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Practically every text on code quality I've read agrees that commented out code is a bad thing. The usual example is that someone changed a line of code and left the old line there as a comment, apparently to confuse people who read the code later on. Of course, that's a bad thing.
But I often find myself leaving commented out code in another situation: I write a computational-geometry or image processing algorithm. To understand this kind of code, and to find potential bugs in it, it's often very helpful to display intermediate results (e.g. draw a set of points to the screen or save a bitmap file). Looking at these values in the debugger usually means looking at a wall of numbers (coordinates, raw pixel values). Not very helpful. Writing a debugger visualizer every time would be overkill. I don't want to leave the visualization code in the final product (it hurts performance, and usually just confuses the end user), but I don't want to lose it, either. In C++, I can use
#ifdef to conditionally compile that code, but I don't see much difference between this:
/* // Debug Visualization: draw set of found interest points for (int i=0; i<count; i++) DrawBox(pts[i].X, pts[i].Y, 5,5); */
#ifdef DEBUG_VISUALIZATION_DRAW_INTEREST_POINTS for (int i=0; i<count; i++) DrawBox(pts[i].X, pts[i].Y, 5,5); #endif
So, most of the time, I just leave the visualization code commented out, with a comment saying what is being visualized. When I read the code a year later, I'm usually happy I can just uncomment the visualization code and literally "see what's going on".
Should I feel bad about that? Why? Is there a superior solution?
Update: S. Lott asks in a comment
Are you somehow "over-generalizing" all commented code to include debugging as well as senseless, obsolete code? Why are you making that overly-generalized conclusion?
I recently read Robert Martins "Clean Code", which says:
Few practices are as odious as commenting-out code. Don't do this!.
I've looked at the paragraph in the book again (p. 68), there's no qualification, no distinction made between different reasons for commenting out code. So I wondered if this rule is over-generalizing (or if I misunderstood the book) or if what I do is bad practice, for some reason I didn't know.