5 EDITING TOOLS SOFTWARE DEVELOPERS USE… AND SO CAN YOU

Software developers routinely handle large volumes of complex, heavily structured files filled with intricate syntaxes and little margin for error.

Does this sound like your own line of work…?

Here are some of the most common techniques developers use to streamline their workflow and how you can incorporate them when dealing with richly formatted, plain natural language.

  • Integrated Development Environment (IDE)
  • Syntax Highlighting
  • Brace Matching
  • Predictive Typing / Auto-Complete
  • Dynamic Version Control (Git/GitHub)

Integrated Development environment (IDE)

Software engineers and web developers customarily use what is referred to as an integrated development environment or “IDE”. As the name suggests, those platforms offer an integrated workspace for developers to edit, debug, compile or interpret source codes.

But the key takeaway for our own purposes is the ability to operate multiple files simultaneously within the same project environment. This means users can declare a dedicated “project” folder and effortlessly import, use, or refer to sections of text which were used in other text files pertaining to the same project.

This is known as the “DRY” principle (as in “don’t repeat yourself!”) which aims at reducing repetition of software patterns and replacing it with abstractions to avoid redundancy.

This allows for surgical precision when it comes to referencing certain variables or concepts defined in other sections without having to replicate definition sources.

This can also come in particularly handy in document-intensive industries, such as large-scale construction, infrastructure, healthcare, and banking which comprise of massive volumes of documents defining complex legal, financial, and technical mechanisms all relating to the same project.

In complex legal transactions, it is not uncommon to have few 100s references to other concepts in only few lines of text! And spread across multiple text files relating to the same subject matter. Applying the DRY concept would substantially reduce the risk for errors, which would not be a bad idea when dealing with language naturally designed to reflect certainty and predictability.

Syntax highlighting

Color-coded syntax highlighting is used by programmers to display source code in different colors, each associated with a unique meaning . This feature facilitates reading and writing in a structured language… one that is not open to interpretation.

Sounds like your own professional syntax?

Syntax highlighting makes both structures and syntax errors visually distinct and content becomes easier to read and understand. Highlighting does not affect the meaning of the text itself; it is intended only for the human eye, which proves to be effective when applied to other business (and social) languages just as well.

Syntax highlighting improves the readability and context of the text; especially for structured content that spans several pages. The reader can easily ignore large sections of comments, code or text and find errors only by skimming through pages.

Most IDEs, for example, highlight certain data types in pre-defined colors. Consequently, spotting a missing separator becomes much easier because of the contrasting color of the text.

Research shows that syntax highlighting significantly reduces the time taken for a programmer to internalize the semantics of a program, enabling them to pay less attention to standard syntactic components such as keywords.

Using unwynd, you can use syntax highlighting with plain natural language by either configuring your own syntax or using the default modes based on your own preferences.

Brace Matching

Brace matching (or bracket matching) is another important feature used predominantly among developers. This makes it simple to see if a brace has been left out or to locate the matching brace based on location of the cursor, sometimes by highlighting the pair in a different color.

The purpose is to help the writer or reader navigate through the written content and spot any improper matching, which would cause ambiguity or conflicts of language in heavily structured text documents (such as corporate and legal documentation).

This sounds trivial, but lawyers can sometimes spend years in costly litigation arguing about the parties’ intention in light of omitted brackets.

Predictive typing / Auto-complete

Predictive typing or sometimes referred to as “auto-complete” is an input technology used where one key or a set of keys are associated with certain pre-configured rules or concepts. Each key press results in a prediction or terms or sentences.

Auto-complete could allow for an entire word to be input by single keypress making the whole typing experience more efficient and, inevitably, more cost-effective. It makes efficient use of fewer device keys to input writing any types of files.

This can also considerably reduce the margin of errors when referring to previously defined concepts. To reduce drafting ambiguities, it is important to refer to defined concept with the precise concept that has been associated with the definition.

Predictive typing can play a key role in ensuring that defined terms, concepts, or other time/cost-sensitive concepts are used in the appropriate manner. Click here to learn more about what predictive typing can do for you.

Dynamic version control (Git/Github)

We would not cover the topic fully without addressing the world of version control. Who isn’t familiar with the good old file naming techniques “V1”, “Version 2”, “dated 04122020” or “comments by John D.”?

There is a solution for this too!

Git is a distributed version-control system for tracking changes in source files which has been around for 15 years and is designed for coordinating work among programmers. But it can also be used to track changes in any set of files in distributed, non-linear workflows.

With the use of pre-configured functions, a programmer can “commit” its own changes to a dedicated branch which can later be merged to the “master” branch once any possible conflicts have been addressed. Git will keep track of all changes made to a particular file across the entire lifecycle of the project workflow.

While Git is free and open-source software distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License version 2, it requires a fair amount coding experience or at least some degree of proficiency in command-line interface. It is not readily available for use by non-developers.

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Fix Documentation Redundancy with Git: A Version Control System

UK offices lose over one million hours a week and £20 million in time due to misplaced documents. Similarly, a global survey showed 83% of employees recreate documents because the initial version was unlocatable on their corporate network. These trends speak of a lack of version control which has led to document mismanagement. While Git is lauded for its versioning capabilities for software development, it remains largely unprecedented in documentation management due to the lack of a GUI (Graphical User Interface) which utilises its full prowess. Git ensures the complete edit history of documentation are synchronised rather than disconnected throughout a project. Thus, we’ll go how the versioning features of Git help solve documentation redundancy and mismanagement.

The Necessity of a Documented Edit History from Start to Finish

Renaming a document from version to version doesn’t tell you exactly what changes were made and who made them. Alongside the lack of clarity between edits, it wastes time to thoroughly analyse them. Git acknowledges there is one project, so every new addition is neatly packed up into an edit history full of timestamps, alongside who made the edits, when the project is updated. The edit history is beneficial for projects as it allows project members to call upon a previous timestamp in case an edit was not satisfactory. This also allows for better productivity since every employee can focus on tasks that had yet to be addressed, rather than having two or more people unwittingly do the same one due to an absent edit history.

Git allows for efficient drafting due to the ability to make a copy of a file which includes the full edit history. This permits experimentation since the edits to the copy won’t affect the file on the corporate server. So if an idea works – great, you can merge it with the server file. If not, you can delete it without disrupting anything. No harm, no foul. In a large-scale project, everyone attached to a project can make their own copies, their own provisional edits and merge them with the server file when appropriate. This eliminates the need to send copies through communication networks. So rather than having an inbox or folders with seventy drafts and a gamut of untracked edits to sift through, everyone can access the one file with every timestamped edit available. Quite the timesaver, right?

Conclusion

In summary, Git provides a complete edit history in a project and allows employees to make provisional changes without affecting the file on the corporate server. In a network, you can see exactly who made the changes and when, which helps bring more security to a project. This eliminates redundancy and keeps documentation in one place as opposed to scattered on cloud services, various computers, drives and folders. Git prevents project development from being held back by poor document versioning, enhancing productivity and reducing redundancy throughout the duration of a project.

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