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7 Tips for Choosing a Programming Language

With nearly 700 different programming languages to choose from, it can be hard to decide; use these tips to cut through the noise

April 30, 2020

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 2 seconds.

Since machines don’t understand how humans talk (they’re getting smarter, though!), we use programming languages to tell them what we want them to do. But not all programming languages are created equally! 

There are more than 690 programming languages to choose from. Each has pros and cons depending on the type of project you want to embark on. 

There are more than 690 programming languages to choose from.

And while it’s typical to believe something new is better than something old, that’s definitely not the case with programming languages; older programming languages have stood the test of time, are likely to be more reliable, and have a bigger community of support to rely on.

Tips for Choosing a Programming Language

  • Popularity: Often used languages have a larger group of collaborators to lean on, and reference material to draw from.
  • Language-domain match: See what others in your field are doing (after adjusting for popularity; the two should be in sync, not overriding each other) to resolve a similar problem domain or by looking at some code that resolves issues you’re likely to have.
  • Availability of libraries: If a language has a library that solves your domain problem, it might be work putting up with some ugly calling conventions or hassle in the language.
  • Efficiency: Efficient compilers/interpreters are what make languages “fast.” Review the interpreters or compilers for your language, and remember that interpreted code will run slower than compiled code as a rule of thumb.
  • Expressiveness: How much code is written in whatever increment of time is not as important as how powerful or expressive a language is. Something written in one language that took just an hour could potentially be reproduced in another in less time.
  • Project-size: Are you looking to create a complex piece of software (programming in the large) or something simple (programming in the small)? Choose a language that matches that goal.
  • Tool support: Popular languages usually have concurrent tool support; if you’re a tool-oriented user, choose a language with good tool support.

Like many things in life, there isn’t a one size fits all solution to choosing the right programming language. But with these tips and some research, surely you’ll find the one that’s the best fit for your project! 

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