Boilerplate, what does it mean?
The term “boilerplate” originally refers to the steel plates used in newspaper printing to print the exact text in multiple copies.
These steel plates were pre-fabricated and standardized plates that could be reused to repeatedly print the exact text, saving time and effort in producing newspapers.
So, the term refers to any text that can be reused with little or no modification in different situations or purposes. It is commonly used in legal documents, contracts, and of course, in source code.
For example, a company may have a standard confidentiality agreement that it uses for all its employees.
The company does not need to write the whole text from scratch every time but only change the employee’s information, saving time and effort in creating repetitive documents.
Imagine how you can make development easier and faster with a concept that comes from the press. The “boilerplate” is the code that is already done and good to go for different scenarios and goals, and it’s like having a metal plate with text carved on it that you can print repeatedly.
The boilerplate helps you build programs and projects with a strong foundation and the required standard features.
Is it bad?
There’s nothing wrong with boilerplate code, as it can be a great help and a time-saver in programming by giving you a basic framework and the features you need. But, if you use too much boilerplate code or use it when you don’t need it, you might run into some problems like these:
Difficulty reading and maintaining code
Too much boilerplate code can make the code hard to read and support, mainly if unclear variable names or unnecessary comments are used.
Larger file size and load time
Boilerplate code can increase application's the file size and load time, affecting performance.
Possible errors and bugs
If boilerplate code is not updated correctly, it can generate errors and bugs that can be difficult to detect and fix.
Boilerplate code can be an asset in programming if used effectively and maintained properly. Striking the right balance between boilerplate code and necessary customization is crucial for each unique project.
What are the practical applications of it in programming?
Applying boilerplate code to your projects or developments can help you improve the following aspects:
Boosts your productivity
Reusing code saves hours and work. While you may have thought of code snippets in this context, boilerplate code goes beyond that and allows us to standardize an entire base structure for a specific technology or type of project.
Working with the same skeleton helps you maintain and scale the code more efficiently. If you follow the same structure for projects of the same type, it allows you to work more efficiently.
For example, imagine you named the resources folder "assets" in one project and "resources" in another. This small change implies remembering how you called that resource in each project. By using boilerplate code, you can save yourself from these kinds of issues.
Enhances code quality
You can find boilerplate code for different technologies true professionals make. This helps you start with a professional base and improves your development. You can still create your boilerplate and customize them to your needs, and that's a perfectly valid option.
We have seen how boilerplate code can be used in almost any technology or language, such as PHP, React, Angular, HTML5, and many more.
Common examples of boilerplate code in different languages
Boilerplate code can be found in any programming language. Here we have examples in some of the most popular languages:
Basic HTML for a web page
Node.js server basic configuration using Express
Basic React component structure
Java POJO (Plain Old Java Object)
This is a basic example of boilerplate code in Java that is often used to create POJO classes representing objects and their properties. Using this boilerplate code can save time in programming and provide an essential structure for POJO classes.
As you can see, many lines of code must be written to perform simple tasks, and usually, Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) have boilerplate code generators that expedite development.
How can we improve the use of boilerplate code?
Several libraries for different programming languages support the generation and use of boilerplate code. Today we will discuss a lesser-known but handy library for the Java programming environment.
According to the Project Lombok website, "…is a java library that automatically plugs into your editor and builds tools, spicing up your java.
Never rewrite another getter or equals method; with one annotation, your class has a fully featured builder, automates your logging variables, and much more."
Lombok allows for reducing the amount of boilerplate code required in a Java application. The library offers a series of annotations that can be used in the code to automatically generate standard methods, such as getters and setters, constructors, equals, and hashCode methods.
Lombok can significantly reduce the amount of code needed to write a Java application, improving code readability and reducing development time.
The library also offers extra features such as automatic logging, argument validation, and simplifying the creation of immutable objects.
Lombok is compatible with many Java development environments, such as Eclipse, IntelliJ, and NetBeans, and with many other Java libraries and frameworks.
Lombok is a helpful tool for improving productivity and code quality in a Java application.
Lastly, and most importantly, we can see how the code for the same POJO seen in the previous example looks when using Lombok.
In this particular example, we can observe the marvelous @Data annotation provided by Lombok, which automagically generates the essential methods such as toString(), equals(), hashCode(), getter(), and setter() for all the properties within the class.
Additionally, we can see the use of the @AllArgsConstructor and @NoArgsConstructor annotations, which automatically create constructors with and without parameters, respectively.
By using Lombok, we can swiftly eliminate a large portion of the boilerplate code that is typically required to create a POJO class in Java.
This approach can drastically improve the code's conciseness and legibility, ultimately leading to a more productive development process. Additionally, as Lombok manages the code generation process automatically, it can significantly reduce errors while enhancing the overall quality of the code.
To begin utilizing Lombok in Java, it is as simple as navigating their website at https://projectlombok.org/ and following the straightforward installation guides tailored to your favorite development environment.