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Learning to code? These are the languages to master

The unfamiliar may see the world of computer programming as a vast, confusing maze of numbers, brackets and funny abbreviated words that make no sense. And they’d basically be right.


It’s an intimidating area of study, with hundreds of different and complex languages, and an ever-expanding universe of possibilities. What are the differences between these languages? What can they be used for and which are the most beneficial to learn?


To get a better idea, we asked our development team – here’s what they came up with. Use this as a place to start and you’ll be interviewing for programming jobs in no time.


JavaScript


JavaScript is extremely useful to know, as it’s used to develop interactive features on the web. In the early days of the net this would be limited to forms and simple text colour changes, but today its use is much more extensive, and it can be used to code complex animations and even whole web games, like Farmville.


JavaScript is a good pick for a first language to learn because it runs in every modern browser. This means as long as you have somewhere to host a website you can start trying it out right away.


Its uses have now also further expanded to everything from app design to data transfer, making it a serious contender for the best investment of your time.


PHP


If you’re starting out at building websites, PHP is often cited as the next step after learning HTML and CSS, which form the backbone of all web pages.


Like CSS and JavaScript, PHP gets embedded directly into the page’s HTML. So what does it do that JavaScript can’t? Well, rather than being used for more visual features, PHP enables websites to interact with web servers, sending and receiving data.


That’s why sites like Facebook use PHP. For example, when you post a status, your message is automatically viewable by all other Facebook users that have permission. This is all done using PHP to communicate with Facebook’s web and data servers.


PHP is a great place to start for adding basic functions like this to a website. Other sites that use PHP include Wikipedia, Flickr and Vimeo.


Java


Despite the similarities in name, Java and Javascript hold very little in common, apart from sharing some naming and syntax conventions.


Java is used to code thousands of applications, both on and off the web, and currently has over nine million developers, according to its owners, Oracle.


It’s appeal comes from being multi-platform. Rather than having to code different versions of Java programs for different browsers and operating systems, Java code is instead exported into data files that are read by a separate plug-in app, or “virtual machine.”


It should also be noted that most apps for Android available in Google’s Play Store are coded using Java, and that this is supported through Google’s Android Software Development Kit – a handy tool for developing Android apps.


If that wasn’t reason enough, Crunch itself is also coded in Java (we’re also currently looking for some talented Java developers. Check out careers page, if you’re interested.)


Python


Python isn’t named after the snake, it’s actually named after Monty Python – and that’s not the only good reason to learn it.


Much like JavaScript, Python is a very good language for beginners, but for slightly different reasons. It also has a wide range of uses – from desktop widgets and software, to web applications and data analysis tools.


One of the best things about Python is that it’s very readable – appearing more like plain English than most languages – and it takes up to 10 times less code to complete the same functions as older languages like Java and C++.


It’s also very popular at the moment, with companies like NASA, Google and Disney are all looking for Python developers – indeed, the number of Python jobs has almost quadrupled since 2008, and now takes up roughly 7.5% of all programming jobs out there.


Ruby


Ruby is seen as a good language for beginners, because it has a very low barrier to entry, but Ruby masters can code extremely complex programs, websites and applications.


What’s really interesting about Ruby is its use with Rails, a software for making web applications. Together, they’re known as Ruby on Rails, and are an incredibly powerful tool.


Having a framework like Rails to develop web apps with makes life much much simpler. It’s like the difference between making a sandwich with sliced break from the supermarket, or with bread you’ve had to make yourself from scratch.


This means that using Ruby on Rails makes it possible to develop hugely complex web applications in a lot less time than using other languages. Some examples of sites created with Ruby on Rails include Twitter, Groupon, AirBnB and Soundcloud.


Swift


Swift was announced as the new main programming language for developing Apple iOS and OS X apps in 2014.


An old language called Objective-C is currently used for developing 99% of Apple’s programs – but it’s being replaced. Swift takes a great deal of influence from Objective-C, but also takes some inspiration from other languages like Python, Ruby and C#.


Swift has been lumped with last place on our list because learning it will obviously limit you to developing Apple apps. However, I think we all know that Apple are going to be around for a while – and they want every single one of their apps programmed with Swift.


Let’s just say it’s the one to chose if you have a beard, drink fair trade, organic coffee and live somewhere that’s recently been gentrified. Oh, they also paid their developers $2 billion more than Google did in 2013.


All this information is well and good, but why would anyone actually want to learn code? After all, it’s a complicated process that requires a huge time commitment, so what’s really the point?


Well, one very compelling reason is that programmers are one of the most in-demand professionals at the moment. Indeed, Europe’s IT sector is facing a 700,000 person skills shortage by 2015. So programming is an excellent choice if you want a future proof career.


What’s more, software engineer was found to be the third best job in the world, according to a study that ranked occupations by “physical demands, work environment, income, stress and hiring outlook”.


Even if you don’t want to be an all-out programmer, the European Commission say that 90% of jobs will require some kind of digital skills in 2015, and if you want to stand out, the more strings (of code) you can add to your bow, the better.

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