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Joel on Software

(Joel On Software #1)

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  3,248 ratings  ·  137 reviews
Someone once said that the task of a writer is to "make the familiar new and the new familiar". For years, Joel Spolsky has done exactly this at Now, for the first time, you can own a collection of the most important essays from his site in one book, with exclusive commentary and new insights from joel. ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published October 28th 2004 by Apress (first published January 1st 2004)
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Average rating 4.11  · 
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 ·  3,248 ratings  ·  137 reviews

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Jan 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Most tech books get old and out-of-date with time. However I learned plenty of stuff from Joel on Software and enjoyed the author's humour and approach on many topics.

Here's a non-exhaustive list of things I learned (more) about:
- Always have a bug tracking system.
- Fix bugs first before you move on to working on new features. Saves lots of time.
- The Joel Test. I need to score better at that.
- Character encodings. I always got away with not knowing much about that, now I do. Thanks Joel :D.
- Do
Tim Poston
Jul 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
In one sense, I haven't read the book, as the book.
In another sense, I've read it, as the essays on line.
Now, I'll buy it.

Very few people in IT can think so clearly or so deeply,
and very few can write so clearly.
Dec 03, 2007 rated it liked it
If Jerry Seinfeld had decided to become a software professional, he might have written something like this. He observes the things that software developers and their colleagues do, skewers those practices with humor, and then says how it really ought to be done. Sometimes I agree with him, sometimes I didn't, but I like his writing well enough that it seemed worth buying a copy of the book. Most of the articles in the book are also available online on Spolsky's blog, but as I seem to recall from ...more
Erkin Unlu
Apr 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
It is surprisingly refreshing to find out that Joel's thoughts about how software should be developed nearly fifteen years ago have all been accomplished and further advanced. It is also funny to read about how Microsoft will lose the API wars (they lost it to the Web and Mobile) but still stay strong (which is still true). ...more
Manan Nayak
Sep 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Equal parts nostalgia, historical artifacts, and timeless wisdom. Fun read overall.
Adnan Ali
Aug 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Treat it like the Bible. Take only the good stuff out of it.
Alasdair Craig
Apr 23, 2014 rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this book more than I did because I'm a big fan of Spolsky. A lot of the content I'd read before from his blog, which I'm OK with and was fully expecting. However it really jumps all over the place. (I suppose the expanded title does allude to that.) The second half is decidedly random, doesn't follow on neatly from the first, and seems to have been added as an afterthought. The book stops so abruptly with no conclusion but a Q&A chapter where both the questions and answe ...more
Andreea Ratiu
Nov 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this book, even if Joel was kind of obsessed with Microsoft and Netscape. I like the little stories about problems he faces building his own company and learning about mistakes that compromise a business - not software bugs, but strategy bugs. My things to remember from this book are: know who your customers are and pay attention to what they need/want.
Jun 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the best contemporary books on software engineering. Though a bit outdated (articles from early 2000s), the concepts and ideas are extremely valid. Got a lot of new perspectives from this book. Must read.
Otis Chandler
Jan 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: programmers
Joel's a windows coder - but a smart one. Its actually interesting to hear about that side of things, as usually I'm just turning my nose up at it :) A good read for any programmer. ...more
May 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
A fair bit out of date at this point, but that's one thing that makes it interesting - he made predictions about technology that are coming true (or not) right around now ("We'll never use [cloud-based] document storage!"; ("When we all have 100mbps internet...").
In any case, a lot of it is not really out of date or style - the software project management aspects in particular. He also drinks the Microsoft kool-aid, so prepare to hear a lot about .NET and Excel.
I'm gonna go catch up on his blog.
Abhishek Kona
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Its a great book. It reminds you how the software industry is cyclical. Joel is a great writer and makes you want to keep reading - even the chapters with blatant Microsoft worship.

A few chapters could take updating to 2016. Most of the advice is valid some of it is not. A few noteworthy chapters → the one on unicode, the one where he talks about specs and the one about deadlines.
Luís Soares
Sep 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: software
Joel does not play well with mumbo-jumbo. Illustrative software development real stories told with a fine sense of humor. Joel seems to be a great developer and software manager, which is hard to find. Every developer and manager should read it.
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
More than a collection of software engineering thoughts, this book describes a collection of experiences from several years of working in software engineering companies, starting as intern at Microsoft Excel's team, to his own company Fog Creek.

Reading it in 2018, 14 years after it was first published, it's still valuable as it was back then, as most of the lessons still apply (some of them I can relate with my own experience as software engineering). There's a lot to learn from these lessons an
Aug 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great book, a bit dated now but interesting to see how some of his ideas went with regards to Microsoft's business directions.
Totally love his style and he's obviously a smart cookie who knows his stuff both as a programmer and a project manager. His wit is very engaging and turns even the driest discussions about API's into something of a comedy.
Spolsky talks from first hand experience, he's no theoretician which ironically allows him room to theorize quite accurately given the retrospective v
Charlie Harrington
Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
Rewind to the turn of the millennium, when Windows programming ruled the world, the dotcoms were doomed, and managing large software projects still suffered from the same problems as they did back at IBM during the Mythical Man-Month era (as they still do now). Hyperbolic and hilarious, Joel tears apart the tropes and renders his own creed for programming, managing, and successfully making things with other people on computers. The hint of web programming at the end of the book is a prescient gl ...more
Jan 06, 2021 rated it liked it
This was probably a very good book when it was first released but, with the benefit of being almost a decade in the future, you can see that the predictions made in the book were basically a toss-up: every other one turned out to be plain wrong. It's a good example of why we should take predictions with a grain of salt.

It's interesting to read about some of the issues at the time and some of the arguments joel made back then still make a lot of sense today, but overall it's become a historical
Ramanan Balakrishnan
Oct 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Essential reading if you write/read/make/design/touch/use software. Interesting to see how assertions from almost 20 years ago have turned out - most are still valid. Even more valuable are the cases where the predictions have turned out differently.
Emad Mokhtar
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is an old one, but still has much information that can be applied nowadays. This book is focusing on many aspects from people side of software development, to the process side. Joel recommends Program Managers to read it but I can also recommend Software Developers o read it as well.
Mar 04, 2019 rated it liked it
A little bit outdated, a little bit annoying...but the guy knows what he’s talking about. A good foundational book for programmers and project managers (the capacity in which it was recommended to me).
Nate Stevens
Oct 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: programming
A shockingly-still-relevant-to-development-in-2020 book from 16 years ago, Spolsky writes entertainingly but in a way that holds up in the more inclusive world of 2020. Lots of inspection of Microsoft here, which prompted 2020 me to buy Satya's biography. ...more
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed it, and read it fast. Most of it it's still relevant, the time passed since it was written helped me to focus on the more generic wisdom instead of being blinded by the technologies. ...more
Hunan Rostomyan
Apr 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting set of essays on all sorts of programming topics. Learned a ton.
Nathan Feaver
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
The examples are somewhat outdated but the concepts are eternal. :)
Alexander Borshak
Aug 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not bad, worth to read. Many interesting ideas.
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A nice reorganization of many of Joel's blogposts and essays. Some of the details are a bit dated (e.g. any discussion of technologies or the "future" of programming), but still a great read. ...more
Rafael George
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Ton of hilariously put unfulfilled predictions.
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
good stuff
Aug 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
As per any technical book, some concepts are pretty dated. I love his strong stance of things and clear explanations. Definitely a must read for any wanna be team/tech lead.
Dennis Geus
Sep 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
although a bit outdated some tips and thoughts of Joel are still applicable.
if you are in programming, this is a must read
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“The Joel Test

1. Do you use source control?
2. Can you make a build in one step?
3. Do you make daily builds?
4. Do you have a bug database?
5. Do you fix bugs before writing new code?
6. Do you have an up-to-date schedule?
7. Do you have a spec?
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9. Do you use the best tools money can buy?
10. Do you have testers?
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