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Your Guide to Learning Programming

Your Guide to Learning Programming

Have you ever used an app or website and wondered if you could create something like that yourself? If you learn how to program, you can! In fact, you can benefit from learning the basics of programming even if you don’t develop fully-fledged software. In this post I’ll go through some questions and answers to help you get started with programming.

Why Should You Learn Programming?

Learning programming is a good idea, since you can use the knowledge in many different areas. You can obviously use it to create apps and websites, but you can also use it to accomplish many other things. For example, you can write macros to automate tasks in Microsoft Office, or you can write a script to calculate problems in business. To learn programming, you will need some patience, attention to detail, and the ability to solve problems. Since programming can be hard, it will help if you have a specific project that you want to build in the end. Working towards a goal will help you overcome the difficulties you encounter. In addition, if you know what you want to build, you’ll be able to decide which language you should learn.

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Which Language Should You Learn?

All the popular languages share the same fundamentals, so you shouldn’t worry too much about which language you learn first. It still makes sense to learn the language that fits your goals best, so check out this flowchart for some quick help:

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Chart for Picking a Programming Language

    The “Compiled Languages” (on the right) have more rules to help prevent errors. People normally use special software (known as an IDE) to program in them, which has features to help with coding. These languages are popular in big companies and large websites. Microsoft created C# and provides tools for coding in it, while Java is used in Android apps and is taught in many colleges.

    The “Interpreted Languages” have fewer rules and you can write short programs more quickly with them. Programmers often use a lightweight text editor to code in these languages. These languages are used by many startups and websites. PHP was very popular a decade ago, and there are still many scripts and sites that are written in PHP. However, many people consider PHP to be messy and inconsistent, so you should probably pick a different language if you’re creating a site from scratch. Ruby and Python are similar languages. Ruby is used in the very popular website framework Ruby on Rails, while Python is used both on the web and in other software. Javascript (which isn’t related to Java) is the only language that can run within a web browser, so all visual effects on the web are written in it. Recently, it has also begun being used to create entire websites. Whatever language you pick, the important thing is to get started learning it!

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    What Resources Can You Use to Learn Programming?

    The best way to get started with programming is to use an online interactive tutorial. Codecademy and Learnstreet are popular sites for learning the scripted languages, and you can learn Java on Learneroo, a site that I recently created. It is also a good idea to get a book or reference so you can learn more when you’re done with the beginner tutorials. If you like video courses, check out 20 places to learn online, which lists sites that offer both general and computer science courses.

    You’ll then be ready to create your own project without a text that tells you exactly what to do. This means you need to know where to look for help. To find out more about a programming language, you should first check the official documentation for that language. When you run into difficulties, a well-placed Google search can provide you with information on most issues. If you cannot find your exact issue online, you can ask it on StackOverflow, the programmer Q&A site. If you ask a specific question clearly and show that you’ve done your research, random people online will often quickly help you out for free! If you need more help, you can consider going to programming meetups, finding a mentor, or going to a full-fledged programming bootcamp.

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    Good luck learning to program!

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    8 Replacements for Google Notebook

    8 Replacements for Google Notebook

    Exploring alternatives to Google Notebook? There are more than a few ‘notebooks’ available online these days, although choosing the right one will likely depend on just what you use Google Notebook for.

    1. Zoho Notebook
      If you want to stick with something as close to Google Notebook as possible, Zoho Notebook may just be your best bet. The user interface has some significant changes, but in general, Zoho Notebook has pretty similar features. There is even a Firefox plugin that allows you to highlight content and drop it into your Notebook. You can go a bit further, though, dropping in any spreadsheets or documents you have in Zoho, as well as some applications and all websites — to the point that you can control a desktop remotely if you pare it with something like Zoho Meeting.
    2. Evernote
      The features that Evernote brings to the table are pretty great. In addition to allowing you to capture parts of a website, Evernote has a desktop search tool mobil versions (iPhone and Windows Mobile). It even has an API, if you’ve got any features in mind not currently available. Evernote offers 40 MB for free accounts — if you’ll need more, the premium version is priced at $5 per month or $45 per year. Encryption, size and whether you’ll see ads seem to be the main differences between the free and premium versions.
    3. Net Notes
      If the major allure for Google Notebooks lays in the Firefox extension, Net Notes might be a good alternative. It’s a Firefox extension that allows you to save notes on websites in your bookmarks. You can toggle the Net Notes sidebar and access your notes as you browse. You can also tag websites. Net Notes works with Mozilla Weave if you need to access your notes from multiple computers.
    4. i-Lighter
      You can highlight and save information from any website while you’re browsing with i-Lighter. You can also add notes to your i-Lighted information, as well as email it or send the information to be posted to your blog or Twitter account. Your notes are saved in a notebook on your computer — but they’re also synchronized to the iLighter website. You can log in to the site from any computer.
    5. Clipmarks
      For those browsers interested in sharing what they find with others, Clipmarks provides a tool to select clips of text, images and video and share them with friends. You can easily syndicate your finds to a whole list of sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Digg. You can also easily review your past clips and use them as references through Clipmarks’ website.
    6. UberNote
      If you can think of a way to send notes to UberNote, it can handle it. You can clip material while browsing, email, IM, text message or even visit the UberNote sites to add notes to the information you have saved. You can organize your notes, tag them and even add checkboxes if you want to turn a note into some sort of task list. You can drag and drop information between notes in order to manage them.
    7. iLeonardo
      iLeonardo treats research as a social concern. You can create a notebook on iLeonardo on a particular topic, collecting information online. You can also access other people’s notebooks. It may not necessarily take the place of Google Notebook — I’m pretty sure my notes on some subjects are cryptic — but it’s a pretty cool tool. You can keep notebooks private if you like the interface but don’t want to share a particular project. iLeonardo does allow you to follow fellow notetakers and receive the information they find on a particular topic.
    8. Zotero
      Another Firefox extension, Zotero started life as a citation management tool targeted towards academic researchers. However, it offers notetaking tools, as well as a way to save files to your notebook. If you do a lot of writing in Microsoft Word or Open Office, Zotero might be the tool for you — it’s integrated with both word processing software to allow you to easily move your notes over, as well as several blogging options. Zotero’s interface is also available in more than 30 languages.

    I’ve been relying on Google Notebook as a catch-all for blog post ideas — being able to just highlight information and save it is a great tool for a blogger.

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    In replacing it, though, I’m starting to lean towards Evernote. I’ve found it handles pretty much everything I want, especially with the voice recording feature. I’m planning to keep trying things out for a while yet — I’m sticking with Google Notebook until the Firefox extension quits working — and if you have any recommendations that I missed when I put together this list, I’d love to hear them — just leave a comment!

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