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34.7. One Thing at a Time

I find that when I begin to tackle a problem using sed, I do best if I make a mental list of all the things I want to do. When I begin coding, I write a script containing a single command that does one thing. I test that it works, then I add another command, repeating this cycle until I've done all that's obvious to do. I say what's obvious because my list is not always complete, and the cycle of implement-and-test often adds other items to the list. Another approach involves actually typing the list of tasks into a file, as comments, and then slowly replacing them with sed commands. If you're one of the rare but highly appreciated breed that actually documents their code, you can just leave the comments in the script or expand on them.

It may seem to be a rather tedious process to work this way, and indeed there are a number of scripts where it's fine to take a crack at writing the whole script in one pass and then begin testing it. However, the one-step-at-a-time method is highly recommended for beginners, because you isolate each command and get to easily see what is working and what is not. When you try to do several commands at once, you might find that when problems arise, you end up recreating the recommended process in reverse; that is, removing or commenting out commands one by one until you locate the problem.

-- DD

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