From the Blogosphere
Choosing Your First Programming Language
Which is easiest, the most professionally useful, the most newbie-friendly?
By: Bob Gourley
Nov. 25, 2013 12:30 PM
Many new programmers struggle when it comes to selecting their first language to learn. Which is easiest, the most professionally useful, the most newbie-friendly? Lets find out by showing you a range of options, their strengths and weaknesses, and some information about the most common programming languages in demand today. At the end, we’ll make some recommendations and you’ll understand a bit more about why they were chosen.
The Task At Hand
Lets go through a few common use cases:
All of these languages can perform the same (or nearly the same) tasks as all the others, but the amount of effort can vary widely from language to language. You’ll see that in some of the examples in the next section…
You can see that Perl and Python are nearly as identical to each other as Java and C# are!
This makes sense because many languages are modeled after one another. By choosing a language that is syntactically similar to many other languages, you can practically learn multiple languages at once!
Hey, by the way, if you looked closely at those examples, you’ll notice some are simple, others are complex, and some require semicolons at the ends of lines while others don’t. If you’re just getting started in programming, sometimes it’s best to choose languages without many syntactical (or logical) rules because it allows the language to “Get out of its own way”. If you’ve tried one language and really struggled with it, try a simpler one!
If you’ve seen your use case mentioned in the table above, or have decided on a language already, you’ll need a way to run it. Generally, scripting languages require something called an Interpreter whereas C and C++ require compilers. Almost all of the languages mentioned in this article (with the exception of C#) are easiest to set up with any flavor of Linux — it really doesn’t matter which kind. C# is a special case because you need Visual Studio and Windows to use that.
PHP really requires a lot of work to set up in tandem with Apache/IIS, so we’ll save it for your own Googling or another article. The languages and links below are the easiest to set up.
You can see that things on Linux can be quite easy to set up, but of course requires some amount of familiarity with the operating system. If you’re not scared to jump into Linux feet-first and take some time to Google your issues, I highly recommend that you use Linux. Either way, you’ll be using the command line in order to debug your programs anyways.
These are the top ten:
So All This Information Is Nice But…
1. I’m a Windows User and I want to Get Into Programming
Those languages aren’t as easy as Python, but Python isn’t going to help you out as much if you’re looking to make a simple graphical application. That being said, if you just need a command-line utility, take a close look at Python.
2. I’m familiar with Linux and I want to make/automate something
3. I want to build a website
Just give me a Language!
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