Table of Contents
TODO, TO_DO, TO DO, @todo, FIXME, FIX_ME, FIX ME, HACK
No other keyword has so many aliases. No other keyword is quite as open to interpretation.
Don't worry, our compiler hasn't gone soft on us.
TODO isn't really a
keyword: it lives in comments and can therefore take whatever form a
programmer chooses, safe in the knowledge it won't cause trouble at compile or
On the surface,
TODO seems both useful and inevitable. No piece of
code is ever really finished: there will always be something more to
do, and where better to record this information than in the code
itself? If we think more carefully though, we realise that
actually indicates a point at which a decision was made—a decision
to defer action, a decision, in fact, to not do something. Clearly
this decision is less than ideal.
This article investigates the use of
TODO and friends more closely.
First, we shall consider what it is meant to mean and what it often
turns out to mean. Next, we'll search through some code, uncover some
use cases, and think about the alternatives.
These alternatives are usually better.
TODO, it turns out, is not
so innocent after all. When used as a shorthand for more work
required it tells us too little—and often too late—and when
used as a convenient label for broken code, it can cause serious
damage to a codebase.