Young Developer Learning Path

By Dana Nourie, July 2008

Learning the Java platform is an adventure. There is so much you can do with Java technologies. Yet, figuring out what you want to do and where to start is the first hurdle you need to clear. This article describes the tools you can use to learn Java programming. You decide which tool to start with based on what you currently know. After reading about the tools, you'll discover resources to learn about the technologies, and the details of the Java programming language.

Greenfoot Lunarlander
Figure 1. Greenfoot Lunarlander

The adventure of learning the Java platform should be fun, clear, and exciting. Start with one of the tools listed below, work your way into the next tool, and include the resources as you feel ready. Before you know it, you'll be creating exciting Java applications.

Before You Begin

Before you read about the tools and resources, you need the Java Standard Edition (Java SE) for any of the tools listed below to work.

Download Java SE

Once Java SE is installed on your computer, you are ready to consider the various teaching tools.

Tools Overview

Which tool you decide to use depends on what you already know about programming, and specifically Java programming. All of the tools listed here are designed to show you programming visually instead of just a bunch of confusing lines of code. The tools demonstrate the relationships between objects (you'll learn about objects within the tools), and how to make those objects interact and do things. Yet, each tool has been designed with a certain audience in mind.

If you start with no programming experience and move from one tool to the next, the basic learning path is: Greenfoot > BlueJ > the NetBeans IDE BlueJ Edition, as shown in Figure 2:

Learning Path for new developers
Figure 2. Tools Learning Path

Many of you, however, may know some programming, or you may know a little of another programming language, or maybe you've taken a class or two but need greater understanding. The descriptions of each tool below will help you decide which tool is best for you based on where are you are starting on your learning path now.

The Learning Tools

Each of the tools helps you visualize what is happening when you create a program. They help you see the objects and interactions so you can better understand the abstract concepts. All are intended to help you learn Java programming in a fun, clear way.

Greenfoot [Download]

Greenfoot is aimed at high school level (13+), but that doesn't mean someone younger or older won't benefit from it. Basically, Greenfoot is aimed at school level programming. The emphasis is to get something exciting and fun on screen very quickly. It's an easy entry into programming, for people who want to see what programming is like. It's great for people who have had no prior interest in programming. Greenfoot is fun, it's exciting, and it generates interest because it's specialized for building graphical 2D applications. This makes what you create visually fun. It's intended to draw you in to programming. Once you're hooked, you can graduate on to BlueJ, and then later to the NetBeans IDE BlueJ Edition.

Download Quick Intro Tutorial

BlueJ [Download]

BlueJ is aimed more at intro university level. It assumes that you know that you are interested in learning programming, and you want to do it in an organized way. BlueJ is generic. It can be used to develop any kind of application. BlueJ teaches the fundamentals of objects, methods, and fields, and shows you visually the relationships between everything you create. You learn the nuts and bolts of the Java programming language, and can also see what is happening visually. Special emphasis is placed on visualization and interaction techniques to create a highly interactive environment that encourages experimentation and exploration.

BlueJ Supports:

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Fully Integrated Environment

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Graphical Class Structure Display

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Graphical and Textual Editing

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Built-in Editor, Compiler, Virtual Machine, Debugger, etc.

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Easy-to-use Interface, deal for beginners

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Interactive Object Creation

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Interactive Object Calls

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Interactive Testing

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Incremental Application Development

Download The BlueJ Tutorial

NetBeans IDE BlueJ Edition [Download]

BlueJ is an environment specifically aimed at beginning programmers. It offers educational tools, such as visualization and interaction facilities that greatly aid the learning of object-oriented concepts. While BlueJ covers the introductory phase of learning to program, and NetBeans offers powerful tools for professional developers, the inevitable step from one into the other has been a difficult barrier for students - until now.

This tool offers a seamless migration path for students that supports the switch from educational tools into a full-featured, professional IDE. The BlueJ plug-in adds two significant features to the NetBeans IDE:

  • It allows NetBeans to open, work with, and create BlueJ projects in the BlueJ-native format (without converting them to-and-from the NetBeans IDE standard projects), so that you can do some of your work in the NetBeans IDE,and some back in BlueJ, wherever you feel comfortable working.
  • It adds a BlueJ View tab to the NetBeans Project Window, which gives a familiar view of your BlueJ projects.

Download The Netbeans BlueJ Plug-in Tutorial

  • An extended tutorial by Dana Nourie.
  • A video on NetBeans/BlueJ from the Sun Developer Network.
  • A set of Lab Notes to help in the transition from BlueJ, and show a few of the facilities that the NetBeans IDE offers to programmers.
  • If you really want to see how far you can take the Zuul-for-NetBeans project, check out Brian Leonard's excellent Zuul everywhere tutorial.
Tutorials for Learning the Java Programming Language

Once you are using BlueJ or the NetBeans BlueJ Edition, you'll also need to learn the basics of the Java programming language. Your best resource for this is The Java Tutorial. Don't let these online tutorials overwhelm you. Take it little by little as you work through projects in the tool you are using. The Java Tutorial teaches the syntax of the Java programming language as well as how to use the thousands of classes available to you.

Bookmark the New to Java Programming Center. Articles and tutorials posted in the center are aimed at learning developers, and are updated often. The level of programming covered varies from beginning to intermediate. The Learning Tab in the center also has a list of articles and tutorials to get you started that should be helpful in the beginning of your learning path. Young Developers is designed specifically for people 13 years old and up.

Additionally, you can subscribe to Java Technology Fundamentals through convenient RSS feeds. Articles aimed at beginners to intermediate programmers go out in the feed several times a month. Some of these are articles that were published on java.sun.com, some are lessons from the Java Tutorial, and some are specifically written for Java Technology Fundamentals and the New to Java Programming Center. All are designed to help you learn the Java platform.

If you have a Facebook account, be sure to Become a Fan of the Getting Started with Java Programming page and visit it regularly, as new content is added automatically through RSS feeds.

When your programming skills are more intermediate, then also consider subscribing to Core Tech Tips. Like Java Technology Fundamentals, Core Tech Tips go out several times a month, but these programming tips are aimed at intermediate to advanced Java developers.

Summary

Choose your learning tool, use the resources, start programming, and have fun!

Comments:

Am pursuing 2nd year in Computer Scinece Engg., Though am a rookie...I have a great passion towards programming... This page helped me to get the confidence that JAVA IS NOT THAT TOUGH AS MA TEACHERS SAY..bt...TOUGH... :)
Keep up the good work..I expect to learn a lot from u ppl!!!

Posted by Mr.Lonely on March 16, 2009 at 04:52 PM PDT #

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