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Thread: Choosing a Programming Language

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    Choosing a Programming Language

    Selecting a programming language for a project depends on a number of things. Some programmers may go with the one they know. However, the language used may dictate how quickly a project is finished, and how efficient the finished product will be.

    There are several quick questions to help anyone choose the right programming language.

    Does it fit?

    There are several different kinds of programming languages. These often specialize in solving specific problems. Using an inappropriate language for a project may make it more laborious. This may also result in more programming bugs.

    Programmers can also decide whether they want a dynamic or a system programming language. Dynamic languages include Perl, Python and Ruby. These languages allow programmers to manipulate data that comes from networks, devices and user interfaces easily. The typing is often less rigid and determined at run time. These are considered higher-level languages. Programmers can use these to integrate and extend a program’s functions.

    System programming languages include C++ and Java. These can also be called scripting languages. Programmers may use them to create elaborate data structures and algorithms. They can also help with concerns about compile-time type safety.

    There are specific languages that are better at solving complex mathematical equations such as Haskell. Other languages, such as Perl, are better at processing text. Using these for other functions makes the task harder.

    Programmers also need to consider the performance and features of the programming language. The recommended language can turn a logic error to a syntax error to prevent bugs in the application. Some, including Java and COBOL, use type checking to do this. Other languages have escape clauses to prevent this.

    A good programming language allows programmers to create applications without worrying too much about system problems. These errors can happen when the structure of the application is incorrect. Some sample problems include using too many I/O workflows (input/output). Others used inappropriate tools for the processes. Some errors may result from the compiler used to process the source code. The greater bulk of responsibility remains with how the programmer writes the code.

    Additional considerations include the space the program will take up. A complex program written in C++ may take about 3 Gb of space, while one created with Java will need double or triple that amount. Object-oriented programming languages typically create the shortest applications. Its structure makes the written code reusable so that programmers can simply refer to them. This can cause problems if other people will be reading the source code. Other programmers need to read the entire application to figure out the different objects.

    One project can actually incorporate more than one program language. Programmers need to make sure one language is compatible with the other. Third party libraries can be imported to add functions from one language to another. This can create a program with multiple capabilities such as a strong encryption, Bluetooth compatibility, 3D graphics and a stylized user interface.

    Is it compatible?

    The programmer also has to consider what platform the desired program will be running in. Some programming languages run specifically on a certain platform. An example of this is the .NET language created by the Microsoft Corporation. This language is best when it runs on a Windows Server or Windows XP Professional platform. This may cause problems with portability if the program will run on another operating system.

    Portability issues can also occur if the program will change platforms. Nonprofit organizations have created some standards so that languages can work on almost any platform. There may be additional hardware constraints on other languages. Programmers can often predict if a specific program will need to switch platforms in the future. Java is one programming language with a standard language and platform environment for ultra-portability.

    Other compatibility issues may arise as well. If the desired program will run with other software such as web server software, content management systems, the language must work well with all of these. The functions of some languages can interfere with another.

    If a programmer is going to work within an existing framework, compatibility with previous layers is a factor. Older programs typically use older languages such as Basic and Cobol. If the application needs to interact with these, it is best to use the same languages or libraries.

    Programmers also need to consider if the language is compatible with other users. One programmer typically develops an application. A separate team then maintains the software. Some languages are easy to read, while others create cryptic lines of code and script. Some programmers believe that complex programs are better. There are advances in compiler software that allow simple code to create complicated programs.

    If clients commission the program, they may desire one that their IT team can understand. Programmers need to consider who else will be maintaining the finished project.

    Can the programmer use it?

    The programming languages they are already proficient in restrict most programmers. This can cause a laborious process when a simpler language may have made it easier.

    Learning a new programming language is relatively easy. Some languages are easier to understand because they use simple functions. Others are more complicated because they allow programmers to do more. The faster a programmer can learn a language, the faster the project can be finished.

    This is the main reason why most programmers simply learn one language and try to write all applications with it. Additional training on other languages will allow the programmer to be more flexible. Most people can master the simplest programming language in two weeks. Most programmers will still need a manual after years of use for more complicated ones.

    People consider C++ as the most complicated language. It is the hardest to learn because it allows programmers to do a wide array of things. Most software developers choose one specific C++ library to work with. Two common examples are MFC (Microsoft Foundation Classes) and ATL (Active Template Library). These different subsets provide extremely different functions. Aside from learning the basics, programmers also need to adapt their processes to the language, and be able to read other people’s codes.

    Training to use specific languages does have its advantages. The best solution for a project may involve using multiple languages. It is ideal to adapt to each new application rather than make the functions of each fit a specific programming language’s shortcomings.

    Choosing the Programming Language/s

    Experienced programmers recommend testing languages before deciding on one (or several). Small proof-of-concept applications in different programming languages allow users to check which handles definite functions better. This may lead to the conclusion, that two or more compatible languages can handle all the functions of the application.

    The programming language should fit the functions and necessities of the project. There are specific languages suited for certain functions. The shell scripting command function of Perl, Python, Ruby and Unix are considered ideal for one-line commands. Larger programs benefit from strict static typing. Compilers frequently use this to catch errors in languages such as Java and Perl.

    Programmers can also develop a domain-specific language (DSL) to fit the parameters of the project. Programmers can create variations of existing languages. These will help control the functions and abilities of the program.

    Ultimately, using the proper language for a project makes it easier to develop. Like having the right tools for finishing a physical project, the correct programming language allows competent programmers to create the best application.

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    sturat (9 April, 2009)

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