by Brian Kernighan, et. al.
Elsewhere on my site I reviewed Kernighan’s “Elements of Programming Style.” To quote one paragraph from that review –
Brian Kernighan has co-authored three books almost essential to learning our craft, this volume, “Software Tools” and “The Unix Programming Environment”. “Elements of Programming Style” spells out the fundamental rules, “Software Tools” shows you how to apply them to a number of simple projects and extends the rules to software design and finally “The Unix Programming Environment” shows you how to use them in an operating system designed to reward you for your effort.
It could be said that “Elements” teaches programming and “Software Tools” teaches software design. Rules such as “do just one thing, do it well” seem to seep in through the pores as you read and work through this book.
It presents a number of projects starting with a word count program and progressing through some filters to some fairly complex tasks culminating in a RatFor pre-processor for Fortran. All the examples are written in RatFor, a version of Fortran that adds some more structured elements to that early language.
Don’t be put off by the use of RatFor, the language is easily understood and the style of programming so clear that the algorithms are easily understood. I’ve personally translated a fair number of them to both BASIC and C and the RatFor pre-processor design became the basis for an AppleSoft BASIC pre-processor written by a close friend.
I’ve relied on this book so much for the last ten years, after writing “Hello World” I drag it out and translate a couple of the tools into every new language I’ve learnt. I then spend a day or two thinking about and implementing a design optimised for the new language. After that I find I have a good handle on a language and how to design for it.
This volume is not for those who want a book that gives them pre-written tools, a fair number of the tools are standard issue on any Unix derivative and the code is only tersely commented, relying on the exaplanatory text. However I recommend this book to all software designers and programmers because as you work through these examples you will learn a great deal about honing your craft.
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