Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Software EngineeringSoftware Engineering by Ian Sommerville
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, I know this borders on cheating, but I hope you will forgive me. It is 6 p.m. Eastern Time (3 p.m. here, in California) on 12/31/2014. I have read 99 books in 2014 and I pledged to read 100. I hate breaking pledges, so I will briefly review the textbook I have been teaching from all year. I had to read over 50 pages of the textbook today while grading the final exam, so I hope this justifies the inclusion of this review here.

I had taught Software Engineering, since mid-1990s, from various textbooks before I found Sommerville, Edition 6. Now I teach from the most current Edition 9, which is a truly mature textbook. It is divided, quite logically, into four main parts: Introduction to Software Engineering, Dependability and Security, Advanced Software Engineering, and Software Management. These parts comprise 26 content-packed chapters that I all manage to cover in the Software Engineering course. Sommerville is by far the best textbook on the subject I have ever read. The best feature of the text is that it is comprehensive, deep enough, and readable, if a bit boring (simply because the subject is quite boring).

Of course, I have minor qualms as to the allocation of space for individual topics. I would use more space for the Web-based programming and portable-device programming and less on obsolete concepts such as, say, the spiral model. I would expand space dedicated to agile methods. I am sure this will all come in the next edition.

My students programmatically do not like textbooks from which they are learning, yet they tolerate this one, and they do read all 716 pages (and are quizzed on all the material). This is another indication that it is quite a good textbook.

To lighten this overly serious review, let me quote a funny bit from Edition 8 of this textbook. Sommerville listed factors that influence programmers' productivity. One of these factors was termed "Outside awareness". The explanation made it clear that "outside awareness" meant "a window". Don't you love euphemisms?

Four and a quarter stars.

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