Computers have become the bedrock of modern society. They’re such a ubiquitous presence that we often overlook how integral they are to our lives. It’s worth taking a moment to consider that almost any interaction with a machine will also involve a computer of some sort. These aren’t the simple microcontrollers of the past. Lowered production costs mean it’s easy and cost-effective to use powerful computers for even the most mundane tasks. And each of these machines uses computer code to function. Given that fact, it’s no surprise that software development is such a booming industry.
The rise of modern computing has also made coding more complex than it used to be. There was a time when programming automatically implied use of assembly language. This language was extremely hard to use and only a few steps removed from the 1s and 0s of binary. Today we have a wide variety of programming languages to use. Each of them has its own unique strengths. But there’s such a large amount to choose from that it’s often hard to decide which languages are best to concentrate on. In short, what are the best and most useful coding languages?
Web Development Languages
Web development can be an easy answer when asking about the most useful coding languages. The biggest reason comes down to the ubiquity of the web. We can access complex web apps even on limited browsers. Even older game consoles can run a subset of web-based apps from their browsers. And smartphones have had a focus on web apps right from the start.
In fact, when the iPhone was first released it didn’t even have an app store. People were expected to rely entirely on web apps. Today any device with a web browser will be able to handle almost any given website or app. But this is where we start to run into some issues. because web development is more of a collection of coding languages than a single programming language. So, we need to use relatively complex methods to program for it.
HTML5 – the most recent iteration of the original hypertext markup language. The original HTML was a simple scripting language that provided some methods to change fonts and embed images. HTML was in many ways held back by its ability to embed compiled components that provided additional functionality. Developers tended to use non-HTML plugins within websites rather than pushing for updated versions of HTML which might offer native support. Up until HTML5, most multimedia was handled by plugins like Flash. HTML5 was a huge upgrade and gave coders the ability to work with advanced multimedia components like native multimedia streaming.
CSS3 – the ability to work with multimedia was further enhanced by CSS3. CSS, or cascading style sheets offers additional options to work with the overall presentation of content on the web.
Java: Programming Language
However, until 2008 Java was primarily used on webservers. Java could, and still can, create GUIs. This can be done with Java rendering through Swing or with bindings to native widgets. But in general, Java had proven itself to be ideally suited to use on servers. Java is fast, powerful, works well on the command line and has native networking components well suited to that platform.
It was really Android that proved to be the modern rebirth of Java. The mobile operating system was first released in 2008 and was powered with Java. It’s true that Android’s version of Java is a little different than the standard library. For example, Android’s Java uses a unique system to render GUI components. But when we learn Java, we’ve also learned the bulk of what’s needed to code for Android. A single language that can target Android, servers and even desktops is certainly a useful coding language.
C++ is the direct successor to C, one of the first higher level programming languages. C++ added some important concepts like an object-oriented approach to programming. This approach would influence every other programming language to follow. In many ways C++ provides the best of the two different approaches to coding. It’s nearly as fast as its predecessor C. But at the same time, it has a syntax which isn’t more complex than what we find in more recently developed languages. What’s more, we can generally code with and run C++ based code on all platforms.
C# isn’t quite the next evolution of C. But it can instead be thought of as a cousin of C++. In 2002 Microsoft released a large software framework called .NET. The .NET framework both updated and integrated a lot of disparate technologies under a single banner. The release of .NET coincided with Microsoft’s official release of the C# programming language. C# attempted, and in many ways succeeded, as an integration of the best features of multiple languages. It also had the benefit of being a premier language for Microsoft’s .NET framework. This gave it an immediate burst in popularity.
C# borrowed a lot of syntax from both Java and C++. It also uses similar methods as Java to run bytecode compiled executables. At time of release, it was limited by reliance on Windows. But over time the .NET framework, and C#, have become available for all major operating systems. C# is in large part a valued language for its best of all worlds approach.
C# and .NET gained a lot of attention on release. But a lot of development for Windows was centered on an easy to write language called Visual Basic. Visual Basic.net, or VB.NET, was Microsoft’s answer to a .NET friendly approach to their popular Visual Basic platform. VB.NET combines Visual Basic’s ease of use with all the power of .NET. Of course, it does have some limitations. One of VB.NET’s biggest issues is that support outside Windows can be spotty.
However, by running in the .NET environment VB.NET was able to overcome Visual Basic’s biggest problem, speed. Visual Basic made it easy to quickly write programs. But the resulting code ran at comparatively slow speeds. With VB.net, programmers were able to quickly write code and expect the results to run at an impressive speed. This has made it one of the most useful coding languages. And in particular, VB.NET is a fantastic language to learn and teach with.
The Best Method to Learn the Best Coding Languages
This might sound like a lot of information to take in. And to be frank, it is a lot to learn. But the overall difficulty in learning coding has a lot to do with the method used to approach that task. It’s generally best to learn these coding methods through a formal education in software development.
One of the most important reasons why formal education works so well is the vast number of languages we’ve examined. We’ve seen that many of these languages have inherited ideas and techniques from each other or a predecessor. Likewise, the same general design techniques are consistent between all these languages. Industry experienced instructors have the background needed to easily tie all these concepts together for their students. This makes it far easier to learn through formal education than it would by any other method.
Further Benefits of Formal Education
The ability to learn from experienced professionals also provides several other benefits. It’s often said that programming is as much art as science. And this is certainly true when it comes to programming style.
Experienced developers approach the practice from more than a directly utilitarian viewpoint. It’s not enough to simply write code to accomplish a specific task. The best code can be easily understood by others and expanded upon as needed. For example, in a professional environment we’ll often need to merge our code with material written by coworkers. This is easy when everyone is working according to established guidelines. But it’s harder if you never learned how to create and work within those constraints. Learning from an experienced instructor ensures that you pick up on those concepts right from your very first line of code.
What’s more, an experienced instructor will also notice when you are making errors that might not necessarily be caught by a compiler or interpreter. And when you make mistakes, you can ask about the underlying reason why they’re such a problem. These learning experiences often teach elements of coding that would normally take years of experience to pick up by yourself. Even better, the process ensures that you never have a chance to pick up bad coding habits. When you are internalizing coding principles in a guided lesson, they’re always the correct ones.
It might seem like it’d take a long time to gain that much benefit from a diploma program. But this also highlights the efficiency of a formal education in software development. A software development diploma program will take as little as nine months to complete, attending full-time. Formal education provides both the most efficient and the fastest way to gain solid experience with the most useful coding languages.
Want to Learn More?
After completing the diploma program at our El Cajon | San Diego software developer school, students have the option to continue in the Software Development & Programming, Associate of Applied Technology program. The associate degree can be completed in an additional 6 months and contains general education courses, along with advanced Microsoft certifications.
Contact us today to learn more about software developer career opportunities offered at ATA College.