Java is one of the OG programming languages most developers love but also dread and complain about. Can you believe it was the sixth most commonly used language in 2022? Java gets downloaded 1 billion times every year. This programming language, created by James Gosling, runs on over 5.5 billion devices. Its power reaches web, desktop, and mobile applications, but it's also trendy for games, security, QA Automation, and IoT applications.
Java is a highly verbose programming language, yet its learning curve is better than you think. It has a massive community of developers, resources, and frameworks that make it worth learning. On top of that, it's swift and secure. In this article, we'll learn Java's main characteristics and why it's so powerful.
What is Java?
You may have heard that it is a high-level, multiparadigm programming language. That means it's user-friendly, user-oriented, and supports procedural and object-oriented programming languages. People also describe it as general-purpose because of having so many uses. Java began in 1990 as an internal project developed at Sun Microsystems that went by "Oak." They then renamed it after the Indonesian island famous for its coffee. That's why its logo is a steaming cup of coffee.
Why is Java so Popular?
"Write once, run everywhere."
Java SE allows you to run its code on any device or operating system with a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) installed. That includes Mac, Windows, Linux, and Android, making Java-based apps highly portable. That's why they use the phrase write once, run everywhere to describe its capabilities. In this manner, Java powers enterprise web apps built with Springboot, Big Data Pipelines with Hadoop, and mobile apps on Android with Android Studio. It also powers Desktop and Smart TV apps, car navigation systems, and even NASA's Mars Rovers! The JVM acts as an interpreter that allows Java to compile its code to byte code without recompiling. That's why you may have heard it's both a compiled and interpreted language that requires a Java Runtime Environment, but luckily, most computers have it installed by default.
What Are Java's Main Benefits?
As mentioned, Java is a robust, fast, reliable, secure, and easy-to-understand programming language. The Sun Microsystems team designed Java to address three common issues with other programming languages at that time. These issues were the lack of garbage collection, runtime type checking, and reflection. Let's explore why these aspects are so advantageous.
Java's Garbage Collection
Java supports automatic garbage collection, which optimizes memory usage by constantly checking what objects aren't in use. The JVM constantly scans those objects and removes them automatically, improving efficiency and performance. Manually tracking and releasing memory would be a huge hassle, but the JVM lifts that weight off your shoulders.
Java's Runtime Type Checking
Java checks object types at runtime instead of solely relying on compile-time. That can be helpful since these errors are easy to overlook. So, if there's a mismatch, Java will raise an exception and halt program execution. In the long run, that will help prevent crashes and facilitate maintenance.
When writing an object, the reflection will let you inspect it to see all the fields and methods available. It'll also make it easy to create new objects and change their values dynamically. However, reflection perfectly fits the cliche phrase, "with great power comes great responsibility." The reason is that it adds more complexity to the code introducing potential costs that may slow down execution. Thus, developers must use reflection meticulously.
How To Get Started With Java?
Getting started with Java is easier than you may have heard; trust me! Here we've compiled a list of the steps you need to follow.
1. Install the Java Development Kit (JDK)
Think of the JDK as a powerful toolbox with everything you need to build, compile, and run Java apps. That includes an interpreter, a Java compiler (javac), Java Runtime Environment (JRE), Java Virtual Machine (JVM), an archiver, debuggers, and more developer tools.
2. Set up the JAVA_HOME Environment Variable
After installing the JDK, you'll need to set up the JAVA_HOME environment variable, which points to the location of the JDK on your computer. That allows other programs and tools to find the JDK easily. JAVA_HOME is simply an environment variable. I know that may sound scary, but environment variables are just special secret codes your computer uses to remember important information.
Setting up JAVA_HOME is no rocket science! First, you must find the folder that stores that JDK. Once you find the folder, you must identify the installation directory, which will vary depending on your OS. Then you must manually define a variable called JAVA_HOME, which will act as an address for other programs to find the JDK. Lastly, you need to apply the changes and verify that it's working correctly by running a simple command. That's all there is to it. As I said, it's not rocket science.
3. Choose an Integrated Development Environment (IDE)
The JDK only doesn't include a place to write, debug, and test your code. Many popular options are available, and it's easy to get overwhelmed. When choosing an IDE, you must consider plugins, refactoring tools, code analysis, editing capabilities, graphical interface, and code completion suggestions. You must also consider integrations with other tools and frameworks and community support. Some of the most popular options that check those boxes are Eclipse, IntelliJ IDEA, and NetBeans.
4. Write your First Java Program
Open your chosen IDE and create a new Java project. To start, you must create a file that ends in .java and begin with a class. Ideally, select the same name for the file and the class you use to start the program. Using the public keyword before the class name will make it accessible from anywhere in your program. The primary method must be within it that indicates where the code will start executing.
This simple program will print "Enjoy your coffee!" to the console when you run. Bonus tip: you can use the new keyword to create an object or instance of the class quickly!
Java is a mighty, strong, and popular choice for programming you can use to build a wide range of services. You can make that with Java for web, mobile, or desktop apps. It may be longer than other languages like Python and Ruby, but it's much faster and more efficient. Java is among the technologies our experienced developers implement to deliver world-class, highly secured software platforms. Are you ready to give Java a chance?