Just like our universe, the world of code is an ever-expanding one, with newer technologies coming into play, newer methods of solving old problems and newer opportunities to be explored. The benefits of top-notch coding practices and their results are almost endless, to say the least. It is no wonder the masses, especially the younger generation, are curious about code and a vast majority are turning to our learned friend Mr. Google for answers on how to become an expert coder and where to begin.
We all know and have seen what coding can do and the promises it holds. Programming is the future and will continue to be the future in the foreseeable future (sorry, couldn’t resist). And we all want a piece of that pie.
Unfortunately, choosing a programming language can be a major hurdle owing to the fact that people lack the necessary information to make a good decision. Instead of starting with a programming language, it is advisable to think about your objectives.
What do you want to achieve with code? Be specific. Do you want to build mobile apps? Are you interested in web development and web apps? Are you interested in Raspberry Pi? Code is everywhere and that presents you with many options. A lot can be done with code and the opportunities continue to expand.
Having considered what you want to build, contribute or study, you can then think about which programming language to learn. You will have to take into consideration the strengths and weaknesses of the language you want to learn and their suitability for your objectives. You drastically narrow the field of options once you pick a project or goal.
The purpose of this article is to show how to select a language with maximum efficiency and ease of development of your project. It will help in examining factors to consider when selecting a programming language, whether for personal use or organizational use.
Factors to Consider
There are several factors to consider when choosing a web programming language. Say, for example, in developing a dynamic web page, one might consider Java Server Pages (JSP) as the best option, while another might consider using PHP or a similar scripting language.
No single language is the best choice for any given project. Although preference might be given to certain factors like performance, security in enterprise applications, fewer lines of code among other factors.
For personal projects, the selection of a programming language may be as simple as picking a personal favorite. Here the brevity of the lines of code is important. The fewer the lines necessary to develop the project, the better. The idea is to get the solution out first, then worry about the neatness or performance later.
However, for large organizational projects, things are different. Different developer teams are going to build components that are meant to interact and interconnect with each other to solve a particular problem. In this case, the choice of language might involve the ease of portability of the program to different platforms or the availability of resources.
The right selection of a programming language yields solutions that are concise, easy to debug, easy to extend, easy to document, and easy to fix.
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The following are the factors to be considered:
> The targeted platform
> The elasticity of a language
> The time to production
> The performance
> The support and community.
The Targeted Platform
It is very important to consider the platform on which the program will run. Say you have two languages, Java and C. If a program is written in C and needs to be run on Windows and Linux platforms, it would require platform compilers and two different executables. On the other hand, with Java development, the program can run on any machine provided a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) is installed.
The same goes for web pages. They should all look and work the same across all browsers. However, using CSS3 tags and HTML 5 without checking browser compatibility will cause the site to look and behave differently across different browsers.
The Elasticity of a Language
This is the ease with which new features can be added to an existing program. It can involve the addition of a new set of functions or the use of an existing library to add a new feature. Some of the questions to be considered are:
Can one use a capability of the language without the inclusion of a new library?
If not, is the capability available in the language library?
If the capability is neither native nor available as a library, what is the effort to build the features from scratch?
It is important to know the program design and the features set aside for future improvement before making a decision to adopt the considered language(s).
The Time to Production
This is the time taken to make the program go live, when the code is production-ready and works as intended. It is highly dependent on the size of code. In theory, the easier it is to learn a language, the smaller the code and thus less time taken to go live.
Take for example, in development of a content management website, it is possible to take days using PHP development scripts while the use of servlets code can take months. This is going by the assumption that you are learning both languages from scratch.
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Only so much of performance can be squeezed out of a program and a platform, with the programming language used in the program development affecting performance. Numerous studies have been conducted comparing how fast programming languages are in the same environment. This has led to the development of various benchmarks which can be used as a reference. The figures however are not for concrete assessment of the performance of any language.
Language performance should matter when the target environment doesn’t offer much scope for scaling. A good example of such an environment are handheld devices.
Support and Community
Programming languages and good software are similar in that they both need a community following to help them grow. Languages with active forums are likely to be more popular than even greater languages without similar forums. Some of the offerings of community support include wikis, forums, tutorials and most importantly additional libraries, all of which help the language to grow.
Other Factors to Consider
What is the objective of the programming language? It specifies the objective for which a program is being developed. In the event that one needs to develop commercial applications, then a business oriented programming language like COBOL is the best candidate. For development of scientific applications, it is best to use a scientific oriented language like FORTRAN.
Similarly, if one is interested in developing programs related to Artificial Intelligence, then he or she should be comfortable using the LISP or ProLog languages. Object oriented languages are best suited for development of web-based applications. As for the development of system programs, a middle level language like C should be chosen.
Where more than one programming language is available for the development of the same program, a programmer should choose the language he is more conversant with. Generally, one should go for the language for which he is more experienced.
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Ease of Development and Maintenance
Programmers develop programs using the language they are most comfortable in. Generally, there is a preference for object-oriented languages over the procedural oriented languages. The reason for this is that, code developed in object-oriented languages can be reused and maintained with great ease.
Efficiency is an important factor which need be considered before choosing a programming language for software development. One should consider the language in which the programs can be developed and executed rapidly. Additionally, the language which requires less amount of memory for the storage of programs should be selected.
Availability of an IDE
A powerful Integrated Development Environment goes a long way in increasing the productivity of a programmer. The language with an IDE of well supported development, debugging and compilation tools should be selected.
Error Checking and Diagnosis
These factors involve finding the errors in a program and their causes. Programmers should choose programming languages which contain efficient error handling features. Error checking and diagnosis is very important and crucial in the development of quality and error-free programs. The task of code development and testing is easier when undertaken with a programming language with efficient and robust error detection and correction mechanisms.
A good example is Java. This language provides an efficient error handling mechanism of try/catch block. This feature in Java programs can be used to handle the unexpected errors that may occur during the execution of a program.
As an aspiring developer who’s read the factors here explained, you might wonder where to begin. The answer largely depends on which direction you intend to take; web development or software development. Whichever the direction, there are multiple resources online to help you in your coding journey.