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Software development for beginners

Mariel Lettier

If you are looking to get into the world of software development and are not sure where to start, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, you’ll find a quick introduction to software dev and its different types, as well as a sneak peek into the most popular programming languages. We also have you covered when it comes to courses, as we’ve selected some excellent ones focused on software development for beginners.

Table of contents

What is software development?
What types of software are there?
Software engineer vs software developer
Most popular programming languages
Where do I start?: online courses and tutorials
Software development resources for beginners
Conclusion

What is software development?

According to IBM Research, “Software development refers to a set of computer science activities dedicated to the process of creating, designing, deploying and supporting software.”

So, what is software? Well, software is a set of instructions, data or programs that tell a device what to do.

So far, so good, right? Well, as you may know, there are different types of software, which is why we’ll address this in the following section.

What types of software are there?

If you want to start your journey into software development, you should have an idea of what type of software you are interested in. Here’s a short description of the three main types.

Application software

Apps essentially help users perform certain tasks. Application software encompasses desktop, web and mobile apps. Examples of application software are media players, word processors and data management software.

System software

This type of software provides core functions to run other software on a device. Examples include operating systems, firmware and device drivers.

Programming software

This software gives programmers tools to create code. Programming software includes text editors, debuggers and compilers.

There are many types of software that some consider subcategories of the ones we explained above, while others believe they should have a category of their own. These include driver software, middleware, firmware and utility software. We stuck to the main three, but it’s always good to know there might be further distinctions.

Software engineer vs software developer

These two terms can often be mixed up, which is why we believe it’s important to explain the difference. A software engineer is the person who designs, develops, maintains, tests and evaluates computer software. Meanwhile, a software developer builds software that can run on various types of computers, writing code from scratch. The main difference lies in the fact that the engineer oversees the system, while the developer creates functional software.

Although, in this article, we’ll be focusing on software development, there might be some references and useful material for software engineers as well. If the difference is still not very clear to you, you can also take a look at this detailed explanation.

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Most popular programming languages

There are countless programming languages out there. Which ones are best when it comes to software development for beginners depends on many factors, such as what type of software you’d like to specialize in, which are easier to learn, and the resources you have at hand.

Below, we have included a list of the 10 most popular programming languages with brief notes on each of them for you to take into consideration.

Javascript

JavaScript is the quintessential programming language. It is often used to create interactive front-end apps (with the Node.js run-time environment) and dynamic back-end websites. This language is very easy to learn and widely used, which means you’ll have plenty of job opportunities.

Python

Python is an extremely versatile language that has multiple uses. It is quite often used to build scalable web applications but can also be used for software, automated tasks and artificial intelligence. Python is easy to use, is platform-independent and it increases productivity. It also has a great community behind it that is constantly creating new resources.

Java

Java is a “write once, run anywhere” programming language commonly used for developing client-server applications and Android apps. Java is fairly easy to learn, platform-oriented, simple, secure and portable.

C/C++

C and C++ are used to develop pretty much all low-level systems (e.g.: file systems and operating systems). C has been the foundation for Python, PHP, Ruby and other programming languages and is easy to debug and maintain. However, as it is an older language, it is not suitable for websites and applications. That’s where C++ comes in, which was created as an extension of C. The downside of C++ is that its syntax is more complex which might not make it the best choice for new programmers.

PHP

PHP is a back-end programming language used for server-side web development. This language has a large ecosystem of users that have built plenty of libraries, frameworks and automation tools that make PHP easier to use. PHP is also platform-independent, fast and secure.

C

C# was developed by Microsoft as a general-purpose language. Its uses include back-end programming and videogames, as well as Microsoft and Windows apps. C# is automatically updatable and scalable, can work with shared codebases, and is fully integrated with the .NET library. Although not particularly difficult, this language is a bit more challenging than the ones we’ve seen so far.

Swift

Swift was created by Apple and is used to develop iOS and macOS applications. This language is a bit harder to learn, but opens a lot of job opportunities. Swift makes it easy to add new features, it’s easy to read and extremely fast.

R

R is not only a language but also an environment for statistical computing and graphics. It is commonly used for data analysis and machine learning. R is highly extensible, can run on various operating systems, and has a powerful package ecosystem.

Go

This language was developed by Google and is also known as Golang. It can be used for web development, command-line interfaces, and cloud and network services, among other things. Go is easy to use, has built-in concurrency and a growing community.

Dart

Dart was a programming language created for Flutter, Google’s UI toolkit. However, it is a general-purpose language that can be used for any type of web application as well as console and mobile apps. Dart is very easy to learn, optimized for UI and fast on all platforms.

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Where do I start?: online courses and tutorials

The websites for the programming languages above all have related documentation to help you get started. However, if you are looking for more structured software development courses or tutorials for beginners you can do online, we have listed both free and paid options below.

Free

Software engineering by guru 99

Guru99 offers a software engineering course that covers all the basics including the software development lifecycle and software development models. It includes 5 introductory lessons and 18 advanced ones. Then, you can keep working with lessons on various development tools and must knows. When it comes to software development for beginners, this is an excellent course as it requires no prior knowledge.

W3Schools

W3Schools offers a wide array of courses for every developer. With respect to software development for beginners, it includes tutorials on all the most popular languages, plus web building and data analytics. Although most courses are free, W3Schools also offers paid extras.

Educba

EDUCBA offers a variety of different tutorials on various programming languages and software development tools. The Software Development Basics, Software Engineering, and Programming Languages tutorials are a great place to get started. EDUCBA also gives you the opportunity to get certified in various software dev areas but, in this case, you will have to make a small to moderate investment.

freeCodeCamp.org

freeCodeCamp.org is a non-profit community that helps newbies learn to code by building projects. It offers several different courses on various areas of software development, as well as free certifications as you complete each 300-hour course.

Sololearn

Sololearn has over 20 courses covering various languages, tools and aspects of software dev. Certification is also free and you also get access to a great coding community (and a blog) to support and help you along the way.

Paid

Coursera

Coursera has a great offer when it comes to software dev courses—and many from highly respected universities and companies. Some of our recommendations regarding software development for beginners include Java Programming and Software Engineering Fundamentals, Android App Development and C for Everyone: Programming Fundamentals

Flatiron School

If you are looking to fast-track your software development learning, Flatiron School offers a comprehensive boot camp that covers both front-end and back-end programming. The fast-paced boot camp runs for 15 weeks, but you can also choose a flexible schedule if you have limited availability. New courses start every month and, although their cost is considerable, you’ll receive top-rate education and resources, in addition to excellent career prospects once you are done.

udemy

Udemy is another great option, particularly if you are looking for courses on specific software dev topics. Some of the top-rated courses available in Udemy include How to Become a Software Developer from Scratch, Complete Python Bootcamp and The Web Developer Bootcamp.

The courses above are varied and comprehensive. However, keep in mind that software development is always evolving and that the learning process is continuous.

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Software development resources for beginners

Developer roadmap

As you can see from all of the information above, the software development field is huge. Looking into the different paths that you can take and the technologies required for them is key. Having a clear developer roadmap will help you figure out what steps to take and where to go.

You will have to decide if you wish to take online courses or attend a boot camp. Then, you will need to figure out if you want to become a front-end (i.e., the user interface), back-end (i.e., the server-side) or full-stack (both front and back-end) developer and if you’ll specialize in a specific framework, language or area (React, Java, Android, etc). You will also need to consider how much time you can devote to your training.

If you are still a bit confused, you can take a look at Kamran’s developer’s roadmap for help. It doesn’t cover every area, but gives you a clear idea of the most popular paths taken in software development today.

Github

If you are looking to become a software developer, chances are GitHub will become your new best friend. GitHub is a cloud hosting platform that over 73M and over 4M organizations around the globe use for version control and collaboration. You can work on projects with other people from anywhere in the world.

GitHub has its very own Learning Lab, which includes various free courses to learn everything you need to know about GitHub itself as well as many programming languages and tools.

Programming rules

It’s always good to have some rules to guide you on your journey. Thanks to Mickey Muldoon, you have an excellent site to refer to for these. His Rules of thumb for a 1x developer will make a great addition to your bookmarks.

Practice

Practice makes perfect. This is the best resource you can get. In addition to any course or documentation you study, find and create projects that help you test your knowledge and improve your skills. How much practice is included might actually be a good factor to take into consideration when choosing the right course for you.

Career prep

Once you are feeling confident enough to start applying for software development jobs, it might be good to consider looking into some career prep resources. You can take a look at Interview Cake, which gives interview tips for free and gives you the opportunity to run through typical interview questions as part of its paid course. freeCodeCamp.org also offers free interview prep. And, finally, Break into Tech includes cover letter, resume and interview tips in its paid courses.

Conclusion

We have given you an introduction to software development for beginners. We’ve included some necessary context in addition to quite a few resources so you can decide what path to take and to help you through it. We hope this article has given you all the tools you need to get you on your way and wish you the best of luck in your career!

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