How do I create my own computer program?
As you learn more about computers, you may become interested in creating your own program, but are not sure where to start. For anyone interested in developing programs, games, or online services, you must start by learning a computer programming language. Understanding a programming language or at least the concepts of programming help you in developing your own software. It is also important to have a plan for what you want to develop, including the purpose of the program, game or service, and the features and capabilities you want to include.
Note: This page is designed to help you understand, at a high level, what is needed to create a program. Because there are many programming languages available to use, specific programming examples are not provided.
Picking the Language
There are dozens of different programming languages available today and deciding what language you should learn can be a challenge in itself. See our listing of programming languages for a full listing of computer programming languages and examples of what type of programs they are capable of creating.
Deciding on your language depends on what type of program or scripts you would like to create. For example, Java and Visual Basic are both popular languages to learn because of their relative ease and because both are a good way to learn programming fundamentals. Other popular examples include C, C++, and C# which are popular programming languages used to create programs, games, apps, drivers, operating systems, and pretty much every software program capable of running on the computer.
Deciding on an editor
Once you have decided on the programming language, you must decide on the editor you want to use to create your programs. Any program can be written in a text editor, which means if you are running Windows, you could write your first program in a text editor such as Notepad. However, a text editor with at least syntax highlighting would be a much easier solution, especially anyone who is new to programming. Also, keep in mind that visual programming languages like Visual Basic will include the editor and compiler in the same tool used to create programs.
Most computer programming languages are high-level programming languages, which are easy for you to understand but impossible for the computer to understand. In order for the computer to understand your program, it must be compiled or have an interpreter. Your programming language is the deciding factor on how the program will be compiled or ran on a computer. For example, Eclipse is a Java compiler that can take a Java program and compile it to be run on a computer. However, a language like Perl is an interpreted language, which means it does not need to be compiled. It only requires that Perl be installed on the computer or the server that is running the script.
Learning the language
After you have decided on the language, editor, and compiler, you are ready to program. For most users, the easiest way to start programming is with the infamous Hello World! program, which is a program that only prints Hello World! to the screen and a great way to make sure everything is working. After you have been able to run your program that prints Hello World! on the screen, the next step would be to take the time to learn all of the program language's syntax and have an understanding of the below concepts.
- Understand how to declare variables.
- Create conditional statements (e.g. if, elsif, and else)
- Perform loops (e.g. do, for, foreach, goto, and while)
- Understand escape sequences.
- How to make comments or temporarily disable parts of the code.
- Understand regular expressions.
As you are learning all of your programming language's syntax, a great way to learn is to start by making a basic program. For example, if you are interested in creating your own game, a good way to start would be to make a simple text game that runs through a bunch of conditional statements, stores item information in variables, and anything else that would challenge your skills.
As you run into questions, doing a search on the Internet can answer most questions. If you feel that you would like to progress even further, purchase a book written for your programming language or take a course in programming to develop your skills even further.