Daily usage of tools mentioned in this post is quite obvious for me right now, but using them wasn’t obvious while I was working alone or when I was involved only in freelance or private projects. Whilst we don’t work in a group, we don’t have to care about lot of things, but when we work in a team (even small), we have to organize and optimize our work very well in order to obtain its high quality, work efficiently and make life of future developers of our code and co-workers easier.
1. Good IDE or editor
2. Source control system
When we work in a team, we need to have source control system. Uploading code to server by different people or sending code via e-mails is not efficient and unprofessional. That’s why we should use Git, which is distributed version control system. While using such tool, we can be always up to date with our code and we can easily track changes in the project, create branches for several tasks and so on. We can also rollback changes, when something will go wrong. Git clients are available for all popular operating systems. When we are not familiar with command line interface, we can use tools like TortoiseGit. On daily basis, the most important commands are: clone, pull, commit and push. Good practice is to create branch for development version of the application and treat master branch as a release version of the application. In addition, we can create separate branch for each issue we are working on and when we finish our task, we can merge our branch with development branch. It’s very helpful and allows us to increase stability of the project. If we want to know all advanced features of Git and master this environment, we should read “Pro Git” book which is available on-line for free. Another, older source control system is SVN. Well known GUI client for SVN on MS Windows is TortoiseSVN. SVN is not distributed version control system like Git and does not have such amount of features, but it’s worth to know it, because it is used in some projects today for some reasons. Yet another source control system, which is less famous than SVN and Git, is Mercurial. Like mentioned systems, despite command line interface, it also has client with GUI called TortoiseHG available for Windows OS.
3. Continuous integration tool
Continuous Integration is a software development practice where members of a team integrate their work frequently, usually each person integrates at least daily - leading to multiple integrations per day. Each integration is verified by an automated build (including test) to detect integration errors as quickly as possible. Many teams find that this approach leads to significantly reduced integration problems and allows a team to develop cohesive software more rapidly.
Quote of Martin Fowler. Continuous Integration is also explained in details on Wikipedia. One of the common tools used for Continuous Integration is Jenkins. In simple words, developers commit changes to the project and afterwards Jenkins download source code from the repository and generates a fresh build of the project (compiled application). Builds can be scheduled and run automatically, but we can also run our builds manually. When something will go wrong, we receive an information that build is broken, unstable or cannot be compiled. In such case, developer who broke the build (pushed changes, which caused such situation) is responsible for repairing the build. We have to take care about the configuration files, because sometimes Jenkins may analyze our source code differently than our local compiler (because of specific settings or different operating system) and it may cause build failure. While using Continuous Integration, we don’t have to send compiled projects via e-mail or in other inconvenient way. We can just run the build. After that operation, Quality Assurance Engineers and Project Leader will always have access to the newest version of our project. When we don’t want to use Jenkins, we can consider adapting alternative Continuous Integration service called Travis, which is integrated with GitHub. Yet another continous integration and build server is Bamboo from Atlassian.
4. Code review tool
Code review as a systematic examination of the source code plays important role in the quality of the project. Different programmers have different background and point of view. We all make mistakes and it’s easier to fix them when we have good support. There are tools which can help us to make Code Review. One of them is Review Board written in Python, which can be associated with Jenkins. After running Review Board build, we can send e-mails including current revision changes to our team in order to keep everyone up to date. There are also other tools, which we can use. Phabricator can be an interesting tool, but I don’t have any experience with it yet. Nevertheless I know, that it is written in PHP and was developed at Facebook. Gitlab is also worth considering during conducting code reviews. Moreover, we can omit using additional tools and perform code reviews by browsing code and talking with another developer verbally, which is also good practice. To summarize this section, Code Review lets us to know what is going on in all projects of our team and, what is more important, helps us to increase quality, maintainability and robustness of our code and projects, which are used by the final users.
5. Issue tracking system
Good Issue Tracking System is also important tool used during the development of the project. It lets you track tasks, bugs and changes in the projects. We can create simple workflow in our project, which will increase quality of the software and also keep you informed about progress of the project. This is important in situations when several people work on the same application, so we can divide and choose tasks wisely in such a way, that people won’t disturb or “interfere” themselves during the work. In addition, project leader will be informed about the progress of the work. There are many issue tracking systems, but one of the best and well known is Jira. In addition, Jira allows you to work with projects in Agile methodology, so you can define backlogs, sprints and create good workflow in the project. Despite of these features it has so called Confluence, which is basically internal project Wiki, where you can create your knowledge base and notes.
All these five elements can help you to make great applications and projects. It may seem, that using them is a lot of additional work, but in fact, they are really useful and can help you to work faster, better, increase quality of the project, integrate code, identify and track the bugs, track tasks, issues and keep the project up to date for everyone who is involved in it. When we take care of good project organization, the only possibility is awesome outcome.