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How to choose computer programming software for use in the home

With many readily available computer programs, many of which are free, it's rare that a general home user really needs to do any computer programming these days. However, it can be fun to do your own programming. This article takes a brief look at the different types of software available.

Introduction

The world of computer programming has a wide range of ways of making a computer do what you wish it to. All the different options can be broken down to broadly two different types of computer programs: interpreted and compiled. Compiled programs These are stand-alone applications, usually ending in .exe on a windows system along with their compiled libraries. These are designed to run independently of the environment in which they were written. Written using a combination of text files and a compiler, they create a compact and efficient program. Within a modern GUI operating system such as the one found on any modern computer, the text files are usually supported by a GUI design package such as MCVC++. Interpreted programs These also use text files but these files are read all the time, known as at 'run time'. The programming environment or interpreter is required to run the program. It can be compiled, of sorts, into a file that includes the interpreter alongside the configuration files.

Choices

Internet The internet is probably the easiest and most common environment someone would want to learn programming. At the basic level, a webpage is a simple HTML file and selection of graphics files. These can be created with a text editor but visual program is recommended for best results. Common programs include Adobe Dreamweaver, Microsoft Expression Web, and a range of free options including limited capabilities in OpenOffice. More flexibility can be accomplished with PHP, Java, C#/.net and Flash. The former is excellent for creating cross-platform dynamic content while Adobe's Flash and Microsoft's Silverlight provide an excellent way of creating specialist animation or video content. The other options are used for other customised content. Non-Internet software Flash can also be used to create non-internet programs and is excellent for small, stand-alone animations and applications well within the capabilities of a home user. Visual C++, C++ and Visual basic are excellent ways of creating stand-alone applications but are very complex to use and outside the scope of this article. If this is the avenue that is desired, then something like the Idiots' Guides are an excellent starting point. Conclusion Programming is a hugely complex area and this article can only scratch the surface. Reading books and going on courses are two of the best ways of increasing your knowledge of this complex subject.

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