A little prep work

The first step in learning a language, of course, is to get our hands on a compiler. In Java, code can be written in Notepad (or any text editor) and then compiled, using a Java compiler, into a working program.

The JDK, or Java Development Kit, includes the Java Runtime Environment, the Java compiler, and the Java APIs.

We will need:

The Java JDKhttp://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javase/downloads/jdk8-downloads-2133151.html

The Java JDK with NetBeans (more on this below)http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/articles/javase/jdk-netbeans-jsp-142931.html

I will not go into installation, there are many tutorials that can be easily found with a quick search.

Once the JDK is installed, we’ll want an IDE, or Integrated Development Environment to write the code. As I said above, you can certainly use a text editor but the IDE has many advantages.  I have used Notepad++, which seems to be a very basic IDE but worked well for me. An IDE is like an advanced Notepad, when you type code, it highlights reserved words and numbers the lines for you. In an operating system, reserved words are words or commands that have a specific meaning in the language. For instance, PRINT, is a reserved word in many languages and can’t be used as a variable name. There are many options to choose from, I will list a few here:

Notepad++ I will be using this to begin with – https://notepad-plus-plus.org/download/v7.3.3.html

“Notepad++ is a free (as in “free speech” and also as in “free beer”) source code editor and Notepad replacement that supports several languages. Running in the MS Windows environment, its use is governed by GPL License. Based on the powerful editing component Scintilla, Notepad++ is written in C++ and uses pure Win32 API and STL which ensures a higher execution speed and smaller program size. By optimizing as many routines as possible without losing user friendliness, Notepad++ is trying to reduce the world carbon dioxide emissions. When using less CPU power, the PC can throttle down and reduce power consumption, resulting in a greener environment.” (Notepad++ – website https://notepad-plus-plus.org/)

NetBeans IDE – see above to download with the JDK

“Fits the Pieces Together. Quickly and easily develop desktop, mobile and web applications with Java, JavaScript, HTML5, PHP, C/C++ and more. NetBeans IDE is FREE, open source, and has a worldwide community of users and developers.”

Eclipse IDE – used by the top CS programs in the country – https://eclipse.org/downloads/packages/eclipse-ide-java-developers/neon3

“The essential tools for any Java developer, including a Java IDE, a Git client, XML Editor, Mylyn, Maven and Gradle integration”

This package includes:

      • Git integration for Eclipse
      • Eclipse Java Development Tools
      • Maven Integration for Eclipse
      • Mylyn Task List
      • Code Recommenders Tools for Java Developers
      • Eclipse XML Editors and Tools

The goal today is to get both the JDK and the IDE up and running. I’ll update once I get that installed and discuss my plan for learning. Please comment with any suggestions or pros and cons, they would be much appreciated!


I have wanted to code since I was a kid. I got my first computer at 8 and taught myself rudimentary BASIC. I have always wanted to do more, really understand what it takes to program useful and meaningful software. You know, something beyond the “Hello World!”s and endless lines of “Will is cool!” running down the screen of a monochrome monitor. To this end I have decided to attempt teaching myself to code. I am going to start with Java as I have recently taken an introductory class and I feel like Java is a great language to start with due to its wide use and the many texts and tutorials available for free online. I thought about starting with Python as well, but settled on Java. I intend on documenting my trials and tribulations here along with laying out the path I will take and even posting coding problems, examples and ideas. When I have finished, should I be successful, I would like this blog to be a useful guideline to other non-traditional learners on how to go about teaching yourself to code, for free, online. My goal is to approach programming in such a way that I truly understand the nuances of different aspects of coding. I will attempt to discuss the language used by programmers and share the ways in which I was able to understand concepts. This is my preface, my next post will be about my overall plan and I’ll attempt to give this plan some structure in the short term.