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Software Engineering - Structured Programming

Structured Programming

A program in a computer language has some stark contrasts in comparison to an essay written in any natural language.

The computer program is meant to automate some business functions and is read by a computer that has got almost no discretion.

Secondly, errors are not pardonable as they may spell a catastrophe.

Thirdly, the program has to be amended many times due to the ever-changing business environments.

Fourthly, as a corporate resource, the program might be developed by one employee and the line maintained (modified) by another employee.

All these points necessitate that a computer program has to offset its complexities by offering as much ease as possible in reading, understanding and modifying it. This is achieved by ensuring that programs exhibit the following traits.

(a) Self-documentation: Wherever possible, the program should have ample comment lines. These comment lines are meant for us to read, not for computers to operate upon. This is indicated to the computer in a way that is language dependent. For example, in COBOL the line having the seventh letter as an asterisk is treated as a comment, while in C language any text starting with a slash followed by an asterisk (/*)  and ending with a reverse (*/) is treated as a comment.

It is advisable to provide several comments within a program that serves as a signpost or guide for a person reading the program.

(b) Modular Approach: instead of handling all the logical complexities in one go, it is much better to split them into several small sets and then to tackle them one at a time. This gives rise to modules that are individually assigned with specifically manageable small tasks. The modularity is to be observed even within a single program by planning various sections or chunks within that program in a well-placed manner.

(c) Ease of Reading: The program must be easy to read. This means the lines should be neatly spread without cluttering. Proper indenting of the block of statements logically grouped together helps reading. Although many languages provide very powerful keywords, some companies ban the usage of such words (if they are extremely complex) in order to enhance the readability for all people.

(d) Ease of understanding: an easy-to-read program may not be necessarily easy-to-understand. Programs embracing an obscure design, or expressing the logic in a difficult or awkward manner or not being simple in their flow are a few examples of such undesired forms.

In addition, the ease of understanding depends on the self-documentation also.

(e) Ease of Modification: Programs should exhibit an ease of modification, whenever they require to be updated. This is possible of the programs are written in a manner that simplifies the logic by expending more lines rather than compacting the logic in a few dense lines. Programs generally undergo modifications several times. It is therefore necessary that the program lines added/modified/deleted are clearly supplemented with explanatory comment lines just before such lines. It is also equally important to provide a complete history of such modifications (dates, author, purpose, etc.) right at the start of the program by several comment lines.

All these points facilitate efficient program handling and ultimately result in flawless programs that add value to the software.

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