If you’re a programmer, you know that writing code can often be a time-consuming and error-riddled process. Figuring out how to make your program or web application do what you want and then explaining it to others, like your team or stockholders, can be just as frustrating as it can be satisfying.

That’s where pseudocode comes in.

Pseudocode is a way of representing code using a combination of simple, natural language and elements of programming language. Whether you’re just starting out in the world of programming or you’re a seasoned pro, understanding pseudocode is a time-saving trick you can integrate into your process at any time.

In this article, we’ll delve into what pseudocode is, how it’s used, and why it’s an essential tool for any developer.

Let’s dive right in.

What Is Pseudocode?

Pseudocode is a way of representing code, such as algorithms, functions, and other processes, using a combination of natural language and programming language-like elements.

It’s called “pseudo” code because it’s not actually executable. Instead, it’s a way for humans to understand and plan out the logic in coding — to describe the steps of a program in a way that’s easy for humans to understand, while still being detailed enough to be rapidly converted into a specific programming language.

Here’s a simple example of pseudocode, in which we’re working out the basic logic to greet a visitor by name when they navigate to our site or app:

PROCESS GreetUser
    INPUT userName
    DISPLAY "Hello, " + userName + "!"
END

As you can see, the above pseudocode isn’t written with syntax from any actual language or framework. Instead, it uses simple, universally understandable language and programming elements — like PROCESS, DISPLAY, and + — to stand in as syntax, making it simple for anyone to follow.

That’s one of the powers of writing pseudocode: By laying the code’s intentions out in a common syntax, you can jump all programming and skill-based language barriers. We’ll talk more about this in the next section.

Benefits of Writing Pseudocode

One of the main benefits of pseudocode is that it allows developers to sketch out their code without getting bogged down in the syntax and structure of any one specific language. This makes it easier to catch mistakes in a program or function’s logic, all without having to write or debug any actual code.

What’s more, pseudocode can be easily adapted to different programming languages, making it a useful tool for developers who are familiar with multiple languages and need to translate their ideas between them. Imagine being able to explain your Node.js script to a Laravel developer! This can be especially useful for teams working on a project together, as pseudocode can be used as a common language to communicate ideas and functions.

Here are the main benefits pseudocode can bring to developers, both novice and experienced:

  • Improved efficiency: By writing out the steps of a process in pseudocode, developers can save time by planning out their code before diving into the details or syntax of a specific programming language. This can help coders avoid mistakes and reduce the need for debugging.
  • Easier to read: Since pseudocode is written to be simple enough for anyone to understand, it makes it easier for developers to read and understand code, especially if they’re working with a team or need to revisit old code.
  • Greater flexibility: Because pseudocode isn’t tied to any specific programming language, it can be easily adapted to different languages. This makes it a useful tool for developers who are familiar with multiple languages and need to translate their ideas between them.
  • Enhanced collaboration: Pseudocode can be used as a common language for a team of developers to communicate and collaborate on a project. This can be especially useful for teams working on a project together, as pseudocode allows developers to clearly and concisely communicate their ideas.
  • Local management: Because it’s not executable, your pseudocode won’t need to be hosted online or connected to any external scripts like a full-fledged app would. It can be created and saved in a file on your local machine, in a Cloud file, or even copied into an email.

In addition, writing pseudocode is easy to implement at any stage of your development process. Even if you’ve never used it before, you can start right now — regardless of where you are in your coding progress — and immediately gain the benefits outlined above.

Whether you’re just starting in the programming world or a seasoned pro, writing pseudocode could save you time, effort, and frustration! 😎 Learn more here ✅Click to Tweet

Common Pseudocode Use Cases

Because of pseudocode’s inherent flexibility, there are plenty of uses for pseudocode — even outside the realm of programming.

Here are several common use cases for developers:

  • Planning and designing processes: Pseudocode can be used to plan out the steps of a process, function, or algorithm, allowing developers to think through the logic and ensure that it’s correct before implementing it in a specific programming language.
  • Communicating ideas to non-technical stakeholders: Pseudocode can be used to clearly explain the steps of a process or algorithm to non-technical stakeholders, such as project managers or clients, in a way that allows them to grasp the concept easily.
  • Collaborating with a team: Pseudocode can be used as a common language for a team of developers to communicate and collaborate on a project, regardless of their individual programming expertise.
  • Adapting code to different programming languages: Because pseudocode isn’t tied to any particular programming or scripting language, it can be quickly and easily adapted and translated into different languages. This is especially useful for developers and teams who work with multiple languages.
  • Teaching programming concepts: Pseudocode can be a useful tool for teaching the fundamentals of programming, as it allows students to focus on the logic and structure of a program without getting bogged down in syntax.

These are just a few examples; many more exist. The possibilities for implementing pseudocode to your advantage are virtually limitless.

How To Write Pseudocode

There’s no one right way to write pseudocode. The same lack of specific syntax that makes it so flexible is exactly what precludes it from having any particular syntax rules.

While some languages like Pascal and Basic offer syntax-specific pseudocode guidelines, you can actually write pseudocode using any terminology you like, so long as your terms are ubiquitous and the logic is followable.

That said, there are some basic steps and guidelines for pseudocode that most developers adhere to. We’ll delve into these next.

Steps For Writing Pseudocode

Here are some general steps you can follow to write good pseudocode:

  1. Open your text editor: Pseudocode is most often written in a text or HTML editor, You can pick your favorite and open a new file.
  2. Define your goal: Determine the purpose of your program or function. What do you want it to do?
  3. Separate it into parts: Break down the problem into smaller, more manageable chunks. This can help you think about the problem more clearly and make it easier to arrange the pieces so they work where and when they should.
  4. Organize it into steps: Write out the steps of your program in logical order. Use natural language, and avoid using specific programming constructs or methods such as control structures or type casting.
  5. Indent your lines: Use indentation to show the structure of your program. For example, you might indent the lines of code that belong inside a loop.
  6. Test it: Test your pseudocode to make sure it’s clear and logical. You can do this by walking through it verbally or by having someone else read it and report back to you what they think the pseudocode is supposed to do.

Once your pseudocode is written, you’ll need to translate it into an executable script. You can practice this outside your projects by contributing to open-source Git repositories, taking on code challenges, and asking/answering questions on StackOverflow or within your development community.

Pseudocode Constructs

Despite pseudocode’s lack of a defined syntax, there are several common programming constructs that developers often utilize when writing pseudocode. Let’s take a look at each.

Sequences

A sequence is a group of statements that are executed in a specific order. They’re used to perform or repeat a series of simple actions. Some familiar sequence commands commonly used in pseudocode include INPUT, SET, PRINT, READ, DISPLAY, SHOW, and CALCULATE.

Here’s an example of pseudocode that uses some of these commands:

PROCESS CalculateCost
    INPUT price, quantity
    SET cost = price * quantity
    PRINT "The cost is: " + cost
END

This pseudocode defines a process called CalculateCost that takes in a price and quantity, multiplies them together to calculate the cost, and then displays the result.

Conditionals

Conditional statements allow a program to make decisions based on certain conditions, then direct the program to execute certain statements if a condition is met (or not met). IF-ELSE, IF-IF ELSE-ELSE, and CASE statements are frequently utilized in pseudocode.

Here’s an example showing an IF-ELSE script in pseudocode:

IF user = returning
    PRINT "Welcome back!"
ELSE
    PRINT "Welcome!"

In the above example, we’re describing a process that shows a “Welcome back!” message to users who have visited before, but shows only “Welcome!” to new users.

Iterations

Iteration statements repeat a set of steps within a larger function or process. They’re often tasked to perform the same operation on multiple items in a list or to repeat a process until certain conditions are met.

Iterations are useful for repeating a set of steps multiple times and can be implemented using various types of loops, including FOR, WHILE, and DO-WHILE loops.

Let’s look at some pseudocode that uses a FOR loop to iterate through a list of numbers:

PROCESS PrintWholeList
    INPUT listOfNumbers 
    FOR each number in listOfNumbers
    PRINT number
    END FOR
END

In the above pseudocode, our PrintWholeList process takes in a list of numbers and then iterates through the list, displaying each number on the screen. The FOR loop allows the process to repeat the PRINT command for each item in the list.

Alternatively, we could utilize the common pseudocode to accomplish the same as our above loop. In pseudocode, it’s more common to use the keywords REPEAT and UNTIL in place of DO-WHILE:

PROCESS PrintWholeList
    INPUT listOfNumbers 
    SET counter = 0
    REPEAT
    PRINT listOfNumbers[counter]
    SET counter = counter + 1
    UNTIL counter = length of listOfNumbers
END

As shown here, we can switch out the names, keywords, and syntax pieces all we like. This is just one demonstration of pseudocode’s flexibility. The key is to ensure that the logic is stable while using names that are ubiquitous enough to be read by anyone.

You can see some of these constructs used in the pseudocode examples we’ll work with later on.

Pseudocode Best Practices

As we mentioned earlier, there is no strict syntax for writing pseudocode, since it’s not an actual programming language.

That said, here are a few general guidelines that can help you write clear, effective pseudocode each time:

  1. Use natural language: Pseudocode should be written in a way that’s easy for anyone to understand, using natural language rather than technical jargon.
  2. Keep it simple: Avoid using complex language or syntax, and focus on expressing the steps of the algorithm or process in a clear and concise way.
  3. Be specific: Be as specific as possible when writing pseudocode, including information such as variable names and specific values.
  4. Leave out unnecessary details: If you’re worrying about which case convention to adopt or whether to use semicolons, you’re overthinking it. Make your pseudocode text as simple and straightforward as possible.
  5. Use programming-like elements: While pseudocode should not be written in a specific programming language, it can be helpful to use elements such as loops, conditional statements, and function calls to make it easier for readers to understand your program’s steps.
  6. Use indentation to show hierarchy: Indentation can be used to show the hierarchy of the steps in your program, making it easier to understand the logic and structure.

By following these guidelines, you can write clear and effective pseudocode that you and others can use as a guide for implementing your function or algorithm in a specific programming or scripting language.

Pseudocode Examples and Translations

Let’s look at some examples of pseudocode, along with their translations into executable code in various languages and frameworks.

PHP

To start off, let’s write some pseudocode that’s meant to mimic the logic of adding up all the numbers in a given list:

PROCESS FindTotal
    INPUT listOfNumbers
    SET sum = 0
    FOR EACH number IN listOfNumbers
    SET sum = sum + number
    END FOR
    PRINT sum
END

Our pseudocode logic follows these steps:

  1. Give the function a name.
  2. Get the list of numbers from the end user.
  3. Create a variable called sum to house the numerical total as it gets calculated.
  4. Iterate through every number in the list one by one, adding each number to the sum’s total.
  5. After all the numbers have been added, end the iteration (loop).
  6. Display the final sum obtained from adding all the numbers together.
  7. End the function.

Now that we know the logic of our function, we can translate this pseudocode into any other language or framework. Let’s see what it might look like translated into PHP:

function findTotal($listOfNumbers) {
    $sum = 0;
    foreach ($listOfNumbers as $number) {
    $sum += $number;
    }
    echo $sum;
}

Node.js

Next, let’s write some pseudocode we can use to check what the current time is for our visitor, then send them the appropriate greeting based on their time of day:

PROCESS TimedGreeting
    GET userTime
    IF userTime > 6:00 + < 12:00
    PRINT "Good morning!"
    ELSE IF userTime > 12:00 + < 18:00
    PRINT "Good afternoon!"
    ELSE
    PRINT "Good evening!"
END

Our pseudocode logic follows these steps:

  1. Give the function a name.
  2. Find the user’s time.
  3. If the user’s time is between 6:00 AM and 12:00 PM, show the message “Good morning!”
  4. If the user’s time is between 12:00 PM and 6:00 PM, show the message “Good afternoon!”
  5. For any other time, show the message “Good evening!”
  6. End the function.

Translated into Node.js, it might look like this:

function timedGreeting() {
    const userTime = new Date();
    if (userTime.getHours() > 6 && userTime.getHours() < 12) {
    console.log('Good morning!');
    } else if (userTime.getHours() > 12 && userTime.getHours() < 18) {
    console.log('Good afternoon!');
    } else {
    console.log('Good evening!');
    }
}

Python

For our next example, let’s write some pseudocode to outline the logic for reversing a string (in this case, a sentence) that’s given to us by a user:

PROCESS ReverseString
    INPUT string
    SET reversed_string = reverse of string
    PRINT "The reversed sentence is: ", reversed_string
END

Our pseudocode logic follows these steps:

  1. Give the function a name.
  2. Prompt the user for a string and accept what they provide.
  3. Store the value of the user’s string variable.
  4. Slice the stored string value to reverse it, and store the result in a new variable.
  5. Display the reversed string on the screen.
  6. End the function.

When translated to Python, it might look like this:

string = input("Enter a sentence: ")
reversed_string = string[::-1]
print("The reversed sentence is: ", reversed_string)

In some cases, your actual translated code will be shorter than your pseudocode. That’s fine. As long as your pseudocode’s logic is sound and your translated code functions as it should, you can disregard the discrepancies in length.

Real-world Processes

Thanks to its readability and flexibility, pseudocode can even be used to define processes that lie outside the world of coding.

Say you want to lay out the steps you’ll need to paint your bedroom. The pseudocode for such a chore might look something like this:

PROCESS PaintBedroom
    INPUT color
    PREPARE bedroom
    REMOVE furniture from room
    COVER floors with drop cloth
    TAPE off trim
    PAINT walls
    SETUP ladder
    LOAD paint roller with paint
    ROLL paint onto walls
    ALLOW paint to dry
    FINISH
    REMOVE tape and drop cloth
    REPLACE furniture
    DISPOSE of trash
END

Of course, because painting a bedroom is a physical operation unrelated to computers, you wouldn’t need to translate this into a programming language. But by adhering to pseudocode best practices and conventions, you can see how easy it is to map out and communicate even real-world processes through pseudocode.

Want to know a time-saving trick for your next dev project? 👀 Check out what pseudocode is, how it’s used, and why it’s an essential tool for any developer ⬇️Click to Tweet

Summary

As a developer, you’re aware of just how valuable your time is. You should be seeking to protect it wherever possible by implementing strategies that save you time, effort, and frustration.

Writing pseudocode is an excellent time- and effort-saving measure for developers of all languages and skill levels, and it can be smoothly integrated into your workflow without the need for additional tools or overhead. By clearly and concisely planning out their code through pseudocode before diving into the nitty-gritty of writing and testing it, developers can save time, avoid mistakes, and more easily collaborate with their team members.

What other uses have you found for pseudocode? Let us know in the comments section!


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