Increasing Efficiency as a Developer
Leverage Your Text Editor and Learn Hotkeys
Writing code is easy in today’s world. I’m not even talking about writing quality code, following the Agile manifesto, nor eeking out every possible nanosecond of speed out of your code. I’m talking about punching keys and having text appear on the screen.
There are so many tools out there in today’s world it’s almost staggering. Numerous languages have their own IDEs (Interactive Development Environments) programmers can leverage and customize to write their code efficiently (see Xcode, Android Studio, PHPStorm, etc). Not only that, these editors can also increase the quality of code by offering services like linting, type checking, and providing helpful warnings to the developer. Even if IDEs aren’t your thing, there are extremely powerful text editors a lot of other people have spent a lot of time working on in order to make your life easier. My favorite is Sublime.
Leveraging Your Text Editor
Sublime is a text editor that can be extended with packages (see Package Control). There is seemingly a package for everything and if you’re wondering if there is a package out there for a tool/feature you need, chances are there is. Some of my favorite examples include:
- Alignment – a way to align text to make your code more readable
- Trailing Spaces – highlights unnecessary whitespace and can delete it for you on save
- DocBlockr – Generates function and variable comment stubs for you
There are so many more. My point is not to show you how much of the Sublime Kool-Aid I drink. Rather, that a lot of dedicated people have already put time into making their own (and in turn, your) lives easier, so why not benefit from them?
So why do I mention Sublime and other aforementioned editors? No matter your tool you should be looking at how your editor can help you. Image writing all your fancy code in TextEdit / NotePad++ (and if you do either of those, then you need this blog most of all). If you aren’t leveraging your editor to its full capabilities, then there is no difference between your editor and those barebones text editing applications. However, I’ve ranted long enough. Now it’s time for action. You might be wondering, “How can I use my editor to code so efficiently that I become the envy of the office?
Hotkeys! – In my opinion, hotkeys are some of the most underutilized features of modern computers/applications. How many times have you watched someone use a computer and click around the screen for ten seconds to accomplish something you could do in a keystroke? If the answer is never, you are probably the person clicking around. Think about this. I want you to:
- Open up a file in my Documents (called example.txt)
- Grab the last line of the file
- Google that line
How do you do it? (This will be geared for Mac users) You could:
- Click on your documents folder
- Click the “XXX more in Finder”
- Scroll till you find the file
- Double click
- Scroll to the bottom of the file
- Highlight the line with your cursor
- Copy (you could even right click then click copy for extra clicks!)
- Click on Chrome (or w/e browser) in your toolbar
- Click on the search bar
- Type “google.com”
- Click on the google search bar
BAM! Done in 12 easy steps! Or…
- Hit CMD + Space (Mac search feature)
- Type “example.txt” (or type until your file shows up as the top query)
- [File is open] Hit CMD + Down Arrow (scroll to bottom – in most text editors)
- Shift + CMD + right arrow (highlight last line)
- CMD + C (copy) [optional CMD + W to close file]
- CMD + Space (or CMD + TAB if you have your browser open)
- Type “Chrome” (or w/e browser – not needed if using CMD + TAB) [optional CMD + T to open new tab]
- CMD + L (Go to search bar)
- CMD + P (Paste)
Voilà! Saved one easy step! But seriously, the time difference between these two methods adds up over time. The second method has an additional benefit – no mouse required! Which segues nicely into my next point – you do not need a mouse.
That’s a bold statement, so let me back it up. Yes, if you spend your days navigating HTML pages or using Xcode you get a mouse. Everyone else: throw them away! It’s a crutch that prevents you from learning new navigation techniques! Many folks see the mouse as “good enough”, so they don’t take the time to learn hotkeys. It is a rare day for me to find a mouse faster for text manipulation than a keyboard. Plus, you get a sense of pride when learning about new tools and using them in your day to day life. If you have never seen anything like this before, I highly recommend watching a tutorial/computer video where the developer makes liberal use of hotkeys (here’s an example). It’s one of the reasons I started learning hotkeys myself. Remember – everyone starts somewhere.
Of course, there are other ways to increase efficiency. It would take a blog much longer than this to cover everything, but this is a start. I promise if you do these two things, leveraging your text editor and learning hotkeys, then your efficiency will increase. You may also notice your code quality increase – especially if you transition to an IDE. As a programmer, your learning should never end. Take the time to learn ways to improve yourself and be better at your profession.
Henry Dau is a software developer at Woodridge Software, a custom software development firm located near Denver, Colorado. Woodridge specializes in Web, Android, and iOS development and works with a variety of clients ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies.