Tim Buchalka

Java is an open-source programming language that has been around for decades. It is an object-oriented, general-purpose programming language that is widely popular amongst enterprises and beginning developers alike. If you are looking for a programming language to learn as a beginning programmer, Java is an excellent choice. Let’s look at Java, why you would want to learn it, and some tips on getting started learning it.

What is Java?

Java is a programming language and computing platform that was initially released in 1995 by Sun Microsystems. Oracle has released versions regularly since 2009.

It is a general-purpose language. That means you can use it for many types of applications, including web apps, Android applications, web servers, web services, desktop software, video games, and more. Developers also use it in embedded systems like televisions, game consoles, and other hardware.

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One part of Java is the Java Development Kit, or JDK, which is the software environment used for making Java applications. Java developers can use the JDK on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Solaris. The JDK helps them write and compile Java code.

Java also includes the JVM. This is the environment that Java code runs in. It converts the Java bytecode that the JDK produces into machine code in real-time.

The Java Runtime Environment, or JRE, is what you need to run Java on your machine. Non-programmers do not need to install the JDK but only the JRE. The JRE includes the JVM and class libraries needed to run Java applications on a specific operating system.

MacBook Pro showing programming language

Why learn Java?

Hundreds of programming languages already exist, and more are being released every year, so it is hard to know which one to start with if you are a beginning programmer. Your choice of programming language should be directly related to what you are trying to achieve. If you are looking to launch a career in software development, then it’s important to choose a popular programming language that is in high demand across a range of industries. So why would you want to learn Java? Let’s look at a few reasons.

Java is flexible

You can develop just about any program using the Java programming language. Java is an object oriented programming language that is powerful and versatile. You can even start learning with online tools that execute Java code from the browser.

Java can work on any platform. This means that you can develop an application for multiple operating systems. You can write Java code once and deploy it to different machines, running different operating systems. It achieves this by compiling Java source code to Java bytecode, which can then execute on any operating system with a JRE. Almost all modern operating systems — including Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux — fully support Java applications.

Java knowledge can be applied to other programming languages

Most working programmers know more than one programming language, and most companies have software written in more than one language. This means that even if you choose Java as the first programming language you will learn, you will most likely learn other programming languages in your career. The syntax of Java is like other “curly brace” programming languages, so some concepts you pick up while learning to program in Java can be used with C, C++, C#, JavaScript, and other programming languages.

Java is also an object-oriented programming language. This knowledge you gain from learning to program in the object-oriented paradigm can apply to other object-oriented languages, of which there are many.

Java is popular

GitHub released their 2020 Octoverse, which shows a lot of fascinating information about the state of software development, specifically relating to how developers are using their website. The website sees visitors from close to three million companies (including 72% of the Fortune 50) and 56 million developers, and it hosts over 100 million repositories. That’s a lot of code and a lot of developers. The report shows that Java is in the top three most popular programming languages on their website and has maintained a position in the top three since 2018.

Java has a large community

There are millions of Java developers in the world. There are over 1900 Java meetups with over 1.7 million members, so there is probably one near you. A wealth of online courses, forums, and websites are dedicated to the Java language and helping beginners become Java programmers. The Java community has also contributed a wide variety of free, open-source libraries you can add to your Java projects to make it easy, fast, and cost-effective to develop software.

Enterprises use Java

Another way you can assess demand for Java is with job postings. Even a cursory search of the major job sites will show a lot of demand for skilled Java developers. So if your goal is to get into the software development game, then learning Java is a great way to achieve this. According to this blog post on Oracle’s website, around 90% of the top Fortune 500 companies in the United States use Java for their enterprise development. As further evidence of Java’s dominance in enterprise development, this 2018 report shows that 58% of the surveyed enterprise companies used Java for enterprise development. That’s a huge percentage of companies using Java. So if your goal is to get into enterprise development, then Java is a good programming language to choose.

Android developers use Java

Java is also a necessity if you want to develop Android applications. Kotlin is making inroads into this segment, which Java has dominated for years. However, a lot of the Android runtime is still written in Java, and of course, literally hundreds of thousands of applications that have been developed in Java will still need to be maintained and upgraded. And even if you use Kotlin for Android development, knowing Java will be a benefit because they both run on the same Java virtual machine or JVM.

Setting up Java

To learn Java, you have to write, compile, and execute Java code. For that, you need a development environment. You can start coding Java in a couple of ways. If you want to experiment with Java before installing it, you can run your Java code with one of the many online Java compilers.

Then once you are ready to install Java on your machine, you will find a Java installer for your operating system at the official Oracle Java download page. The installers for Windows or Mac OSX will walk you through the installation process. For the Linux operating system, you can use a package manager to install Java on your system.

Tips for learning Java

Once you have decided that you want to learn Java and have Java installed on your system, it is time to build your coding skills. There is more than one way to learn how to write code in Java, and it is pretty easy if you try a few approaches and figure out which work for you. Every student learns differently, but a few tips apply to everyone.

Learn from programming books

Plenty of books are available that can teach you how to code in Java. They are good for review, reference, and giving you an overview of the language. If you are a beginner, it is best to review the book first to make sure it aligns with your learning style. You don’t need a college textbook to learn Java. Learning Java can and should be easy, and you just need to find the book that is right for you.

But book learning is not for everyone, and even if it is for you, you can’t learn to code just from a book. You need to write actual code sometime.

Learn Java online

Another way to learn Java is online. Quite a few Java tutorials and Java courses are available online, including those here at Udemy. There can be many benefits to learning Java online compared to books. One advantage is that it is easier to go from reading your lessons to coding, especially when compared to a physical book. If the course you choose includes video tutorials, those will walk you through the coding process, and you can pause and rewind whenever you need to.

Plenty of blog posts on Java coding may cover details or show you how to build applications not covered in the standard courses.

You can also find support when you get stuck at places like Stack Overflow and coding forums. Most working developers continue to use sites like this throughout their careers.

Learn the basics

You should start with the basics of Core Java. Your first lessons should be simple and teach you the concepts you need to know to eventually build complete applications. The best approach is to not overload yourself with too much in the beginning to make the learning process as easy as it can be. 

Applications begin with the same basic building blocks. Some of the basics you need to learn about the Java programming language include:

Be patient

Learning Java will take time, but it will be worth it. It can be overwhelming when you look at everything you can learn about the language, but don’t lose patience. Work at your own pace and enjoy the process. Soon you will look back and see how far you have come. Every programmer had to start somewhere.

Read about Java regularly

The education of a developer is never complete. Java is a language that is evolving. New releases of the language come out regularly. Each release adds additional features and deprecates old ones. The changes are never really dramatic, but features are added to Java for a reason. Staying up-to-date can help take advantage of these additional features as soon as they come out.

Libraries are a big part of Java development. Most of your projects will start by including a few third-party libraries to make your development process simpler and quicker. But you have to know that they exist in order to use them, and new libraries that will make coding easier are released every day. Keeping abreast of the latest Java libraries will teach you a lot about how you can use Java.

Some Java developers have blogs and like to write about their coding adventures. While coding books, online courses, and other materials will teach you the language effectively, blog posts by working developers will give you a fresh perspective and more ideas for Java coding projects.

Study with others

It helps to learn to write code in Java with others. It will give you a chance to discuss your coding projects and issues and get a unique perspective. Sometimes another beginning developer can help you find bugs you would never find yourself. Learning with others also helps you stay motivated. It helps to be around like-minded people when times get tough. Knowing that you are not alone and can reach out for help can keep you from getting stuck.

Practice coding Java

Once you know the basics of Java and can write simple Java code, it is time to expand your skills. Every Java algorithm uses the same basic Java building blocks you learn in the beginning. Now you need to use your knowledge of the basics to solve problems. Multiple places online, including Udemy, can help you solve coding challenges in the language of your choice. Solving different challenges will help you become familiar with the ins and outs of the Java programming language and become a better problem solver in general.

Build complete Java applications

Another way to expand your skills in writing Java code is to build complete applications in Java. Learning the basics of Java will teach you what you need to know to write simple code, and practicing coding challenges will allow you to flex that knowledge to solve complex algorithm-based problems. Still, building full applications in Java will teach you how to put all these concepts together to solve real-world problems.

There could be quite a few parts to a complete application, and building one will teach you how to think like a developer. By following a project tutorial and building the project yourself, you will also feel a sense of accomplishment that will help you get through the more advanced parts of learning to code. There is nothing like seeing something you created running as expected with no bugs. Once you finish your first project, you will want to start on the next. Or maybe expand on the project and add new features on your own. That will also teach you a lot.

Another benefit of building a project is that, once it is complete, you can commit the code to a public version control repository like Github or Bitbucket and use the code as part of your portfolio to show to potential employers.

For some Java project ideas, look at Java Projects: Ideas to Teach You Java Programming in 2021.

Conclusion

There is no better time to learn to program than now, and if you are looking for a programming language to start with, then look no further than Java. The role of technology in our world is only expanding. Java is a popular language, and Java developers are in high demand. There are a lot of resources and ways to learn Java. Hopefully, the tips above help you to get started on your Java development journey.

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