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Glossary of a software developer’s language – part two of four

Glossary of a software developer’s language – part two of four

Hayley Kwan


My last post gave you a glimpse into a software developer’s vocabulary from A to E. If that is not geeky enough, this post will introduce you to more technical concepts and the tools that a developer would have. If you are interested in programming, why not look up these terms during the holidays? There are many online resources that demonstrate how they are used in practice and you could perhaps learn to code.

For loop – is a control-flow statement to specify iteration in a computer program. Imagine you have a pile of documents, and you would like to add today’s date at the beginning of every document and find out how many documents contain your name. You could check each document by hand, but that would risk missing documents here and there, and you could miscount the number of occurrences. Using a ‘for loop’ would tell the computer to go through each document one by one, add the date and keep a counter on your name or whatever process each document needs to undergo. Due to the statement’s flexibility and accuracy, the ‘for loop’ is one of the most basic building blocks of any computer program, and there are many use cases for it. If you ever code, you will definitely come across it.

Git – is a version control system for tracking changes in computer files, most commonly source code. This is extremely useful because you can easily find the correct version to revert to after making changes to millions of lines of code and hundreds of files. Besides keeping a history of code, another – perhaps the most important – feature is its support for distributed, non-linear workflow. Git allows team members to create a copy of the project individually (‘git checkout <branch>’) for their own editing. With a simple command (‘git merge’), the system merges their finished work with other team members’ versions seamlessly and enables developers to resolve conflicts when necessary. As it is free and open source, it is the most recognised version control system with a large community of developers on several platforms, including GitHub, a web-based hosting service acquired by Microsoft in June 2018 for US$7.5 billion. You can check out some real code on GitHub from individual developers or open source projects by technology giants such as Google and Facebook.

JavaScript – is one of the core programming languages of the World Wide Web, alongside HTML and CSS. All major web browsers have a dedicated JavaScript engine to execute code, enabling interactive web pages. In the past, JavaScript was mostly used to add client-side behaviour to HTML pages. Nowadays, as Node.js is gaining traction with numerous corporate users such as Netflix and Microsoft, JavaScript is used to run web servers, producing faster, more dynamic web pages and applications. You can learn the basics of this language on Mozilla Foundation, the non-profit organisation that now maintains the language’s features. Note that JavaScript differs greatly from Java in language design and usage. Developers would not be happy if you confuse the two. Java is now most commonly used to build Google Android applications.

IDE (integrated development environment) – is a software application that provides developers with comprehensive facilities for writing software, such as syntax highlighters, compilers, build automation tools, debuggers and automated refactoring support. These tools allow developers to focus on coding and designing software instead of remembering the commands to make the code more readable and efficient. This in turn helps save time and enable faster development. As a result, many companies would pay a lot of money to get licences for IDEs. If you would like to learn Java, you could check out the most used IDEs: Eclipse or IntelliJ.

Linux – is a family of free and open source operating systems built around the Linux kernel which was released by Linus Torvalds, one of the world’s most recognised developers. Most people have heard of proprietary operating systems on desktops, such as Microsoft Windows and Apple macOS, but not Linux. However, Linux is used all around you – on servers, supercomputers and small energy-efficient computers or embedded systems such as smartphones and smartwatches. In fact, the Android OS uses the Linux kernel, and many developers use Linux as their desktop operating system due to the large amount of free software that it provides. Next time you need free software, try looking up the GNU Project or Linux Foundation and support the Open Source Initiative.