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What Are the Best Tips for Building DIY Software?

Eugene P.
Eugene P.

One advantage to building do-it-yourself (DIY) software is that, generally, it will only be used by the person writing it for some very specific tasks, meaning the amount of error-checking code, fluid layouts and catches for unexpected input can be kept to a minimum. Before starting to write DIY software, however, it is important to define exactly what the software is intended to do and to decide what it will not be able to do to prevent coding functionality that will never be used. Using visual programming tools or languages that take much of the repetitive work out of building graphical user interfaces (GUIs) and menus can make the coding go much faster while also providing results that are stable and immediately usable. If the DIY software that is built will only be used on one or two computers, then shortcuts such as hardcoded directories, window sizes and other defaults can be used, because the operating environment and parameters are already known.

The most important part of building DIY software is to know exactly what function the program will serve. Defining the limits of the program can help to make code clearer and the entire design process simpler. Writing DIY software without this clear definition can lead to a bloated project with options that are either never implemented or never used.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

When starting to program, it can be beneficial to use integrated development environments (IDEs) that have visual editing tools for the GUI. This will allow windows, menus, buttons and other elements to be visually placed where they are convenient; the code for what each element does can be added later. For most DIY software, it is unnecessary to use complex layout managers for a GUI, because the program might only be run on one or two computers and using absolute positioning within a window can make designing the GUI layout much easier.

While certain shortcuts can be taken during the creation of DIY software, certain areas of the program should be coded very carefully. If a program is tracking an inventory of tools, or a bank balance, then the file input and output functions should be written carefully to ensure they do not malfunction and erase valuable data. Similarly, the code should be kept as simple as possible at all times so errors or bugs can be caught and repaired quickly and any additional features can be easily inserted as needed.

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