In a world of multiple programming languages – some estimate as high as 2500 in number – distinguishing between them can be a fair challenge. How can regular people make sense of this bizarre code that means nothing to most of us?
Let’s break down some of the major features of the most common programming languages and examine how they work. We will then look at some of the major ones on the market and see how they compare.
Features of programming languages
All programming languages contain specific features that govern their overall functioning. These include the following:
- Data types. As the name suggests, this refers to the different types of data that are used in any given program. They are referred to as numbers (meaning individual characters), strings (meaning sets of characters) and booleans (which indicates two potential sets of variables, which can either be true or false).
- Syntax. As with spoken language, syntax refers to the structure and rules that are used to govern programming languages.
- Operators. Operators are the symbols that are used to perform operations on values. As in mathematics, this includes addition, subtraction, and comparison.
- Variables. Variables are memory locations that contain names and are capable of storing values.
- Control structures. Control structures are ways of governing the language of a given program in using such things as if-else statements, loops (a sequence of instruction that is repeated until a certain sequence is complete), and function calls (an expression that passes control and arguments to a function.
Let’s now take a look at some of the top languages on the market. These are the biggest sellers at the moment, and for good reason: they have proven to be industry leaders that produce products that function efficiently and effectively for numerous people across different spectra of the population. Here they are:
Python is a popular language for a number of reasons:
- It is simple and easy to code, as well as read
- It is free and open source
- It is applicable across platforms, and therefore portable
- It is both object-oriented and procedure-oriented
- It includes an extensive standard library
Java also obtains many of the characteristics of Python. In fact, you can find a Java development company that will help you learn this language easily. It includes the following characteristics:
- It is simple and easy to learn
- It is object-oriented
- It is portable, and can be applied across platforms
- It can be interpreted
- It is platform-independent
Both C and C++ are still among the more popular programming languages. With C++, you will get the following features:
- It is a structured language, and has dynamic memory allocation
- It is straightforward and user-friendly
- It has a rich library
- It uses object-oriented programming
- It is case sensitive
C falls just below its more advanced counterpart in terms of popularity. Nonetheless, it remains one of the most widely-used programming languages, with the following characteristics:
- It is a compiled language, meaning it can be used across operating systems and platforms
- It has a rich library
- It is portable
- It is structured
- It includes recursion, meaning that code can be reused
There are numerous other languages that serve specific purposes – some of which do an excellent job of fulfilling their stated purpose – but which have nowhere near the popularity rating of these top languages. The leading ones got their names because of widely applicable, user-friendly structures that have proven themselves over the course of time.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to choose Python or Java for every occasion, though. Take a look through the larger listings and see what some of the more rare ones have to offer as well. There are not as many speakers of certain human languages on the planet as others, after all, yet this doesn’t make the places that minority speakers come from not worth visiting.
The language that you decide to use will depend on your and your team’s particular needs. You might decide to go with one of the more popular languages, or you might have very specific software requirements for which you will have to look for a specialized language. The important thing is that you know what to look for, and what the primary distinguishing features of these languages are. If you have the basics down, the rest will eventually become clear to you.