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Everybody uses copy and paste at some point. It might be code from an old project or a snippet from Stack Overflow. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that.

Knowing how to copy and paste code can save you hours of time. Although there is a subtle technique to copying and pasting code and it catches new developers every time. You have to watch out for a few things before you decide to use a snippet from somewhere else.

You need to understand the code

Hear me out. Even if the code you used worked, you need to know why. Say you find a bug later on and the call stack leads you back to that chunk of code (which will likely happen). What do you do? Why is it not working?

That’s why you need to understand exactly what that code is doing and why. Most snippets need a little editing or some understanding of how the project is set up. There’s a lot of good code out there that will work for you, but you need to know how to integrate it with your native code.

Be on the look out for potential errors or incompatibilities

Make sure the code you copy and paste meets the requirements for your project. Check that it’s the most recent version and that it works with your version of code. This is especially true in frameworks like React and Angular. Getting the wrong version of code can break an entire project if you’re not careful.

Also look out for those weird errors that let you build and run the project anyways. They are going to cause some chaos somewhere unexpected. When those happen it takes a good amount of digging through documentation to fix. If you run into one of those issues, you might want to look at some other options before you dive too deep. Unless you have to use that piece of code.

Don’t be afraid to use the code

Sometimes when you get in the zone and the code just flows out of your fingers, you forget to use the code that was supposed to make this easier! It’s cool to write your own functionality. I think it helps stretch you as a developer. It’s just when you have deadlines and clients to meet with you won’t have as much time to dedicate to making your own functionality unless it’s a super custom application.

Go ahead and take the shortcut. If you’ve already checked the two points above, then you won’t have any problems with it. And if something better comes along don’t hesitate to test it out. A different piece of code could help your application run better or faster. Part of learning how to code is knowing when and where to use it. Don’t be afraid.

So keep doing the copy and paste thing. An added benefit is that when you copy and paste code you’re learning how to read other people’s code and how they write. That will help you grow as a developer. Usually if a code snippet has been used a lot it’s a pretty solid snippet. That means a pretty solid developer wrote it. That’s who you want to learn from.

How do you feel about using copied code? Some people hate when other developers just copy and paste code.

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