The vital guide to modern programming languages and their uses

Last updated:October 2019

Editor's note

So many programming languages exist for enterprise development that it's hard to choose the right language to use for a software project. This guide can get you up to speed on the capabilities of budding and prevalent modern programming languages.

This comprehensive look at programming languages and their uses begins with a review of prevalent programming languages -- such as Rust and Python -- that many developers put to good use. Then, five less common programming languages -- including Ballerina and Clojure -- are featured for their distinct characteristics and development capabilities.

Lastly, dig deeper to explore which languages fit specific platforms and frameworks, and learn why certain languages suit specific architectures better than others.

1The top programming languages

While the scope of a project may matter most right now, longer-term factors play an important role when it comes to hiring and training a staff of developers. For example, a programming language's popularity or potential for growth can put it on your radar -- or the perceived dread surrounding a language can put you off.

The following articles synopsize some of the pros and cons of popular programming languages, like Rust, Python, Java and JavaScript. Should you learn Go, even though it's not right for your current task? Is Python essential? Whether it's due to a language's popularity or project-specific capabilities, experts offer their arguments for and against selecting certain languages.

2Worthwhile alternative languages

Have you heard of Clojure, Groovy, Kotlin, Ballerina or Elixir? These are just some of the modern programming languages that came about to address programming problems and demands.

Many languages complement or even offer stimulating alternatives to Java for development. From Clojure's Lisp-based take on code-as-data to Kotlin's utility as both a functional and Android-friendly language, alternative approaches are designed to take on Java development in new ways.

As for non-Java development, general purpose programming languages, like Ballerina and Elixir, come with exciting implications for serverless development and IoT development, respectively.

Examine these five programming languages and their uses to see if any of them offer a particular advantage to your project and career.

3Match a language to a framework

An important task regarding the prospects of a programming project is choosing a complementary framework. Explore frameworks that you've heard of -- like Spring -- or potentially have not -- like Micronaut and Steeltoe -- and learn which languages make sense for these specific frameworks. These expert articles should help to give you an idea of which framework can unlock the full potential of a programming language.

4Use cases and architecture types

A programming language has implications on development and architecture decisions.

For instance, JVM-based languages like Kotlin, Groovy, Scala, Clojure and others bring advantages to mobile development. With a microservices architecture, some languages get the job done, while others come with development baggage. As for serverless development, a select few languages are up to the task.

Dig into this advice on diverse programming languages and their uses to discover how certain languages work best in specific types of architectures, and see how that ultimately can restrict your choice.

5Characteristics of programming languages

Whether you're familiar with a certain language or not, peruse these definitions to gain a comprehensive understanding of the construction involved in coding.