Code Optimization: The Complete Guide

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Optimization is a positive word in itself, something that everyone strives for in many aspects of life. And things are not different in the case of writing code. In this article, we will take a look at the best ways to optimize your code.

What is code optimization?

An optimized code is one that performs better than its previous versions. Code optimization is the art of writing or rewriting code so it consumes the smallest memory or disk space, minimizes network bandwidth or the processor time of the program. In other words, optimization means writing the same program using a shorter code.

It will be most useful for the person who is to comprehend your code and rework it. There is a thin line between understandability of your code, and its optimization. You also need to pay attention to the readability of your code.

We will take a look into the common optimization rules followed in the ICT industry.

Avoid redundant variables

In the olden days, there was a practice of declaring the entire variables you use. The number of variables will be high, even for a simple function. This is better avoided. Variables only need to be named if they are essential in a program. And you still need to pay attention to readability.

By not naming every variable, you are optimizing the code. Temporary variables don’t always need to be named.

Avoid code smell

A code is said to be smelly if it has deep-rooted problems. It may have more errors than are visible on the surface. There can be multiple reasons for this: the code should not be too complex, and redundant codes should be avoided. Simple codes help to keep code smell in check.

For a code to be optimum, it should be also clean.

Balance among factors

An ideal code should have many characteristics, such as security, runtime stability, clarity, efficiency and test effectiveness. Optimum code should strike a balance between all these features. Tipping the balance towards security may cause problems during runtime. Sometimes the clarity of the code may be affected. A good programmer will consider all factors before reaching a workable compromise.

It is best not to repeat yourself. The principle of reusability can, of course, be applied if you are completely sure about the code. In times of urgency, reusable codes are the programmer’s  best friend.

Optimize your habits

A good code is best written when you have a peaceful mind. You shouldn’t overstress yourself while coding. Take regular breaks, and keep yourself relaxed. A sufficient amount of sleep is necessary for everyone, especially a programmer. When you find it difficult to focus, your code is prone to errors. It will lack proper structure, and your customers won't be happy.

Coding also needs a proper environment. It is difficult to focus in a congested area. While working on complex codes, you ideally want to stay away from distractions. Try to keep your mind focused on work to ensure you get an optimum code.

Continuously improve yourself

The best programmers keep learning. Life is a constant teacher from which you have a great deal to learn. Keep reading books on or around your subject, and stay updated with developments so you can hone your skills. Polish up your skill-set. Having basic knowledge about the various software packages will be really helpful in your career.

Nobody is perfect, and there is always more to learn. Stay informed and updated. It will help you write optimum codes for the technology you work with.

Start from scratch

While preparing an algorithm for your program, do it in such a way that a novice programmer can understand it easily. A simple algorithm is the key to an optimum program. While developing your algorithm, avoid making line-wise optimizations because if it gets replaced at a later stage, your efforts on lower level optimizations will be in vain.

In short, start from simple algorithms. But do not over-optimize your algorithms. When you have implemented the algorithm and you have verified its output, you have a baseline to work on.

Future proofing

Requirements in the IT industry are highly dynamic. They are bound to change in the future. Your code should be able to cope with inevitable future changes. There are mixed opinions regarding the extent to which you should future proof your code, and it is a decision better left to you and the company you work for.

The program should be coded in such a way that it can be revised to accommodate changes. An optimized code should be a long-sighted one. Leaving an option to rework the code is better than anticipating future requirements, because predictions are not always true and changes can be made on the go.

Overall techniques

Try to stay high-level for as long as possible. It helps to optimize your codes. At the algorithm level, strength reduction is a helpful technique. If you are reducing loops to formulas, leaving comments is a good idea to ensure readability - not everyone remembers every mathematics formula. Be careful not to use too complex equations, or you’ll just create confusion.

You can also try changing your data structure for a better performance. Educate yourself and work on possible alternatives. These are many kinds of tradeoffs you can choose between.

This comes down to knowing which algorithms are considered when a convenience function is called for. Also, you should know your vendor’s libraries. The related information is crucial for good performance, as well as for preventing unwarranted bugs.

Micro-optimizations

Once you are satisfied with the system functionality, you can fine tune the performance from the User Experience point of view. This level of optimization is also a matter of balancing clarity and maintainability.

You will want be aware of what’s happening on the lowest levels. This improves your level of understanding, and helps in optimizing codes.

Benchmarking is also a great tool. It helps you track your progress, and you can compare your present status with your earlier developments. This also gives an option of reversing any unwanted changes that may have occurred.

Don’t reuse a variable for different purposes, because it badly affects the maintainability of the code. The compiler may also have some issues, and bugs are sure to come up.

Don’t use inline functions and macros without properly knowing their purpose. Though function call overhead is a cost, it can greatly help in debugging your code.

Don’t elaborate code that can be simply done by a loop. Using loops renders more readability to your code, and helps in optimizing.

In any language, code optimization is always a desirable quality. Always work in a top-down order. Enhanced code ensures the requirements are met with the right amount of resources, preventing extra burdens to the processor or program memory.

We hope this article helped you to understand code optimization, and the ideal ways of achieving it! Optimize your code and ensure the most advantageous use of your resources.  Share your opinions below - we'd love to know what helps. A lot of freelance programmers are available online. Check out Freelancer if you want to outsource some coding work. Happy coding!

Dikirim 22 Ogos, 2017

LucyKarinsky
LucyKarinsky Kakitangan

Software Developer

Lucy is the Development & Programming Correspondent for Freelancer.com. She is currently based in Sydney.

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