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Everyone wants to be a software developer, but no one wants to be a software developer. One of the main reasons why being: how in the world do you keep all those new terms in your head?
The following is primer on the most essential programming terms you’ll come across as a newcomer, laying out the everyday basics required when learning how to code.
Before You Start, Relax!
You’re not expected to memorize every programming term you come across. Through practice, you will gain an intuitive sense for what these and other terms refer to. Instead of solely trying to memorize the terms and their definitions, attempt to clarify the logic of how and why these terms are used in a programming environment.
This method is especially helpful considering most confusing programming terms typically involve other confusing terms. It’s important that you don’t stress yourself out when learning to program.
1. Text Editor
A text editor is a program that edits text. While that may seem simple, you’d be surprised how much goes into using a proper text editor.
Notepad for Windows is a typical example of a text editor. Text editors sought out for their programming capabilities, however, integrate various keyboard commands and features. These allow for faster, cleaner coding.
One such important feature is syntax highlighting. This allows text editors to highlight different parameters in different colors. The programmer can then distinguish different commands, languages, and notations by skirting the document. Syntax highlighting is crucial for noting errors and separating chunks of code. It can also foster an intuitive sense of programming logic. One red parenthesis, to give a basic example, means another one must be placed nearby.
2. IDE (Integrated Development Environment)
Whereas a text editor only focuses on the code you’re writing, an IDE is a sandbox of sorts that allows you to write, compile (translate from text to computer speak), test, and debug (or correct) your application. The word environment in “integrated development environment” is key: using an IDE means you’re using several programming tools in one enclosed program. You’re then meant to use these tools to create a product.
While IDE’s don’t necessarily denote an easier or more difficult programming experience than a text editor, some swear by them because they facilitate key aspects of programming such as file linking. It’s easy to keep track of a single HTML file modified by a single CSS style sheet, but more complicated projects require linking various languages, frameworks, and so on.
That’s when an IDE becomes most useful, since they integrate files, folders, and tools into one convenient (although often bulky) package. IDE’s are also particularly useful for object-oriented programming languages as well, such as C++, C, Ruby, and so on.
3. Programming Languages vs. Scripting Languages
“That’s not a script, that’s a language” is an age old adage in the programming world. While most beginners typically refer to all code as involving a programming language, there is a subtle binary distinction between a programming language and a scripting language.
Programming languages are compiled, while scripting languages are interpreted.
Let’s say you’ve created an application on Computer 1, and want to send it to a person on Computer 2.
If you want the person on Computer 2 to use a compiled program created in Computer 1, you compile your source code—meaning you convert your source code into machine code only readable by the computer—into an executable file which your computer must then download and run to use.
A good way to remember this nuance is that code compiled into an executable file on a Windows PC cannot be used on a Mac.
4. Software Frameworks vs. Software Libraries
A software framework is a rigid coding blueprint that determines the guidelines of your coding project. Separate from a language, a framework determines which aspects of a language will be used in a given parameter. Bootstrap, for example, is a front-end framework that allows you to invoke an assortment of web UI tools to perform various tasks. Ruby on Rails is a back-end framework that determines how data is stored on a server.
A software library, on the other hand, is a reusable piece of code that you can integrate into your project to perform a task. Frameworks often involve, and allow users to integrate, libraries to expand functionality. Ruby Gems, for example, are libraries created using the Ruby programming language. These libraries are then integrated into the Ruby on Rails framework in order to expand the functionality of your code.
There are two general types of coding you will conduct as a programmer: proper code, requiring proper syntax, and pseudocode. Syntax defines the structure of any given language. Programming syntax refers more specifically to the proper rules and guidelines of a given language in order to program a specific commands.
Pseudocode is meant to explain the logic of programming syntax using regular language. Rather than writing pseudocode to program a command, it’s meant to outline the logic of a command before you implement it using syntax. Pseudocode creates a template for your code, making completing your project easier, and cements certain coding formats in your head.
For example, which actions would you need to perform to grade a test? You may start with a very simple logical sequence.
SEE Test LOOK At Question MARK Answer IF Correct, Check IF Incorrect, X WRITE Grade
While the above correctly lists the steps required to grade a test, it also leaves a surprising amount to the imagination. Did we explicitly state what we were trying to do? Should we grade answers randomly, or in numerical order? Isn’t our grade dependent on a percentage, and if so, wouldn’t we need to convert raw data—like correct answers, incorrect answers, and total questions—into ratios to find that percentage?
It’s this type of stiff logistics that’s required when coding, which is honed through the writing and outlining of pseudocode. Over time, your pseudocode will match both the logical progression and actual syntax of your coding projects more closely.
These Terms Are Just the Beginning
If you don’t think you’re ready for a career in software development now, you’re right! The world of software development is as vast and unending as the universe. At least, it feels that way.
What you’ve done, however, is stick your feet in the void. If this is your first introduction into the world of programming terminology, you’ll find the terms listed above are involved in most aspects of your burgeoning programming career. That’s because terms in programming build off each other. For every new term you learn, there will be two more you won’t.
The important part is that you’ve covered some of the most essential basics. Now that you’ve gone over some programming terms, it’s time to go over some essential programming principals!