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How to Start Learning Java: A U.S. News Guide

How to Start Learning Java

From streaming service platforms to data centers, Java is ubiquitous in the tech world and is among the most popular programming languages worldwide.

Developing programming and coding technologies.

Website design. Programmer working in a software develop company office.

Java is a general purpose programming language, which means programmers can use it to solve many different types of problems. Other popular general purpose programming languages include Python, Visual Basic, C++ and JavaScript.

What Is Java and Why Learn It?

Java doesn’t require a specific hardware, operating system or network. It will run the same way, no matter the type of computer it’s on.

How to Start Learning Java

“You can write it once and run it anywhere,” says Tyron Foston, co-founder of Appchemist, a development company that fills demand gaps on the HubSpot platform.

“Java is a very broadly-used application language that has a lot of commercial and community support because it’s been around for so long.”

One of the most common uses of Java is for building large enterprise-class applications because it scales well. For this reason, global corporations such as Google, Amazon, Netflix and Goldman Sachs rely on Java.

Java can be easy to write, compile and debug because of how it was designed. It’s also free to download and is updated regularly.

A Short History of Java

Java got its start at the cusp of the internet revolution in the early 1990s. It was created by James Gosling and his colleagues at Sun Microsystems,

who wanted to use a virtual machine and language that had similar notations to C, but was easier and more consistent than languages like C and C++.

Java was intended to be simple to use, have built-in network support, utilize object-oriented programming methods, and perform functions remotely and securely.

Java vs. C++, What’s the Difference?

Java is greatly influenced by C++. C and C++ are where Java gets its syntax. But Java was designed to be fully object-oriented,

unlike C++. C++ fuses together the language’s syntax for structured, generic and object-oriented programming, but with Java, every item is an object.

The deviation from this is atomic datatypes, which includes things like ordinal and real numbers, Boolean values – which can have two choices, such as true and false – and characters.

 

Also important: Java is platform-independent, meaning it doesn’t require a specific hardware to run. C++ is not platform-independent.

“Every time you run C++, you have to compile it specifically for the hardware you’re using,” says Samuel Lopes, a senior software engineer at Forerunner.

“If your career goal is to write a microcontroller for a Tesla computer or a controller for a nuclear power plant, you’ll use C++,” he says. “It has direct access to the machine’s hardware.”

C++ is a low-level language and a foundation of programming. Operating systems like Windows are written in C++. While C++ depends on someone’s individual programming goals,

Foston recommends aspiring programmers learn Java first, since there are more opportunities to use it.

“If you want to build something with a high performance and has zero latency, then you would want to use C++,” Foston says. “If you want to build a small application and get it out the door quickly, go with Java.”

Java vs. C#, What’s the Difference?

Whether you choose to use C# or Java will vary on factors such as the platform, your preference and which language has the best applicable libraries for your project.

“There are jobs in C#, but you’ll be competing against programmers who may have 20 to 25 years of experience using the language,”

says Speros Misirlakis, vice president of instruction at Coding Dojo. “Jobs in web development are skyrocketing, so Java would give beginners more opportunities.”

Learning the language-agnostic fundamentals of programming, such as conditionals, loops, functions and declarations can help you start thinking like a programmer.

“You have to understand the fundamentals before you proceed because you’ll need a good foundation to build on top of,” Lopes says. “Explore your understanding of things before you move on to the next thing.”

It’s possible to jump right into learning Java because it doesn’t require you to know other programming languages, or to have a degree or expensive equipment.

For Java, you’ll need a functioning computer – it doesn’t require a specific operating system or hardware to run – an internet connection to download Java and to access documentation and resources, and a free text editor, such as Notepad.

“There are no prerequisites to learn Java,” Foston says. “The barriers to entry are super low. Anyone can pick up the fundamentals.”

However, the learning curve can be steep with Java. When you learn Java, you’re not just learning the programming language; you’ll also need to learn the packages,

frameworks and applications. If Java seems too challenging to start with, it could help to learn another programming language first.

“It may be easier for you to start with a lighter language like Python or JavaScript instead of just going straight to Java,” Misirlakis says. “Once you know one of those, it will be a lot easier to go back and learn Java.”

Before You Get Started with Java…
One of the best places to start to learn Java is to go directly to the source. Oracle Corporation, which owns Java, offers documentation and installation instructions.

When you’re beginning to learn Java, it’s easy to search for answers on Stack Overflow, an open community for people who code to ask and answer questions.

Forums and online communities can be a good resource, but spending a lot of time on them can be a bad habit when you’re trying to truly understand a new language, Misirlakis says.

“People learning Java should prioritize Oracle’s core documentation,” Misirlakis says. “Sometimes things change, so you’ll want to have the official documentation instead of just trying to search for answers.”

Install Java. If Java isn’t already on your computer, you can install it for free here.

W3Schools Java Tutorial. This free tutorial is a rundown of the basics of Java syntax, comments, variables, loops, arrays and more. You’ll be able to practice basic Java exercises and take quizzes to test your knowledge.

Code Gym. This online Java course is all about practice. Users can choose a free account or pay for a premium subscription for $49 per month or a premium pro account for $99 per month to access more features.

This program boasts more than 1,200 tasks to help you learn the essentials of Java.

Codecademy Learn Java. This beginner-level class can give you exposure to fundamental programming concepts. You’ll build seven Java projects in the course with the Pro plan,

which costs $19.99 per month, billed yearly.
Step 1: Learn Java Syntax and Do Some Tutorials

Java has a syntax common to other popular programming languages such as JavaScript, C# and C++. Here are some elements you may encounter in Java:

Identifiers. Class names, method names, variable names and labels are examples of identifiers in Java. Identifiers can only contain letters, numbers, $ or _. They are case-sensitive, meaning if your identifier is “element,” then “MyElement” would result in a compile-time error.

Literals. In Java, a literal is a value specified to the variable. Literals can be numbers, characters, strings and Boolean values.

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