Chapter II.6. Breaking a Large Program into Subprograms

The bigger the program, the harder that program is to read, fix, and modify. Just as it's easier to spot a spelling mistake in a recipe printed on a single page compared to trying to find that same spelling mistake buried inside a 350-page cookbook, so is it easier to fix problems in a small program than a big one.

Because small programs can perform only simple tasks, the idea behind programming is to write a lot of little programs and paste them together, like building blocks, creating one massive program. Because each little program is part of a much bigger program, those little programs are subprograms, as shown in Figure 6-1.


The biggest problem with dividing a large program into multiple subprograms is to make each subprogram as independent, or loosely coupled, as possible. That means if one subprogram fails, it doesn't wreck the entire program along with it, like yanking out a single playing card from a house of cards.

One major advantage of subprograms is that you can isolate common program features in a subprogram that you can copy and reuse in another program. For example, suppose you wrote a word processor. Although you could write it as one massive, interconnected tangle of code, a better approach might be dividing the program functions into separate parts. By doing this, you could create a separate subprogram for

  • Displaying pull-down menus

  • Editing text

  • Spell checking

  • Printing a file

Figure II.6-1. Every large program ...

Get Beginning Programming ALL-IN-ONE DESK REFERENCE FOR DUMMIES® now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.