December 23

What is Pair Programming? Everything You Need To Know


While in some teams, developers switch pairs every day for half a day, others have completely different approaches. In general, spreading knowledge across all the members of the team is a good practice. That’s because it takes some time for the story lead to onboard partners on the story’s objectives and tasks.

pair programming meaning

Finally, pair programming gives you someone else to talk to on the project who can empathize with you and help you solve your problems, so that you aren’t stuck spinning your wheels all day. 96 percent of people who practice pair programming at work say that they enjoy their job more than when programming alone. The partners for pair programming are usually two experts or one expert and one novice. In this latter case, pair programming allows junior and new team members to pick up information from their more experienced colleagues.

How to get started with pair programming

If these two individuals pair up they can complete the tasks much more faster compared to both of them doing it individually. In another situation two developers from different expertise can contribute to help each others expertise. Like a database developer and a middle tier developer working together can improve the delivery of code. The “driver” writes the code, and the “navigator” reviews the written code while providing information and instructions. The roles are typically alternated between every 15 minutes to 1 hour.

At a higher level, once you start pairing with another developer, you’re going to notice some differences in the ways you each approach your tasks. One of you might know some fancy keyboard shortcuts, have some special aliases for common shell commands, or prefer to use a specific IDE because of its unique features. In terms of the code itself, you may also each have a different implicit understanding about how variables are named, how to structure a commit message, when to use comments, etc. One mistake I’ve seen pairs make is trying to maximize the time they work together as a pair by scheduling a full eight hours together, and sometimes trying to work together beyond that. Pairing is intensive work that requires a heightened level of focus and participation. It’s very taxing to try to pair for more than five or six hours in a day, and even that might be stretching it for even the most resilient of us.

What is Pair Programming?

These women worked in pairs, allowing them to discuss ideas and improve each other’s work. When you have two or more people trying to work together, the first thing they need to do is agree on a work schedule. It’s not really pairing if two developers aren’t working together at the same time. Because of this, it’s essential that the developers who plan to work together coordinate their schedules and make sure they both agree to a time and place where they will work.

pair programming meaning

It’s a matter of context and where it helps you get better results. An underestimated benefit of pair programming is how it lets you onboard new team members blazing fast. As a solo programmer, you risk missing huge potential issues you’re not even expecting, especially when you don’t have the big picture of the code base in mind. After you declare you’re pair programming meaning done with the task, another developer looks at your code and raise warnings by kind of redlining your code and writing comments, much like how legal team review agreements. In this article, we explore the practice of pair programming to show you its pros and cons and share some best practices that have proven to be valuable to our development teams.

Is Pair Programming Right for You?

As the navigator, you can see way beyond what the driver is currently coding. You make use of your third eye power to detect obstacles and conflicts with the other pieces of code before they happen. You then discuss together what the best approach or workaround could be. Give us a shout-out in the comments and share your stories of pair programming.

  • Here, are 7 pair programming tips for having a productive coding session.
  • It gets even worst when you’re on PTO or just off sick and still check your notifications just to be told that “what you’ve coded the other day will not work”.
  • If you don’t do this, you risk losing the navigator’s focus and engagement in the story.
  • Pairing sessions provide a platform from which teammates can learn in tandem.
  • Instead, make it a consistent part of a schedule that includes time to work alone.
  • The other person is the “Navigator” who reviews each line of code as it is typed, checking for errors.
  • This is far more efficient than online tutorials and faster than searching the Internet for information.

Developer pairs should schedule meetings each week for the same day and time in order to establish the objectives of each pair programming session before it starts. If a team is just moving to remote pair programming, then extra time should be allocated to work out any kinks and try different styles. I have experience the benefits of pair programming and would suggest people to try it out. I have learnt a lot from seniors and juniors with whom I have pair programmed whenever an opportunity presented itself. Instead of reading 100 pages of book and understanding very little from it, it can be very helpful to spend 10 minutes with an experienced developer and get to learn most of it. There is a general feeling in Agile community that most of the production code has to written by a pair.

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One of my ex-colleague made a very important point regarding pair programming. He said when you pair with someone for any reason both the individuals have to benefit from it. If only one person in the pair keeps on working at the task and the other one just sits besides him then it doesn’t serve any purpose. That is why the ping pong or shifting the keyboards every now and then between both pairs is essential. Pair programming isn’t new; it’s been around the software development industry for decades. As a practice, pair programming originates from the extreme programming (XP) methodology, which prioritizes high software quality and frequent tests and releases.

pair programming meaning

If the Git logs get too cluttered, it’s always possible to go back and squash those extra commits into a single, more meaningful one before doing a pull request. Pairing only works when two people dedicate their full attention to a single computer. It’s better to avoid the distraction of having two (or more) active screens going during a pairing session. Even if one person just wants to look up some relevant code examples or check on the status of a background process, it’s better to do that on the one shared computer. If it’s a search, both developers can see how the search is constructed and what potential results come up. If it’s a status update, neither developer needs to be left behind.


If you can collaborate among all these different aspects of software development you can very well imagine the overall impact on the quality of what is being developed and delivered to the customer. Sharing best practices between partners leads to better overall code. In particular, having to be accountable to your partner discourages both members from taking any shortcuts or hacks.

Pair programming is an Agile software development technique originating from Extreme programming (XP) in which two developers team together on one computer. The two people work together to design, code and test user stories. Ideally, the two people would be equally skilled and would each have equal time at the keyboard. Imagine a situation where a senior member has very good systems and domain knowledge but is not very well versed with latest technology.

The Pros of Pair Programming

And most importantly, ensure that the programmers switch roles often. The two programmers share a single workstation (one screen, keyboard and mouse among the pair). The programmer at the keyboard is usually called the “driver” ; he writes the code. The other person is the “Navigator” who reviews each line of code as it is typed, checking for errors. You may switch between roles slower or faster, depending on your context.Ideally, the two people would be equally skilled and would each have equal time at the keyboard. Remote pairing can introduce complexities such as extra delays in coordination, a potential loss in communication and an increased reliance on task-tracking tools.


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