97 Things Every Programmer Should Know

(Chris Devlin) #1

Collective Wisdom from the Experts 157

Common misconception #3: I need to learn exotic tools in order to automate
You can go a long way with a decent shell language (such as bash or Power-
Shell) and a build automation system. If you need to interact with websites,
use a tool such as iMacros or Selenium.

Common misconception #4: I can’t automate this task because I can’t deal with
these file formats
If a part of your process requires Word documents, spreadsheets, or
images, it may indeed be challenging to automate it. But is that really nec-
essary? Can you use plain text? Comma-separated values? XML? A tool
that generates a drawing from a text file? Often, a slight tweak in the pro-
cess can yield good results with a dramatic reduction in tediousness.

Common misconception #5: I don’t have the time to figure it out
You don’t have to learn all of bash or Ant to get started. Learn as you go.
When you have a task that you think can and should be automated, learn
just enough about your tools to do it. And do it early in a project when
time is usually easier to find. Once you have been successful, you (and
your boss) will see that it makes sense to invest in automation.

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