The newest chapter in Chris Williams' career is, quite literally, a new chapter.
The projekt202 senior developer is the author of the recently-published book, The Command Line for Web Developers. Geared toward developers and designers alike, the book provides in-depth, expert answers for everyone at all levels within the software industry, whether those just starting out or people who want to better understand exactly what's going on in their computers.
Simply put, Chris explained, the command line is the interface that lets you type instructions directly to the computer. However, seeing a blank screen waiting for input can often feel incredibly overwhelming.
"Being a web developer means knowing which software to use to meet today's evolving standards. Having a strong understanding of the software developer ecosystem lets us pick the right tool for the job, because no two websites are alike and the tasks we have to accomplish vary from project to project," he said. "We can use command lines to automate tasks and manage a lot of the heavy lifting that we would otherwise need to do manually."
"I had been using the command line for a long time; it used to be the only way to write HTML on my college web servers over a Telnet connection," he said. "However, tools change over time and producing websites with desktop applications became very popular. Most developers today are familiar with apps like Sublime Text, Coda, Sketch and Adobe products, but when it comes to using Terminal, they aren't.
"Our developer ecosystem lives in the command line and I don't see that changing anytime soon. So much of what we do requires it, but most folks are not experienced using it," Chris said. "This book is meant to pull back the veil and show just how helpful and easy the command line is to use, and how they can leverage it to strengthen their developer skills."
Why use the command line? Chris outlines the many benefits, including its flexibility, version-control friendliness, the ability to work across teams and environments, the ease of set-up, and community support.
Throughout his new book, Chris guides readers through the command line's capabilities with step-by-step exercises and examples. Three main sections delve into the basics of using the command line, including Bash and Unix underpinnings; more advanced topics like running servers and customizing the command line; and using today's web developer tools, such as Git and npm.
"The pace at which technology changes is difficult to keep up with. As a front-end developer, my knowledge base and skill set are constantly being updated so they're not out-of-date every five years. As web developers, learning the ever-changing landscape of our technology can be difficult enough without also knowing the low-level operating systems, shells and other underpinnings," Chris said. "Interestingly, I think it's the fast pace of technology that makes using the command line so appealing. Here we have a shell program from the late '70s that gives tools a standard that's flexible, works well together and can accomplish tasks that didn't exist when Bash was released."
Not that managing a fast pace is anything new for the projekt202 developer. During his book's two-year development, Chris also continued his many duties as founder and organizer of the Front Porch Conference, an annual showcase of mission-critical skills for web developers and designers. In addition to the long-standing tech event in Dallas, last year marked Front Porch's first foray into Central Texas, with a companion conference branching out in Austin.
"The Front Porch Conference agenda tries to reflect the barometer of what's happening in the industry, lining up with the knowledge that developers and designers alike seek for their careers," he said. "That's the same kind of approach I took with this book."
Running sold-out conferences in two cities, writing a 216-page book and working as a full-time developer were all responsibilities fueled by Chris' professional passion.
"Everyone should absolutely pursue projects and causes they are passionate about. My passion is in educating others and helping to build a better development community," Chris said. "If readers find at least one thing in my book that they can use to make their jobs easier, I'd be happy with that."