Software and technology are advancing at an exponential pace in the information age. New programming languages are constantly emerging to meet the demands of an evolving world.
But with the explosion of languages, how many programming languages are there in use today?
While there is no definitive count, estimates put the number in the thousands. To make sense of the vast array of languages, they can be grouped into key categories based on their concepts, syntax, applications, and capabilities.
Each category encompasses hundreds of programming languages that share similar features and traits. Categorizing languages provide structure for understanding the diverse paradigms and methodologies behind modern software development. It is possible to gain insight into the scale and complexity of today’s programming languages by exploring the categories and estimating numbers.
Let’s dive into more data.
Programming Languages Categories
While estimates vary, tens of thousands of programming languages are used today. To make sense of this vast landscape, languages can be grouped into several major categories based on their concepts, syntax, and applications.
The main categories include procedural, object-oriented, scripting, markup, query, and functional languages. Each encompasses hundreds of specific programming languages that share common traits and capabilities. Understanding these key language categories provides a framework for navigating the extensive collection of options available to programmers and developers.
Programming languages can be categorized into the main types following:
- Procedural languages like C, Pascal, and BASIC involve step-by-step instructions.
- Object-oriented languages like Java, C++, and Python organize code into object classes and methods.
- Markup languages like HTML and XML format and present text.
- Query languages like SQL, MongoDB, and GraphQL communicate with databases.
- Functional languages like Haskell, Erlang, and Lisp emphasize mathematical functions over state changes.
List of Programming Languages
There are hundreds of programming languages in use today. Some of the most popular include:
Python is a high-level, interpreted, general-purpose programming language that emphasizes readability and simplicity. It supports multiple paradigms, such as object-oriented, functional, imperative, and procedural.
Features: Dynamically typed, supports object-oriented, procedural, and functional paradigms. Modules from third parties are available in addition to the standard library.
Uses: Utilized for web development, data analysis, machine learning, automation, scientific computing, scripting, etc.
Strengths: Expressive, concise syntax, dynamic typing, interactive shell, rich libraries and community resources.
Weaknesses: Slower performance than compiled languages, indentation-based syntax, needs more built-in concurrency.
Features: Dynamically typed, prototype-based, supports imperative, declarative, and functional paradigms. It can run on client-side and server-side.
Uses: Developing websites, front-ends, back-ends, integrating mobile apps, making games, and visualizing data.
Strengths: Flexibility, asynchronous programming, large ecosystem, easy HTML/CSS integration.
Weaknesses: Inconsistent syntax, browser compatibility issues, weak typing, global namespaces.
The Java programming language was designed for portability and robustness and is a general-purpose and object-oriented language.
Features: A large number of third-party libraries and frameworks are included. Statically typed, strongly OOP-oriented, and functional, generic capabilities.
Uses: Application development, Big Data, distributed computing, and scientific computing are some of the areas in which Java excels.
Strengths: A JVM ecosystem, platform independence, security, and a large community make this a robust platform.
Weaknesses: A steep learning curve, fragmented versions, complex syntax and performance issues hamper its use.
C++ extends C with object-oriented features while retaining the ability to program procedurally for performance gains. It offers power and flexibility but also complexity that takes time to master. The language is widely used where efficiency and access to hardware are critical.
Features: As a statically typed language, C++ supports procedural, object-oriented, and generic programming styles. It includes features like inheritance, virtual functions, and operator overloading.
Uses: C++ is commonly used for operating systems, embedded systems, game engines, desktop applications, and high-performance computing.
Strengths: Its key strengths are speed and efficiency, leverage of existing C code, and broad platform compatibility.
Weaknesses: Potential weaknesses of C++ include its relatively complex syntax which can make it hard to learn, portability challenges, quirks in the build system, and a steep learning curve.
PHP is an open-source, server-side scripting language optimized for rapid web development. Embedded directly in HTML, PHP code is executed on the server to dynamically generate content sent to clients.
Features: It is dynamically typed and supports procedural, object-oriented, functional paradigms: integrated web/database/HTML support.
Uses: Developing websites, implementing content management systems, designing e-commerce platforms, and developing web frameworks.
Strengths: Easy to learn and use, widespread server support, rich extension ecosystem.
Weaknesses: Some issues are a lack of consistency in syntax and naming, security issues, and poor performance.
Rust is a high-performance compiled language focused on memory safety and concurrency.
Features: Statically typed, it supports imperative, functional, and concurrent paradigms. The memory management system has a unique ownership system.
Uses: The system development field, embedded systems development, web development, game development, and cryptography are all within this field.
Strengths: Fast and efficient, safe and reliable, expressive syntax, rich tooling, and community.
Weaknesses: The learning curve is steep, the syntax is verbose, and there are strict compiler rules for libraries.
Swift is a modern general-purpose language designed by Apple for their platforms.
Features: Statically typed, supports imperative, declarative, protocol-oriented paradigms. Modern features make it robust.
Uses: iOS, macOS, watchOS, tvOS development.
Strengths: Object-C and C syntax are interoperable, as well as safety checks.
Weaknesses: Limited platform support, immature language, and lack of backward compatibility are some of its weaknesses.
MATLAB is a numerical computing environment for matrix operations, data analysis, visualization, and algorithm development.
Features: Dynamically typed, it supports imperative, functional, object-oriented paradigms. Several toolboxes are available for various domains, as well as an IDE.
Uses: Engineering, simulation, machine learning, imaging, scientific computing.
Strengths: Easy to use and prototype, powerful math functions, high-quality graphics, extensive documentation, and community resources.
Weaknesses: Expensive proprietary software, slower for significant problems, inconsistent syntax/naming, limited web/mobile development capabilities.
Perl is a general-purpose scripting language known for text processing capabilities.
Features: Dynamically typed, it supports procedural, object-oriented, functional paradigms. Many operators, regexes, and data structures are built into the language.
Uses: Web programming, system administration, bioinformatics, and network programming are some of the skills I possess.
Strengths: Flexible and expressive language, powerful string manipulation, large module repository (CPAN).
Weaknesses: Cryptic, unreadable code, outdated, inconsistent design, needs modern features like Unicode support.
According to TIOBE’S index of language popularity, there are over 100 languages actively used today. Their rankings track languages based on search engine results and online courses.
Most Used Coding Languages
The most widely used languages are:
- Python: A general-purpose language suitable for beginners. They are used in data science, web dev, AI, and more.
- Java: A robust, stable language appropriate for enterprise apps. Famous for Android development.
- C/C++: High-speed system languages used for operating systems, games, and performance-critical applications.
- C#: A versatile object-oriented language from Microsoft, used for Unity, desktop, mobile, and web apps.
Most Trending Programming Languages
Usage growth is a key indicator of future adoption trends. Python’s continuous rise over the past decade demonstrates its versatile utility in data science, web development, and more. The choice of languages for core curriculums and computer science programs also clues an interest in newer languages like Kotlin and Rust.
Trending languages also provide unique capabilities and paradigms not found in preceding languages. Go’s multi-core concurrency primitives or Rust’s focus on memory safety are examples.
Here are some trending computer languages:
- Rust: A systems language focused on speed, safety, and concurrency. I was growing up for embedded, the web, and gaming.
- Go: Created by Google for fast, reliable networking and multiprocessing and used for web services and DevOps.
- Kotlin: The Kotlin language offers null safety and concise syntax, making it an excellent Android programming language alternative to Java.
- Swift: The Swift programming language was developed by Apple to develop iOS apps, but it can also be used to create server-side applications. It is growing in popularity.
Learning how to become a programmer gradually involves mastering various programming languages and problem-solving skills. Hence, in the following section, we will answer the most commonly asked questions by people who want to become programmers or learn a new language.
What is the best programming language for a beginner?
There is no definitive “ideal” or “correct” choice – evaluate tradeoffs and choose based on your specific needs. Try not to overoptimize early on. Focus on core programming fundamentals that transfer between languages. You can branch out later as you advance.
When deciding which programming language to learn, identify your goals and interests. What types of software development are you most excited about – web, mobile, data science, etc.?
Next, consider your background. Previous coding experience and mathematical aptitude will determine how easy or challenging a language will be to pick up.
Weigh language difficulty and learning curves. Beginner-friendly languages like Python and Ruby are great starting points for complex languages like C++.
Look at available learning resources and community support. The availability of online materials and forums makes learning easier.
Think about versatility. General-purpose languages with wide applications provide more options than niche uses.
Programming languages in a nutshell
With hundreds of languages, new programmers can struggle to decide what to learn. However, many popular languages share concepts like variables, loops, functions, and object-oriented principles.
Rather than focus on mastering one language, build core programming skills that transfer between languages. Learn basic syntax, debugging, and problem-solving first. You can learn various languages later based on your career direction.
The options seem endless, but all languages offer ways to bring ideas to life through code. Choose one that fits your interests, and don’t be afraid to experiment as you advance. The fundamentals remain the same, and programming knowledge benefits you no matter which languages come and go.