Bing & SyntaxDB to the rescue

How often do programmers Google their way out of problems?

Gabriela Motroc

No one is omniscient and that’s ok. There comes a time when you don’t know how to do something and what happens then? You Google your way out of that predicament and hope for the best — but you might wonder if there’s an easier way to find what you were looking for.

2016 was a big year for search engines (and websites) which promise to help you find syntax — Bing joined forces with HackerRank to help you find solutions faster and SyntaxDB vowed to become the world’s fastest programming reference. That doesn’t mean that people won’t rush to Stack Overflow or other online communities anymore but it does mean that searching for information is now easier and faster.

When someone asked Scott Hanselman, programmer, teacher and speaker, to clear his mind on the question “Am I really a developer or just a good googler,” the former explained that “we grow when we are outside our comfort zone.” But, as Vivek Ravisankar, co-founder and CEO at HackerRank said when the collaboration between the platform and Bing was announced, searching for the solution when you run into a problem you’re not quite sure about is “one of the most common productivity pitfalls for programmers today.”

If you want to improve on or learn a new algorithm, you search in engines and figure out which blue link to click. Then, you have to transfer all of this into your editor. You trial and error until you find the right solution.

Exhibit No. 1: Bing & HackerRank

Ravisankar wrote in the blog post announcing the collaboration that engineers usually “go to search engines to get answers on various sites like, Stackoverflow, Stackexchange and other blogs” and introduced a new way to learn programming languages and play with code. “Now, you have a streamlined alternative that will not only spit out the code solution you need but also edit the code and play with it in real-time,” he added. There is no IDE installation required which, according to HackerRank’s CEO, “will save you endless time you used to spend going back and forth from search to your code editor since the code runs on a live code editor within Bing’s search engine.”

Marcelo De Barros, Group Engineering Manager for the UX Features and Shared Tools at Bing, explained that “in addition to learning how a certain algorithm/code is written in a given language, users will also be able to check how the same solution is constructed in a range of other programming languages too –providing a Rosetta-stone model for programming languages.”

Exhibit No. 2: SyntaxDB

Bing and HackerRank are not the only ones that offer programmers a chance to actually find what they are looking for when they don’t know how to solve a particular problem. “SyntaxDB is designed for programmers who often need to do a Google search for their syntax needs” and its goal is to “one day become the world’s fastest programming reference.”

SyntaxDB was created by Anthony Nguyen, software developer at Shopify, while studying at Queen’s University for Computer Engineering and Economics. The website supports nine languages: Java, JavaScript, C, C++, Swift, Go, Ruby and Python and offers integrations with Slack, DuckDuckGo and Visual Studio Code. 

Google search frequency: Increases or decreases with experience?

In the project description, Nguyen also offered a link to a question answered by 500+ Reddit users: How Much Does an Experienced Programmer Use Google?

There’s no such thing as a correct answer to this questions but as one Redditor pointed out, “you frequently forget some of the smaller details” if you write and debug code in 4+ languages per day. Another user explained that “learning how to Google is an important part of the job” while devsquid opined that “as your programming knowledge grows, your questions become much more general.”

Plus, according to BlueRenner, using Google is “the most cost-effective route. Putting the code into the text editor is the single least important part of programming. Knowing what to put, and where, is the entire valuable part of the job.” Another Redditor with more than two decades of experience wondered how developers lived without Google since no one can have all the documentation memorized and gigitrix said “Google is my brain’s SSD, the RAM of my brain is better utilised holding more of the problem space in it than holding API docs and language minutiae.”

How often do you turn to Google when you need help?


Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc was editor of and JAX Magazine. Before working at Software & Support Media Group, she studied International Communication Management at the Hague University of Applied Sciences.

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