The Essentials of Modern Software Engineering is an apt title for a book that helps you move from programming (writing code) to software development (the larger process, which includes requirements, design, testing, delivery, maintenance, and so on) to software engineering (bringing the discipline of engineering to software development, which involves repeatable, consistent processes, and a move to relying more on science than on craft). Better still, it’s a $60 book that’s now available for free right up to June 30th, 2020!
Who’s giving away this book?
The book is part of the digital library of the ACM — Association for Computing Machinery — one of the world’s first and largest professional groups devoted to computing. Founded in 1947, the ACM pre-dates the first time a thing we would consider to be a program was run on a thing we would consider to be a digital computer by a year! The ACM’s mission is to promote computing as an academic interest, science, and profession.
On Monday, March 30th, the ACM announced that they have opened their normally paywalled digital library to the public for the next three months as a way of supporting the computing community during the COVID-19 crisis. From now until June 30th, 2020, it will cost nothing to access the library or to download any number of electronic books from it. You can visit the library right now without having to log in.
Here’s the thing: the ACM is an organization run by academics, and you’ll see that as soon as you visit the library. Their books are more like university textbooks and less like “For loops for Dummies”. Still, there are a few books in the library that you’ll find useful even if you aren’t looking for works to cite for your Ph.D. dissertation. The Essentials of Modern Software Engineering is one of these books.
Why should you get this book?
Most books on development these days focus on what I call the mechanics of building software: the vocabulary and syntax of programming languages, how-tos from programming tools, frameworks, and libraries, and the technologies and techniques for getting a specific kind of functionality into the applications you’re writing.
Fewer books and even fewer courses cover the larger process of building software, such as design, development, testing, evaluation, and maintenance. Software engineering is not programming: It’s the application of techniques borrowed from engineering to craft complete solutions, of which software is a part.
The Essentials of Modern Software Engineering provides a good introduction — or for those of us who took the course long ago, a good refresher — to the topic.
Who should read this book?
- If you’re a computer science major: Software engineering is a key course in just about every university’s computer science degree program. This is because it’s part of a recommended standard computer science curriculum developed by the ACM and IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). The Essentials of Modern Software Engineering is one of the most up-to-date textbooks on the topic.
- If you’re self-learning or in a code camp: Software engineering is one of those topics that gets missed in the code schools and courses, where the emphasis is on a specific programming language and technologies and not the larger topic of the software development process. The Essentials of Modern Software Engineering is essential supplementary ready for you.
- If you’re a junior developer: Are you on your first job, or perhaps the first couple of years in your software development career? Think of The Essentials of Modern Software Engineering as a way of gauging prospective workplaces or the place where you’re working, as well as a guide for what you should be learning.
- If you’re a senior developer: What a senior developer anyway? Well, if the number of developers doubles every five years as it has been since the ’90s, it stands to reason that half the developers out there have less than five years’ experience. If you have 5+ years’ experience as a developer, you’re a senior, and you should treat The Essentials of Modern Software Engineering as a checklist!
- If you’re a non-technical manager of a development team or project: The Essentials of Modern Software Engineering is pretty layperson-friendly and quite readable. You should at least skim the book for an overview of what’s considered better ways to build and maintain software.
- If you’re in hiring or recruiting: You should skim The Essentials of Modern Software Engineering to get a better feel for the software development process. You might also get some insight into the sort of skills and aptitudes that developers, especially senior ones, should have.
In case you were wondering, The Essentials of Modern Software Engineering currently has a five-star rating on Amazon. Yes, it’s from 7 reviewers, but 7 high-quality reviewers.