Thursday, August 8, 2013

Learning to code? How to start

You're thinking of becoming a developer and you're thing of creating the next smash hit game?  Maybe it's better to start small...

Here's a few steps to get you started, whatever languages you'll be selecting:

  1. Learn about variables, functions, classes and functions.  You don't have to become an expert but read a bit first to know about those concepts.  Wikipedia is a good source for that.
  2. Find a language and an IDE (Integrated Development Editor) to install on your computer.  Start with an easy one having lots of tools and wizard.  Netbeans for Java is a good start.  You'll switch later when you will get more comfortable with the concept of coding. 
  3. "Hello, World!" is the first program that you need to be able to create before anything else.  It will help you understand how to create a simple code and how to compile into a running software.
  4. Once you've figured out the basics, create another app that will require some user inputs.  An easy one is "Guess the number!".  Make the software select a random number between 1 and 100, read the users answer and reply with "Higher", "Lower", "You've found it".  You will practice loops, conditions and user inputs.
  5. The "Alert" button is another easy software to create.  Discover how to create a simple dialog box with a single button.  When you click the button, display a short message.
  6. Explore controls like text box, label, combo box, buttons.  Play around with them and make them interact together.
  7. Create a basic text file editor.  You'll need a text area to input some text, a button to save the content into a basic text file.  Once that is done, add a menu to load the content of a text file into your text area.
  8. You should now that basics to create a more complex software.  It's time to handle some image files and try to display them into a dialog box.  Often a canvas is the control to use.

That's what you need to learn first before anything else.  It will help you understand how to create a simple software and figure out how to use the tools and language you have selected.

Now that you're officially a developer, explore and learn about:
  • Network communication:  Transfer a file from one app to the other using TCP/IP connections
  • Graphics and animations: Try to draw a rectangle, a shape, scroll a text line on the screen
  • Data handling: Read about XML, databases, SQL.  That's how you will keep the high scores
  • Threading is an advanced subject but you'll eventually need it.
  • Learn on how to distribute your project.  You'll often need to learn about Installers to deploy your creations on other computers.
  • Double-check everything to ensure that there is no bugs and that you won't delete the whole content of the hard disk.  
  • Explore debug mode.  All IDEs have this option.  As your project will grow, it will become harder and harder to find the bug's source.

Be creative!