What Is Pair Programming? – DZone Agile

When it comes to software development, writing high-quality and defect-free source code is imperative. In order to ensure or improve the quality of the source code developers write, they carry out a variety of tasks, including code reviews, error checking, iterative loops, linting, and fast feedback.

However, developers perform all these activities once they write code. What if you get all these activities done while writing the source code line by line? Wondering how it is possible? Yes, it is possible with the help of pair programming.

Pair programming is one of the most typical development techniques often adopted in agile work environments. As its name suggests, pair programming involves two heads rather than one to accomplish a specific coding task. They share a single workstation and work collaboratively to write the source code, along with performing all other activities required to improve its quality.

Through this blog post, we shall make you aware of pair programming and its various aspects.

What Is Pair Programming?

Pair programming is an agile software development technique that involves two programmers working at a single workstation. In this development technique, one programmer is the driver who writes the code, and the other is the observer or navigator who navigates and reviews each line of code as soon as the first one writes.

However, these two programmers can switch their roles as per their comfort. Sometimes, pair programming is referred to as pairing.

When the navigator or observer reviews the code, they come up with improvements in code and all possible future issues. The primary intent of pair programming is to let the driver completely focus on writing the effective code while the observer is a guide or safety net.

Pairing Variations

Since pair programming involves two programmers, there are three different pairing variations, as follows:

  1. Newbie-Newbie: This pairing involves both novice programmers. However, organizations rarely put into practice this pairing variation.
  2. Expert-Newbie: Organizations bring into practice this pairing variation to help a newbie learn under the guidance of an expert programmer.
  3. Expert-Expert: This pairing variation results in higher productivity and efficiency since both the programmers are experts.

How Does Pair Programming Work?

As discussed earlier, pair programming involves two developers and a single workstation. It follows the four-eyes principle, which states that two individuals agree before taking action. While the driver concentrates on the particulars of the code, the navigator checks its quality and proposes ideas for improvement.

The process of pair programming begins as soon as two developers get a well-defined task. Initially, they decide upon their roles, ie, the driver or the observer. However, they keep on switching their roles frequently.

Also, together they decide on the techniques to accomplish the task and all possible challenges and risks associated with it. As the driver writes the code, the observer checks it line by line for correctness.

If the code needs improvements or corrections, the observer collaborates with the driver and conveys accordingly. In this way, they develop high-quality code.

Be mindful of the fact that these programmers frequently keep their roles switching so that they can review each other’s work. They also gain experience working with different aspects of development. In addition, switching roles keeps them alert and engaged.

Pair Programming Styles

Generally, pair programming leverages the different styles, as follows:

1. Driver-Navigator Style

The driver/navigator style is one of the most used styles. The driver handles coding while the observer manages to review. They often switch their roles during development. In addition, it is an ideal style when one programmer is experienced and the other is a novice.

2. Unstructured Style

The unstructured style works in an ad-hoc manner, where the two programmers decide on the spot whether to become the driver or the observer. However, this style is not ideal for long-lasting projects.

3. Ping-Pong Style

This style works well with test-driven development, where one programmer writes tests, and the other makes those tests pass. Similar to the driver/navigator style, the roles of writing and passing testing keep changing frequently.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Pair Programming

Let us now delve into the advantages and disadvantages of pair programming.

Advantages

  • Quick Solutions to Problems: Since pair programming involves two developers, each developer can help the other one in case of problems. If there is any issue in the development process, both programmers can work together and develop the best solution.
  • Easier Detection of Bugs: While one developer writes code, the other reviews it lines by line and identifies bugs or errors in the code.
  • Mutual learning: Since the two programmers work collectively, they can share their knowledge with the other one. As a result, each programmer gets to learn new things from the other programmer.
  • Better Communication Skills: Two developers constantly work for hours, collaborate with each other, and share knowledge. This results in better communication skills. Also, they will get used to collaborating in the workplace.

Disadvantages

  • Newbie-Newbie Pairing Variation: This pairing variation involves inexperienced developers and is generally avoided in organizations. Since both are newbies, they may encounter a lot of issues and may take time to accomplish the task.
  • Team Fit: Every developer is not the same as others, and hence, some cannot fit into the idea of ‚Äč‚Äčconstantly working with the other person. There are many developers who prefer working alone.

This brings us to the end of our discussion on pair programming. It is a widely adopted agile development technique to accomplish a certain task quickly, efficiency, and with greater accuracy. It provides flexibility to developers as they can be the driver or the observer whenever they want. Also, the best part of this technique is mutual learning, where developers get something new to learn.

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