If you are looking for a fascinating and slightly geeky new pastime to get into, you might want to consider coding and developing software. There are so many things you can do with software, and the limits are really just your own imagination and skill. If you find yourself believing that you need to have a degree in order to be able to create software, think again. Actually anyone – with enough time and patience – can easily learn to develop software, and you should find that you surprise yourself with how easy some of it can be. There are a number of things you need to think about, however if you are to make it all work out, and those are what we are going to look at today. Consider the following to get into software development.
- Learning to code. Probably the part that gets in the way for most people keen to develop software is the coding. You might think that you need a highly mathematical brain, or that you need to be able to be a genius to code properly, but the truth is that anyone can do it, it just takes time to learn. Essentially you are just learning a language, so anyone who can learn a language can learn to code, and once you get going you will start to see how it can actually be surprisingly easy to do. One of the first codes you might want to look into is C++. it is notoriously complex, but for that reason is also a good one to have under your belt, as it means that you can therefore do plenty with it. If you are wondering as to the effectiveness or breadth of C++, consider that the operating system you are currently using is (almost) certainly built with this language. As you can appreciate, it’s a pretty powerful coding language to learn. The actual process of learning may take time, but there are many resources out there to help you, including online tutorials which can actually be incredibly effective. Start small and build small programs, and you will soon develop your skills until you are able to build some pretty complex and interesting pieces of software in no time. Then you will look back and marvel that you ever didn’t know how to write even some basic code.
- Choosing your IDE. Most people will want to use what is known as an Integrated Development Environment. This is simply a piece of software which allows you to write code, compile it, link it and debug and build it all in one environment, rather than having to use many different kinds of software to achieve those ends. Because this is the important part of the whole operation, you will want to choose your IDE carefully. Generally you can just go for whichever you can find that is popular for your system – as therefore it will be easier to get hold of online help and forums for it. But there should be a particular shout out to Code::Blocks, which is a well-known cross-platform and open source choice, and might be the one you find best to get started with. In any case, make sure you find an IDE which you enjoy using and which feels intuitively good to use.
- Test & re-test. One thing to bear in mind is the importance of testing and re-testing as you go along. You should really make sure that you are testing your software repeatedly throughout the whole process, as doing so is likely to ensure that you can produce the best software in your capabilities to do so. The kind of testing you need to do depends on the part of the process you are currently in; at the beginning, it will be a matter of constantly debugging your code, whereas towards the end you will want to think about testing the entire build in a much more top-down and user-focused manner. You should or that look into some QA testing best practices and check that you are doing everything you need to to properly check and test your software in the best way you can. The more you test your software, the more likely it is that you will end up with whatever you might have been planning.
- Know your goal. It is helpful if you have some kind of a goal to work towards, as in doing so you will find that you are able to work in a way which is more efficient and makes more sense. If you just get coding without really thinking about it, this is unlikely to cause much good – but if you have a specific problem in mind which you want to try and solve, you will be able to be spurred on by this, and it will mean that you are able to produce software which you can be proud of. Remember that pretty much anything is possible in software development, although some projects take more time, so you can be sure not to try and limit yourself if you can help it. By focusing on your goal, you should be able to produce software which is going to provide some kind of useful solution for people.
- The value of open source. It is definitely worth considering having your software released in open source mode first and foremost, as this is beneficial for the future development of the software. How is this so? Well, open source means that anyone downloading your program also downloads the source code. You will therefore get people looking into that code and trying to improve it in a number of different ways. Ultimately, this will mean that you end up with many people putting their heads into it, which can have a way of producing some great results. Open source is definitely something to consider, especially if you are not really seeking to make money from your software project.
Note: this post contains contributed content.