Size of code

Published on 16 June 2013.

Today’s thought is about how the size of code relates to its readability.

I think it’s safe to say that a function that fits on a screen is easier to read than a function that does not fit on a screen. If it does not fit on a screen, you have to scroll up and down and you can not look at the whole thing at once.

But what if a function depends on a global variable defined somewhere? In order to understand that function, you also need to understand how that global variable is used. Do other functions use it? How does that affect this particular function?

So the fact that a function fits on a screen does not automatically make it easy to read. In order for it to be easy to read, the whole unit must fit on a screen. You want to be able to understand a piece of code in isolation without jumping around the code base.

Of course a piece of code can use other parts of the code base that does not fit on the screen, but if the two are nicely separated and not intermingled, you can understand them both in isolation. You don’t have to jump back and forth a lot to understand how they work together.

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