Our senior developers at Oxford Computer Consultants have started a series of developer tips based on our decades of experience. The theme of this first set of tips is tools and is aimed at developers early in their careers.
Play and experiment
Our first tip is to find time to play and experiment. Not only is this fun, but trying new things helps you learn more about your software tools. One of the reasons that children learn faster than adults, is they play and try new things. Harness this energy within yourself and take the time to play around. You will learn new tricks that will help you further down the line and make you more productive in future.
Be open to new technologies, but be careful
As developers we’re constantly learning. Staying up to date with the latest technologies is important, and as mentioned in the first tip, it is important to play. However, when you’re working on a production project, be careful when introducing new technologies. Always ask yourself whether you’re adding it because it is the right tool for the job, or because it is new and fun. Enjoy testing new things in demo projects, but only bring the right tools for the job to production code.
Have all the main browsers installed
If you’re developing websites, have all the main browsers installed, and vary which browser you’re using while developing. It’s very easy to stick with your favourite browser, but compatibility issues do exist (even though most browsers use Chromium). Compatibility issues are much easier to fix at development time, rather than at the end of the project when the test team catch them. As with all bugs, try to make the test team redundant by fixing bugs before they find them. Therefore, vary your browser and catch compatibility issues early.
Microsoft Edge is a good browser
Related to the above, make sure you include Edge in your toolset. Today’s Edge is Chromium based and is as good as the competition. As a bonus, if you’re working with SharePoint, Edge often works better. For example, if someone emails you a link to a document, it will open the appropriate Office application, rather than downloading the file as other browsers might.
Don’t trust local storage
There is a history to this tip. Air conditioning is great… when it works. When it has a leak and you come back to your desk to find water raining onto your computer, it is less great.
Therefore, push your code changes to the server frequently. Don’t wait for perfection – have a feature branch on the server and push to it as often as you can. The same applies to any documentation you’re writing – work with the server copy whenever possible.
Love the cloud
Finally, embrace the cloud. Use a tool like OneDrive to synchronise your computer with the cloud. When the next tech refresh happens or if your machine gets destroyed, you can boot up your new machine and get all of your work back with little fuss.
Another benefit of using the cloud is collaboration. SharePoint, OneDrive, and Google Docs will all allow you to work on documents together at the same time.
I hope you found these tips useful. Check back later for future episodes of Developer Tips.