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What Is the Prototype Pattern?

By Larry Ray Palmer
Updated May 16, 2024
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Prototype pattern is a software engineering term that refers to the creation of software with similar functionality by using already written snippets of code from other projects. These code snippets are often stored in a repository called a library; the code development team can access a private library or make use of collective library of snippets, such as those used for open source software development. The use of a prototype pattern enhances productivity and reduces the amount of time required for software engineering. Due to the demands for evergreen content, the software development industry relies heavily on this form of creational design pattern to create new programs and software titles in a timely manner.

In many cases, the use of a prototype pattern is mistakenly referred to as software cloning. Software cloning produces an exact replica of the original software title. The prototype pattern allows more variation in the code of the program because the snippets of code are used as a pattern but it is not necessary to strictly adhere to the pre-written code. This allows the software developer to adjust the code to suit the specific needs of his or her program.

Many coding languages use the prototype pattern method to make the code developer friendly. Python code is just one example of prototype pattern software engineering in action. By using consistent function prototypes, developers with a basic understanding of the Python code can use the same functions in a variety of different programs to perform routine task such as checking the date and time or calling the next action in a sequence. With this ability, even students who are still learning software design can create working programs that perform specific functions.

As a further advantage, the prototype pattern eliminates much of the troubleshooting and testing required in typical software development. With the code snippets being developed and tested before use, many of the bugs are eliminated from any new software created using this library of code. This means the developer can take software titles from the design phase to the marketing phase much faster than by using traditional software engineering and several rounds of beta testing.

For the consumer, the use of a prototype pattern by software engineers offers specific benefits as well. Since developers are able to create software in less time with less testing and development, software creators save money on the creation process. The developer can then offer titles at a lower price to the end-user and follow-up titles, such as sequels in a popular game series or new versions of software, can be brought to market much faster.

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