miércoles, 12 de marzo de 2014

LearnXinYminutes Is The Occasional Coder's Best Friend

If you've never written a line of code, let me let you in on a not-so-secret secret: once you're pretty good at one programming language, picking up others becomes a whole lot easier.

That's not to say that mastering one language makes you a master in all of them. Hardly. Each language has its own style quirks, syntactic requirements, and nuances — but the biggest hurdles in learning to code come in the early days, in wrapping your head around the abstract key concepts (things like variables, arrays, functions, and loops) that are largely universal. It might take you a few months to start feeling halfway decent with, say, Python… but once you've got that base knowledge and go on to muck around with, say, Ruby, you'll probably hit that halfway decent level within a few days.

That's why LearnXInYminutes exists.

LearnXinYminutes isn't a good way to learn your first programming language, but it's a great way to get your feet wet with your third. It doesn't explain any of those aforementioned oh-so-important concepts, instead expecting you to come with that knowledge at hand.

(Don't have that base foundation you'd need for LearnXInY to make sense? Check out Codecademy or Udacity's CS 101 course, or a combination of the two. It's absolutely friggin' amazing how easy it is to learn the fundamentals these days. Even if you never plan to code for a living, you should still learn the basics — if nothing else, you'll walk away understanding with a better understanding of why things work the way they do.)

LearnXinY — the name being a play on all of those cheesy "Learn [Programming Language Here] In [Unit Of Time]" books that seem to be locked in a race to the bottom, always promising more knowledge in less time — is a really, really solid programming language reference site; a set of cheat sheets, if you will. They're programming guides for people who can already program.

There's no flare; no flashiness. It's black text on a white background. Hell, it's probably the simplest thing, technologically, that I've written about in ages. But that simplicity is exactly what makes it great. I find myself using it on at least a weekly basis, so I figured I ought to help spread the word.

Each language on the site gets a single page, some of'em longer than others. All of them, however, are high-level crash courses on one language, written as compilable/runnable code. Start at the top of the page with no knowledge of a language, and by the bottom you'll be ready to dive into that language's docs and start tinkering. They've got 23 guides at the moment, touching on most of the big guys; C, Javascript, Python, PHP, and Ruby are all there.

I've come to dig it not just for learning new languages, but for quickly refreshing me on those I'm already familiar with. I don't get to code nearly as much as I'd like to these days. Once it's been a few weeks since you've used a language, it can be crazy easy to forget even the most basic stuff. What do I use for comments again here… slashes, hashtags, or quotes? Does this language use parentheses in comparisons? Are arrays zero-indexed here? LearnXinY gets you back up on that bike in just a few minutes.

Someone mentioned the site to me about a month ago, and I've had it bookmarked since. In that time, it's picked up guides for 4 or 5 new languages, and added Chinese translations to about 1/3 of its offerings. Check it out.

[Image above used for lack of a good alternative that wasn't some dumb picture of scrolling Matrix code or something. Also because that picture is awesome.]

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