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"The Pragmatic Programmer": The Most In-Depth Comparison Between New and Old

What's the difference between Pragmatic Programmer original edition and the recently-released 20th-anniversary edition? If you own the first edition, is the new 20th-anniversary edition even worth buying?

In this article, I am giving you the tools to answer that question: this article contains the first three chapters of the significant and (and perhaps some not-so-significant) differences between the original Pragmatic Programmer and the recently-released 20th anniversary edition.


The differences between the original and the 20th-anniversary edition Pragmatic Programmer by Dave Thomas and Andy Hunt are as you might expect: much of it is the same, with words changed here and there for a modern context, but also whole sections have been completely reworked --- with a handful of completely-new topics.

Famous, common sense topics, such as Stone Soup and Boiled Frogs remain nearly untouched.

While technical topics, such as Version Control, changed from Source Code Control, have gotten a major update.

The authors have also gotten less prescriptive over the years. The famous topic, DRY --- The Evils of Duplication, has been changed to clarify that certain reuse is warranted. Their topic, The Power of Plain Text, has gone away from prescribing mastery of only one text editor.

Small tweaks throughout give more nods toward learning soft and nontechnical skills.

But ultimately, The Pragmatic Programmer is still the classic from 20 years ago.

In an interview about the new edition, co-author Dave Hunt said:

When you write a book that's so well-received, doing a second version --- the only place you can go is down. I would rather not go too far down.

I am pleased to report that the authors have stuck whole-heartedly to the spirit of the original and crafted a worthy update. But don't take my word for it.

You might love your original edition of the book, concerned you may be disappointed by the new version. Will you get any new wisdom from reading the new edition anyway?

See the following chapter comparisons for your much-sought-after answers. Currently, I have recorded only the first three chapter differences (because I ran out of time and patience), but feel free to contact me on Twitter or by email if you would appreciate a complete-book comparison.


  • New foreword by Saron Yitbarek, founder & CEO of CodeNewbie. What Saron covers in the foreword is many of the themes in her podcast episode with the Pragmatic Programmer authors. The podcast episode is Why you should read the new edition of the Pragmatic Programmer.

  • New preface before the original preface to the first edition. Key quote from the new edition:
    "[W]e had to make a decision. We could go through and update the technologies we reference and call it a day. Or we could reexamine the assumptions behind the practices we recommended in the light of an additional two decades' worth of experience.
    "In the end, we did both."

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Top comments (1)

hexangel616 profile image
Emilie Gervais

Favorite book forever! =)