Coding by Hand – A Lost Art?

I think that it’s a lost art in many ways – coding by hand. With all the visual point-and-click editors out there, few people code from scratch anymore. Personally, I prefer hand coding and will until a visual editor comes along that works well enough to know what I’m thinking before I do.

There are alot of people out there who tout the power of all these point-and-click, drag-and-drop, bait-and-switch? type of visual editors out there. I’ve yet to find one that I really liked. Beyond that – one that didn’t require me to go back and spend alot of time editing out incorrect code inserted by the visual editor. I’m open to suggestions, and I do try out new software on a regular basis – I’m just incredibly picky. When I create a design for a client, or for an open source release, I want the code to be flawless. The fact that there are ‘popular’ web development software programs out there that still create the font tag bothers me. Even more dumbfounding to me is the fact that some new web development software is being created that does the same thing.

In any event, I’m beginning to feel old in the world of technology. When I talk to some other ‘new’ techs, I realize they are probably seeing me as some sort of relic because I prefer my Linux computer and I code by hand. A teeny part of me wants to laugh and say ‘No no, I just started using Linux a year or two ago and I didn’t always code solely by hand.’ But the rest of me wins and I tend to just ignore the ‘looks’ and keep on with the subject. I think it’s amusing that to some people ‘hand coding’ makes you a relic, and to others it makes you a ‘god’, while to me … it just tells me that you probably have good attention to detail.

But before I close out this brief discussion about coding by hand, I have to mention one of those inevitable questions I get asked when people find out that I code by hand:

What software do you use for that?

You know… I’m never sure whether to laugh or cry when I hear that. Sometimes I just find myself staring in dumbfounded amusement for a moment. When my mind has stopped reeling, I slowly say “Erm… a text editor.”

The subsequent question is typically: “Which one?”

So here’s my answer, for one and all:

When Slumming in Windows: I use PSPad.
When in Linux: I use gedit mostly, and occasionally Bluefish.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I do use content management systems to make my life easier. In fact, I’m a big proponent of them so long as they generate good code (ex: WordPress) . But everything that goes into those systems – that’s coded by hand.


4 thoughts

  1. It totally depends on what you’re coding. If you’re coding web stuff, you find a high percentage of “GUI” usage, whereas if you’re coding a 3D engine or anything lower level, only an absolute fucktard would use “Visual Anything” to get it done. To say “Coding by hand” is a lost art isn’t really on-the-spot. In fact, the only time I ever used a visual anything was in my just-as-brief-as-it-was-unfortunate encounter with Nackademin, where Windows and MS were it.


  2. I should’ve been more specific about what I meant 😉 I was talking about web development primarily.

    Of course, since I’ve used GUI development software when making desktop applications, I can’t criticize people there. When it comes to web though… that’s another can of worms.

  3. Personally I think in the web development area, there are different parts for different people (excluding the jack-of-all-trades folks). Personally I loathe web DESIGN but kind of like making it behave the way I want it to, while others love designing but are clueless when it comes to making it do what they want. The two are often separated and in the latter case, I totally don’t see a problem with using any interface available to you (including The GIMP or whatever else) to “get your idea across” in as accurate a way as possible to the actual implementors whose task then becomes to copycat your depiction as accurately as possible and implementing the behavior behind it.

    People have taken that several steps further though, e.g. Ruby on Rails where the individual parts are distinguished even further, letting the designers and implementors work even closer.

    I know I ran a bit off topic there but that’s my thought on coding by hand vs coding by tool. The former is as you say for the real coders while the latter is for the people who just want to get their point across (in a good way).


  4. Kalle, what an interesting thought. I was just talking to my fellow webmaster about why I want things to work _this_ way and how I work diligently to make these changes rather than accept what is available.

    I do all my coding for php sites by hand — but it’s mostly modifying pre-existing php code, and coding in custom functions.

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