One of the oldest coding practices is to keep line width 80, and many of us follow it blindly but have you ever thought why we have this practice in the first place?
I believe it was to make your code more readable in the age of small monitors so that whole content can fit in the screen, or it might have originated from the age of punch card, which was used to be 80 columns wide.
This sounds reasonable when we think about those old days but do you think this rule makes sense in 2021?
We are now living in the age where most of the developers have got large monitors, which can show up to 180 characters, doesn’t this is wastage of precious monitor space? It also makes your code unnecessary long, then it actually is.
I first come to know about line wrapping at 80, while reading Oracle Code Conventions for the Java Programming Language, which was last revised at April 20, 1999, which under indentation says
4.1 Line Length
Avoid lines longer than 80 characters, since they’re not handled well by many terminals and tools.
Note: Examples for use in documentation should have a shorter line length-generally no more than 70 characters.
If I understood correctly (I may be wrong), one goal of this rule is consistency. I used to think that 80 was silly, but being able to go through source code written by a dozen different teams over the last 7 years and not needing to re-size my window is a really nice thing. Consistent column width helps with the pace of reading code.
Since I mostly worked with large monitors, like LG 32MP58HQ-P 32-Inch IPS Monitor with Screen Split, I also realize that we are wasting lots of precious space. The consistent column width of 80 is simply too little.
I personally use 120 unless the project I work already finalized a column width, in that case, I go for consistency.
For example, if you use standard column width you can fit a couple of files across a reason and can compare them line by line, which I believe is a real benefit.
You can even do a three-way merge inspection on one screen without scrolling sideways. By the way, this should not be done at the cost of excessive wrapping.
I understand that consistent columns make it easier to scan and read through text but it doesn’t matter whether it’s 80 or 120.
On a closing note, I would say that consistency is nice and you must go for it but 80 or even 100 is too short.
Many developers could probably live with 120 or even 150 though. Our modern widescreen high definition LCD monitors can easily handle more.
It is much more readable than the excessive wrapping because I personally find it much harder to read a wrapped line than just seeing the whole thing in one line. Of course, this is just preference and others will feel different.
So, what do you guys think, does this rule still hold or you have already moved on?
Other Programming Articles you may like
The 2021 Web Developer RoadMap
10 Data Structure and Algorithms Courses to Crack Programming Interview
10 Things Java Programmer Should Learn in 2021
10 Programming languages You can Learn in 2021
10 Tools Every Java Developer Should Know
10 Reasons to Learn Java Programming languages
10 Frameworks Java and Web Developer should learn in 2021
10 Tips to become a better Java Developer in 2021
Top 5 Java Frameworks to Learn in 2021
10 Reasons to Learn Python in 2021
10 Testing Libraries Every Java Developer Should Know
Thanks for reading this article so far till the end. If you like this article then please consider following me on medium (javinpaul). if you’d like to be notified of every new post and don’t forget to follow javarevisited on Twitter!
Other Medium Articles you may like:
The Complete DevOps RoadMap
An illustrated guide to becoming a Frontend or Backend Developer with links to courses
15 Free Python Courses for Beginners to Learn Online
A curated list of some of the free online courses to learn Python.