When is a function too long?


35 lines, 55 lines, 100 lines, 300 lines? When you should start to break it apart? I'm asking because I have a function with 60 lines (including comments) and was thinking about breaking it apart.

long_function(){ ... }



The functions are not going to be used outside of the long_function, making smaller functions means more function calls, etc.

When would you break apart a function into smaller ones? Why?

  1. Methods should do only one logical thing (think about functionality)
  2. You should be able to explain the method in a single sentence
  3. It should fit into the height of your display
  4. Avoid unnecessary overhead (comments that point out the obvious…)
  5. Unit testing is easier for small logical functions
  6. Check if part of the function can be reused by other classes or methods
  7. Avoid excessive inter-class coupling
  8. Avoid deeply nested control structures

Thanks everyone for the answers, edit the list and vote for the correct answer I'll choose that one 😉

I am refactoring now with those ideas in mind 🙂

Best Solution

Here is a list of red-flags (in no particular order) that could indicate that a function is too long:

  1. Deeply nested control structures: e.g. for-loops 3 levels deep or even just 2 levels deep with nested if-statements that have complex conditions.

  2. Too many state-defining parameters: By state-defining parameter, I mean a function parameter that guarantees a particular execution path through the function. Get too many of these type of parameters and you have a combinatorial explosion of execution paths (this usually happens in tandem with #1).

  3. Logic that is duplicated in other methods: poor code re-use is a huge contributor to monolithic procedural code. A lot of such logic duplication can be very subtle, but once re-factored, the end result can be a far more elegant design.

  4. Excessive inter-class coupling: this lack of proper encapsulation results in functions being concerned with intimate characteristics of other classes, hence lengthening them.

  5. Unnecessary overhead: Comments that point out the obvious, deeply nested classes, superfluous getters and setters for private nested class variables, and unusually long function/variable names can all create syntactic noise within related functions that will ultimately increase their length.

  6. Your massive developer-grade display isn't big enough to display it: Actually, displays of today are big enough that a function that is anywhere close to its height is probably way too long. But, if it is larger, this is a smoking gun that something is wrong.

  7. You can't immediately determine the function's purpose: Furthermore, once you actually do determine its purpose, if you can't summarize this purpose in a single sentence or happen to have a tremendous headache, this should be a clue.

In conclusion, monolithic functions can have far-reaching consequences and are often a symptom of major design deficiencies. Whenever I encounter code that is an absolute joy to read, it's elegance is immediately apparent. And guess what: the functions are often very short in length.