Firebug

Since 1995, when Netscape first introduced Javascript to the World Wide Web as a simple client-side scripting language for web browsers, Javascript has become the most misunderstood, disliked and disdained programming language. Users and developers were quick to point out its many design errors. Vendors implemented buggy versions of Javascript in their also buggy web browsers. No wonder users chose to disable their browser’s ability to run Javascript code!

 

But now, eighteen years after Javascript first appeared, it has become the dominant programming language of the web. All modern web browsers implement the Javascript language, thus making it the only one deployed on all personal computers and mobile devices around the world. Javascript has become a powerful, dynamic and fully-functional object-oriented programming language on par with more traditional languages like C++. Ruby, or Java. It has advanced features such as prototypal inheritance, modules, namespaces, anonymous (lambda) functions, and even metaprogramming. Full-blown applications such as Gmail and Google Maps are programmed in Javascript.

 

Today, you cannot be a web developer and not know Javascript. It’s a language a serious web developer must learn and master for the reasons discussed in this article.

 

#1: It’s free and easy to set up.

You don’t have to purchase Javascript. On the client-side, Javascript comes with a browser and executes within the browser. There is no need to download, install and configure any library files to be able to run Javascript. All you need is a program code editor (e.g. Sublime Text, Notepad++, EditPlus, etc.) and, of course, your internet browser and you can write and execute Javascript code.

 

Javascript is also an interpreted language. You can pause the program at a specific line of code, modify that line and resume program execution at that line. There is no time consuming edit-compile-execute cycle to contend with. Memory management and data types are managed by the browser.

 

#2: It’s easy to debug.

All popular browsers allow you to debug your Javascript code. But there are free, excellent online tools that allow you to look not only at your Javascript code but also at its execution environment. What’s more, these tools provide a logging capability which allows you to write and store the values of your variables at various execution stages of your program. Two excellent and free tools are Firebug and Web Developer Toolbar. Firebug is a plugin for the Firefox browser and Web Developer Toolbar is available for Chrome and Firefox.

Firebug

Source: Get Firebug

 

These helpful tools let you not only debug Javascript, but also examine the HTML and CSS code of your webpage so you can take an in-depth look at your entire application. You can modify the code in real time and see your modifications immediately take effect.

 

#3: AJAX

AJAX stands for Asynchronous Javascript and XML. It is a set of interrelated web development technologies which enable web browsers to interact asynchronously with the web server. Using AJAX, webpages get updated in the background without reloading and refreshing the webpage. This means the users’ surfing experience is not only uninterrupted but also dynamic because the content of the webpage is continuously updating to the newest version. Whereas initially the web was a place for viewing static webpages, AJAX has now transformed the web into a place where users can interact with websites and other users as well.

AJAX

 

#4: Powerful and Free Frameworks and Libraries

Developing software can be daunting, intellectually challenging, nerve-racking and time consuming. To overcome those obstacles, increase their prospects of success and drastically cut down on development time, developers resort to frameworks and libraries. Simply put, a framework is a proven and reliable design or configuration of the components of your software while a library is a set of error-free program code organized into functions. By utilizing frameworks and libraries, developers avoid “reinventing the wheel” and employ tested and reliable solutions to often recurring problems. Development time and effort is also reduced by half.

 

Because of the widespread use of Javascript, many popular and very reliable frameworks and libraries are available for free for developers. Among the frameworks are AngularJS, Backbone.js, and Bootstrap. The popular libraries are jQuery, Prototype, and Dojo.

 

Bootstrap and jQuery are often used together. Bootstrap also employs responsive web design, which is a design technique that allows a webpage to change its layout based on the width of the browser screen. Thus, a webpage can be easily displayed either on a full desktop monitor screen or on a mobile device.

 

jQuery

Source: jQuery

 

#5: In Demand and Thriving User Community

The Javascript ecosystem continues to grow, and the demand for developers who know pure Javascript and specific Javascript libraries and frameworks is high. The graph below shows that Javascript demand has grown more than any other programming language.

Growth in popularity (based on jobs available) from 2012 – 2013

 

 

There is also a thriving community of users and developers who are not only willing to share their experiences in various forums and conferences, but who also make their tested and reliable code freely available in various libraries and frameworks. There are also numerous websites offering free tutorials and training in Javascript programming.

 

So with all essential and necessary free tools and resources, what’s stopping you from learning and mastering the most popular programming language of the web?

 

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