Over the next week or two I’m going to serialize the first two chapters Refactoring HTML here. Of course, if you don’t want to wait you can always buy it from Amazon or read it online on Safari. And with that brief commercial announcement out of the way, let us begin:
Refactoring. What is it? Why do it?
In brief, refactoring is the gradual improvement of a code base by making small changes that don’t modify a program’s behavior, usually with the help of some kind of automated tool. The goal of refactoring is to remove the accumulated cruft of years of legacy code and produce cleaner code that is easier to maintain, easier to debug, and easier to add new features to.
Technically, refactoring never actually fixes a bug or adds a feature. However, in practice, when refactoring I almost always uncover bugs that need to be fixed and spot opportunities for new features. Often, refactoring changes difficult problems into tractable and even easy ones. Reorganizing code is the first step in improving it.
If you have the sort of personality that makes you begin a new semester, project, or job by thoroughly cleaning up your workspace, desk, or office, you’ll get this immediately. Refactoring helps you keep the old from getting in the way of the new. It doesn’t let you start from a blank page. Instead, it leaves you with a clean, organized workspace where you can find everything you need, and from which you can move forward.