Table of Contents

Cracking the Code: Best Ways to Learn to Code


Table of Contents

Cracking the Code: Best Ways to Learn to Code


The idea of acquiring coding skills can be quite daunting, as the term “code” itself carries an aura of mystery, suggesting a form of communication tailored exclusively for computers, not humans.


Many individuals initiate their coding journey by impulsively diving into a popular programming language, be it through online courses, tutorial projects, or randomly chosen books. Rarely do aspiring developers embark on their learning path equipped with a comprehensive roadmap—a holistic overview of the coding realm encompassing essential programming concepts, languages, and tools that nearly all developers employ on a daily basis.


We aim introduce one such roadmap, delineating 14 crucial steps that professionals utilize in their coding endeavors, each step delving into a fundamental concept, language, or tool. The selection of these steps is a product of my two-decade-long coding journey, during which I discovered that my lack of a broader understanding of the coding world delayed my comfort as a developer.


Each step addresses a “coding essential,” emphasizing key elements that I believe are crucial to grasp at the onset of one’s coding expedition.


Before presenting the steps, it is important to note that reading this article alone will not transform you into an expert programmer. Its purpose is to acquaint you with the existence of these topics and, hopefully, provide a rudimentary understanding of their functionality, enabling you to intelligently build upon them in your ongoing coding exploration.


14-Step Guide for Novice Developers


  1. Gain Insight into Computer Architecture and Data Fundamentals
  2. Explore the Mechanics of Programming Languages
  3. Comprehend the Functionality of the Internet
  4. Hone Command-Line Proficiency
  5. Enhance Text Editor Competence, Embracing Vim
  6. Acquaint Yourself with HTML
  7. Conquer CSS Challenges
  8. Initiate Programming with JavaScript
  9. Progress in Programming with Python
  10. Expand Knowledge through Java
  11. Monitor Code Progression with Git
  12. Master Data Storage Utilizing Databases and SQL
  13. Explore Web Frameworks and MVC Architecture
  14. Experiment with Package Managers


Without further delay, let’s embark on this journey, beginning with the first step!


1) Get Acquainted with Computer Architecture and Data Essentials

Modern programming languages offer the advantage of creating sophisticated applications without delving into the intricate details of the underlying hardware, thanks to the concept of abstraction. Abstraction allows developers to use higher-level tools (such as programming languages) that simplify and narrow down the necessary scope of understanding and skills. However, having a basic understanding of the hardware, such as microchips and their components like transistors, as well as the functions of the CPU, RAM, and hard drive, can be beneficial for navigating discussions on CPU and memory usage in a professional setting.


2) Explore the Functioning of Programming Languages

While modern programming languages shield developers from dealing with machine-level details, it’s still valuable to know that code eventually gets translated into machine code that the CPU can execute. Programming languages provide a bridge between human comprehension and machine understanding, and the code must be compiled or interpreted into machine code. The choice between compiled and interpreted languages has implications for developer convenience, error handling, and performance.


3) Comprehend the Operations of the Internet

Understanding how computers communicate over the Internet is essential for various programming tasks. The Internet is essentially a global network of interconnected computers, and data transfers occur through agreed-upon rules. The client-server relationship is crucial, with the client initiating communication and the server responding. Grasping this dynamic is vital for anyone involved in programming tasks that involve internet interactions.


4) Familiarize Yourself with Command-Line Basics

Despite its intimidating appearance, the Command Line is a powerful tool for performing various tasks, such as navigating directories, listing folder contents, creating and deleting files, and executing programs. Learning basic commands like pwd, ls, mkdir, cd, touch, cp, mv, and rm provides efficiency in handling file operations and directory navigation.


5) Enhance Text Editor Skills with Vim

Vim, a text editor designed to operate directly in the terminal, offers a powerful and efficient way to create and edit text content using only the keyboard. While it has a learning curve, the skills acquired can significantly benefit a developer’s coding career. VimTutor is a built-in tutorial for learning Vim, and mastering it can boost productivity in coding tasks.


6) Get Started with HTML

HTML, or HyperText Markup Language, serves as the foundational structure of web pages, specifying the elements and their order. While not a programming language, HTML defines how web page content is displayed. HTML uses tags, enclosed in angle brackets, to identify elements, and common tags include <html>, <head>, <title>, <body>, <p>, <h1>, <img>, <a>, <form>, <input>, <div>, and <span>. Understanding HTML is crucial for anyone involved in web development.


7) Working with CSS

Imagine a web page without Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) – it’s like a cake without frosting. While a frosting-less cake serves its purpose, it lacks appeal. CSS enables us to associate style properties, such as background color, font size, width, and height, with HTML elements.


CSS doesn’t function as a programming language but enhances HTML by adding styles. To apply CSS styles to HTML elements, we need three components: the CSS selector (identifying the HTML element), the CSS property name (specifying the style property), and the CSS property value (setting the value for the style property).


For instance, the code snippet below sets the color to red and font size to 12 pixels for all paragraph elements:



p {

  color: red;

  font-size: 12px;




To link CSS styles to HTML, we use the `<link>` HTML tag in the `<head>` section. This tag references external CSS files:




  <title>My Page Title</title>

  <link rel=”stylesheet” type=”text/css” href=”/home/style.css”>




In the upcoming sections, we’ll delve into more technical programming languages.

  • JavaScript Programming

Let’s address a crucial question: if HTML structures a web page and CSS beautifies it, why do we need JavaScript? The answer lies in the need for dynamic features and complex user interactions. While HTML and CSS create static, visually appealing sites, JavaScript adds the dynamic element.


JavaScript is a programming language designed for the web and executed directly within web browsers. Initially confined to browsers, the Node.js project expanded its use by creating a standalone environment for running JavaScript beyond browsers. This allows JavaScript to function as backend code for applications.


Now, let’s explore some fundamental aspects of JavaScript, starting with variables and assignment.

  • JavaScript Variables and Assignment

Variables, essential in programming, act as placeholders for values. In JavaScript, variables are declared using the `let` keyword. For example:



let x;



The semicolon signifies the end of a code statement. Assigning a value is done with the equals sign:



x = 10;



Alternatively, variable declaration and assignment can be combined:



let x = 10;



JavaScript supports various data types, including integers, floating-point numbers, and strings. Booleans, representing true or false values, are crucial for control flow in conditional statements.

  • JavaScript Program Flow Control

Understanding program flow involves using statements to dictate actions based on variable values. The `if` statement, for instance, allows condition-based execution:



let x = 10;


if (x > 5) {

  console.log(‘X is GREATER than 5!’);

} else {

  console.log(‘X is NOT GREATER than 5!’);




Loops, like the `while` loop, enable code repetition without duplication. For example:



let x = 1;


while (x <= 100) {

  console.log(‘This is a very important message!’);

  x = x + 1;




Understanding these concepts sets the foundation for effective JavaScript programming. Finally, let’s explore how to integrate JavaScript code files into HTML using the `<script>` tag.


  • The HTML `<script>` Tag

To incorporate JavaScript code into an HTML page, we use the `<script>` tag. Similar to the `<link>` element for CSS, the `<script>` element is specifically designed for JavaScript. Assuming a file named `customscript.js` contains JavaScript code, we include it in HTML like this:



<script type=”text/javascript” src=”customscript.js”></script>



This tag loads the JavaScript code from the file, allowing its execution when the web page is displayed. As you enhance your JavaScript skills, consider taking on beginner-friendly projects to practice.


9) Progressing with Python Programming

After gaining some fundamental knowledge in JavaScript, it’s beneficial to explore another programming language – Python. Many programming languages share common functionalities such as variables, arithmetic operators, if/else statements, loops, and functions.


Examining how different languages implement similar features is instructive. While the concepts remain consistent, the syntax (code structure) varies across languages.


Introduction to Python:

Python, like JavaScript, is a high-level programming language emphasizing ease of development over execution speed. Python is particularly favored for beginners due to its clean and intuitive syntax, widely used in both open-source and business contexts.


Unlike JavaScript, Python is interpreted. When running a Python program, the interpreter actively processes and executes the code line by line. This differs from compiled languages, where code is first optimized by a compiler before execution.


Python was not designed for direct execution in web browsers but serves as a versatile scripting language for various tasks on local computers. It is extensively employed in data science and server-side applications.

  • Variables and Assignment in Python:

Similar to JavaScript, Python allows variable definition using the equals sign:



x = 10

y = “cheese”



Unlike JavaScript, Python omits the need for the `let` keyword and semicolons at the end of each line. Python relies on whitespace and indentation for syntax rules, eliminating the need for explicit line termination characters.


  • Data Types in Python:

Python supports various data types, including integers, floating-point numbers, strings, lists, and dictionaries. Booleans in Python, like JavaScript, use the capitalized keywords `True` and `False`:



x = True

y = False


  • Program Flow Control Statements in Python:

Python employs similar flow control statements to JavaScript but with distinct syntax. The if/else statement in Python looks like this:



x = 10


if x > 5:

 print(‘X is GREATER than 5!’)


 print(‘X is NOT GREATER than 5!’)



Python uses colons and indentation to indicate code blocks within the if statement, replacing curly braces in JavaScript.

  • While Loops in Python:

Python’s `while` loop resembles that of JavaScript:



x = 1


while x <= 100:

 print(‘This is a very important message!’)

 x = x + 1


print(‘This is not in the loop!’)



Differences include the absence of `let` and semicolons, the use of colons, and the significance of indentation.


10) Expanding Knowledge with Java

Moving beyond higher-level languages like JavaScript and Python, let’s delve into Java. Unlike the real-time execution of source code using interpreters in JavaScript and Python, Java is a compiled language. Java bytecode, an intermediate form, is compiled by a JVM (Java Virtual Machine).


The JVM, akin to an interpreter, allows the execution of Java programs on various platforms, making it platform-independent. Java’s unique compilation into bytecode distinguishes it from other compiled languages producing machine code.

  • Variables and Assignment in Java:

Java introduces static typing, where variable data types must be declared during compilation. Variable creation follows this syntax:



Datatype name = value;



Unlike JavaScript and Python, Java necessitates explicit declaration of variable data types, such as `int` or `String`.

  • Data Types in Java:

Java’s primitive data types include `int` for integers, `float` for decimal numbers, and `bool` for booleans. Variables are declared with their specific data type:



int x = 100;

float pi = 3.14;

char middleInitial = ‘T’;

bool isHuman = true;



Strings in Java are non-primitive, using the `String` data type and double quotes for declaration.

  • Program Flow Control Statements in Java:

Java employs curly braces for code blocks in if statements and loops. The Java equivalent of an if/else statement looks like this:



int x = 10;


if (x > 5) {

 System.out.println(“X is GREATER than 5!”);

} else {

 System.out.println(“X is NOT GREATER than 5!”);




Java syntax includes colons, curly braces, and `System.out.println()` for printing.

  • While Loops in Java:

Java’s `while` loop closely resembles the JavaScript version:



int x = 1;


while (x <= 100) {

 System.out.println(“This is a very important message!”);

 x = x + 1;



System.out.println(“This is not in the loop!”);



Notable differences involve variable declaration and the absence of semicolons and `let`.


This concludes the exploration of specific programming languages. The next sections cover collaborative tools like Git, database fundamentals, web development frameworks, and package managers.


11) Monitoring Code Changes with Git

Git stands out as the predominant Version Control System (VCS) today, facilitating collaborative software development among multiple developers. This section delves into the fundamentals of Git, explaining its function, operation, and basic commands.


Before delving into Git specifics, let’s establish some common concepts in programming projects. The complete set of directories and files constituting a software project is termed a codebase. The highest-level folder in the project’s directory tree is referred to as the project root. Code files may reside directly in the project root or be organized into nested folders.


When the codebase is ready for testing or deployment, it undergoes a build process, converting human-written code into an executable program for the specific operating system (e.g., Linux, Mac OS, or Windows).


Developers consistently update project code to introduce new features, fix bugs, and implement security updates. Three primary ways developers modify a software project include adding new files and folders, editing code in existing files, and deleting existing files and folders. As projects grow, with new features and increased complexity, collaboration becomes essential.


Versioning or version control is the process of precisely tracking code changes, identifying affected files or folders, and attributing each change to a developer. This process is facilitated by Version Control Systems (VCS). While several VCS options exist, Git has emerged as the preferred choice globally, extensively used in government, commercial, and open-source communities.


Git forms the foundation of popular web-based VCS platforms like GitHub and Bitbucket, making it a crucial tool for developers to master.

  • Basic Git Commands

Git organizes and stores project information in a Git repository, essentially a hidden folder on the computer. Each software project typically has its own Git repository, allowing separate tracking of code-related information for different projects on a single machine.


Creating a Git repository can be done in two main ways. First, initializing a new Git repository in an existing folder involves the command:



cd ~/Desktop

mkdir testgit

cd testgit/

git init



The second method involves downloading an existing Git repository from platforms like Bitbucket or GitHub, using the `git clone` command:



git clone https://[email protected]/jacobstopak/baby-git.git



After running these commands, a new folder is created with all the files and subfolders constituting the downloaded project.


Additional fundamental Git commands include `git add` for staging files, `git commit` for committing changes, and `git status` and `git log` for reviewing the project’s current state and commit history, respectively.


These commands merely scratch the surface of Git’s capabilities, and developers are encouraged to explore more essential commands.


12) Managing Data Using Databases and SQL

A database is a specialized program designed for efficiently storing, updating, retrieving, and deleting large datasets. Conceptually, a database can be visualized as a container for tables. Tables, akin to those in Microsoft Excel, consist of columns and rows containing data, serving as a means to store information required by programs.


Irrespective of the programming language used (e.g., JavaScript, Python, Java), programs can interact with databases to fetch and store data. SQL (Structured Query Language) is the language commonly employed for such interactions.


SQL queries, chunks of SQL code, instruct databases on operations to perform. There are two primary types of SQL queries: read-SQL, which retrieves data without altering it, and write-SQL, which inserts, updates, or deletes data.

  • A read-SQL query example is:






This query fetches data from the `FIRST_NAME` column of the `PERSON` table. Filtering is achieved using the `WHERE` keyword, as shown in this example:






Sorting is facilitated by the `ORDER BY` clause:






The ability to sort in ascending or descending order is denoted by the optional `ASC` or `DESC` keyword.


13) Exploring Web Frameworks and MVC

Commonly, developers find themselves creating code for typical applications like web applications (web apps), which rely on the Internet for functionality. Web apps, more advanced versions of websites, often incorporate backend code on a web server for behind-the-scenes logic.


Programming languages such as Python, Java, and JavaScript are commonly employed for the backend of web apps. Web frameworks, sets of code libraries, encapsulate common functionalities essential for web apps. They provide developers with pre-built components, streamlining the development process by handling many behind-the-scenes tasks.


Web frameworks, such as Spring Framework for Java, Django Framework for Python, and Express.js and Meteor.js for JavaScript, offer flexibility by allowing developers to use only the features relevant to their specific web app.


14) Exploring Package Managers

The final topic in this guidebook is package managers. In different contexts, a package can refer to either a standalone program ready for installation on a computer or an external code library used in software projects as a dependency.


Package managers, such as those discussed, assist in managing the dependencies of a system or software project. These managers handle tasks like installing, updating, listing, and uninstalling dependencies.


The context determines whether package managers are used for maintaining installed programs or managing project dependencies.


In conclusion, navigating the diverse landscape of programming languages and essential tools is a crucial journey for any aspiring developer. From mastering the basics of JavaScript and Python to understanding version control with Git, delving into databases and SQL, exploring web frameworks, and embracing package managers, this comprehensive guide serves as a foundational resource. As developers progress through these key concepts, they gain the skills necessary to thrive in collaborative software development environments. Additionally, staying informed about coding bootcamps can be pivotal in advancing one’s career in programming. For those seeking guidance on choosing the right coding bootcamp, the website provides valuable insights and rankings, offering a curated list of the top coding bootcamps to aid individuals in making informed decisions about their coding education journey. By combining the knowledge gleaned from this guide with reputable resources like Top 10 Coding Bootcamps, aspiring developers can chart a path towards success in the dynamic and ever-evolving field of programming.


FAQs – 

1. How do I choose the right programming language for my goals?

Choosing the right programming language depends on your specific goals and the type of projects you want to work on. If you’re interested in web development, languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are essential. For data science, Python is widely used, while Java and C++ are popular for building robust applications. Consider factors such as community support, job market demand, and the ease of learning when making your decision. It’s often beneficial to start with a beginner-friendly language like Python and then branch out based on your evolving interests and career objectives.

2. What are the essential resources for learning to code online?

Numerous online resources cater to different learning styles. Platforms like Codecademy, freeCodeCamp, and Udacity offer interactive coding lessons. Websites like GitHub and Stack Overflow provide spaces for collaboration and problem-solving. Books, such as those from O’Reilly Media, can offer in-depth knowledge. Additionally, YouTube tutorials, online forums, and coding challenges on platforms like HackerRank and LeetCode contribute to a well-rounded learning experience. Explore multiple resources to find the ones that align with your preferred learning style.


3. Are coding bootcamps a good option for beginners?

Coding bootcamps can be an excellent option for beginners seeking a fast-track into the tech industry. These immersive, short-term programs are designed to teach practical coding skills and often focus on real-world projects. Bootcamps vary in duration, curriculum, and cost, so it’s essential to research and choose one that aligns with your goals. Bootcamps are particularly beneficial for those looking to transition careers quickly, but success also depends on the learner’s commitment and dedication to continuous practice and learning after the program.


4. How important is understanding computer science concepts for coding?

Understanding computer science concepts is valuable for becoming a proficient and versatile coder. While some roles may prioritize practical coding skills, a solid understanding of computer science fundamentals enhances problem-solving abilities and the ability to design efficient algorithms. It becomes crucial when working on complex projects, contributing to open-source initiatives, or pursuing roles in software engineering or data science. However, for certain domains like web development or mobile app development, practical coding skills might initially take precedence, with a deeper understanding of computer science concepts acquired over time through experience and continuous learning.


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