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Customer Review

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable, May 1 2004
This review is from: Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software (Hardcover)
It is to my eternal shame that I have been a computer scientist for this long, but before this January, I had never been exposed to the Gang of Four's DESIGN PATTERNS. In a few short months, the patterns I have learned from this book have become invaluable. I've already started going back through my legacy code looking for badly designed structures and have gradually been upgrading my work. If only I had known about this stuff years ago, I could have saved myself time, both during the creation of code and now, when I'm maintaining it.
Software patterns are a way of preventing the programmer from reinventing the wheel. Many of the patterns discussed in this book are refinements of procedures that have been tried and tested thousands of times over the years. The idea is that by studying these prototypes, we can save ourselves time by standing on the shoulders of those noble computer scientists who came before us. And it really works too. Reading about these patterns instantly drove into my head all the places in the past where I should have been using an elegant pattern as described here, rather than the ramshackle, jury-rigged solution I created. And I even learned more about the patterns that I was already familiar with. Every Java programmer knows about, say, Iterator, but I found it fascinating to read about how powerful that little routine can be.
The book is divided into three main forms of patterns: creational patterns, structural patterns and behavioral patterns. The patterns discussed span all portions of an object's life (the book is geared towards Object-Oriented Programming). We learn the best way of creating objects, the best way to have them communicate with other objects, and the best way to have them running their own algorithms. It really encourages the writing of clean code. Decoupling objects is the order of the day, and while I already knew vaguely that this was a good idea, this book showed me why exactly this is desirable, and equally importantly, it showed me how best to implement it.
I was introduced to this book by enrolling in an excellent class, which walked us through the various patterns. Given that the book has a tendency towards dryness, I would recommend this learning method to anyone. The examples proposed on these pages are, perhaps, a little esoteric and can at times be obscure. Because the book was written way back in the dark ages of 1994, the sample code is written in C++ and Smalltalk; we can assume that if this same book were written today, Java would reign supreme. An instructor who has used these patterns in real applications should be able to provide the student with a plethora of easy-to-understand scenarios, to really drive home how and where these patterns should be implemented.
Again, don't let the relative age fool you; get this book and take a class that explains it. If you can't find a class that teaches from this, then try to learn on your own. The skills you'll pick up from this will be immensely rewarding. Just be prepared to have the inevitable realization of: "Oh, so that's what I should have been doing all this time! Now where am I going to find the time to go back and fix it?"
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