapter 7, "Planning." This chapter discusses the importance of planning in the daily work of the Visual Basic developer. Much time is spent focusing on the needs of the user, and the reasons for adequate planning.
Chapter 8, "Ethics." Without ethics, discipline and planning are at the mercy of every whim of the developer, good or bad. This chapter discusses those facets of ethics that pertain to software development, including honesty, quality, and humility, among others.
In the building of any modern structure, there are various standards that must be followed to make sure not only that the structure will last a long time, but that it will maintain its high level of quality and value. These standards are used as consistent guides during the construction process. Software development uses comparable standards. This is apparent to the programmer because the syntax of a programming language requires a certain amount of standardization. These intrinsic standards may be enough to write a working program, but they are insufficient to produce the quality or longevity needed to solve real-world business problems. A full set of application development standards brings consistency and quality to the programming process.
The third and final section of this book, Standards, codifies such a set of standards. Guidelines covering all major features of the Visual Basic .NET language and its components are examined and stated in Chapters 9 through 12. This section is meant to be handled like a well-worn reference book. Read it through once, then reference its parts frequently during application design and development.
Chapter 9, "Declaration Standards." This chapter provides a complete reference (summarized in Chapter 2) of naming conventions to be used within a Visual Basic .NET application.
Chapter 10, "Feature Reference." This chapter provides usage and standards information on the key language features of the Visual Basic .NET language, and on many of the .NET Framework constructs needed to write quality Visual Basic .NET applications. These features are grouped together for convenience, and each group includes recommendations and frequent examples of correct and incorrect usage.
Chapter 11, "Control and User Interface Standards." This chapter provides guidelines and sample source code for the most popular user interface features provided with Visual Basic .NET.
Chapter 12, "Database Standards." Most Visual Basic .NET applications exist to present information to and gather information from a user, all of which is stored in a database. This final chapter of the book lists standards that should be used when communicating with databases.