Ten Free Tools to Level-Up With JavaScript

Published 10/06/2016

Level One: JavaScript for Cats

If you’re a true novice, mosey over to JavaScript For Cats. You’ll find a tutorial that starts from square one: “As one controls humans with hisses and meows, one controls computers with statements written in a programming language.” The site will teach you some rudimental bits of JavaScript and provide a space to play around with them in your web browser, so you don’t have to download text editing software. Unlike benchmark-format tutorials that have students pass lessons before moving on, JavaScript For Cats allows more free form playing with JavaScript to get comfortable and build confidence.

Level Two: Codeacademy

Now that you know you like JavaScript, you might like having a little more structure in your learning process. Sign up for free Codeacademy and start a track, that will give you tiny JavaScript writing tasks that you need to succeed in before moving on to the next tax (a benchmark format learning system). Code School is a similar option with more video tutorials visual learners might like that), but it is not free.

Level Three: Repl.it, Stack Overflow, CodePen and JS Bin

At this point, you know you like JavaScript, you’ve got a handle on the very basics. You’ve had some fun playing around, and you want more of a challenge.

Repl.it

Short for Read Eval Print Loop, Repl.it allows you type JavaScript into your browser and run it there to get an immediate response.

“That’s really the best place to go because you can write chunks of JavaScript and see it all run together,” Galvanize Instructor Wesley Reid said. “You can begin solving different challenges that you might be able to find on the internet.”

Stack Overflow

Use this open-source resource to see what kinds of problems other programmers are running into with JavaScript and how they’re solving them. It’s a great place to go when you’re looking to test your prowess and expand your capabilities.

CodePen and JS Bin

CodePen is an online tool with an easy-to-navigate user interface that allows beginners to practice writing snippets of code that require other files (like JQuery) without having to link to those files themselves and still see the fruits of their labors immediately. JS Bin is a similar tool with a lightly different interface. Some learners may prefer one over the other, we love both.

Level Four: Atom

So far, we’ve mentioned learning tools that allow you to write code in your browser. As you move on to more complex, projects, you’ll likely want a text editor on your computer. Atom is a free text editing software that is the preferred by Galvanize instructors. Here’s why:

The interface is simple and easy to use. Galvanize Associate Instructor Elana Kopelvich recommends selecting a colorful theme to help you strengthen your mental associations as certain kinds of code show up in categorical colors. The colors will also help you notice when something in your code is amiss–if all of your variable declarations are one color, and suddenly a different hue appears, you know to check your work.

The linter in Atom checks your work for things like-out-of-place punctuation, unclosed parentheses, and misspellings. This will save you the headache of scouring your code for the minute typo throwing a wrench in your otherwise magnificent work. More importantly, it can be used as a learning tool by showing you what needs to be in place to make your code functional.

Last and absolutely not least, it integrates with Github. Github is an immensely valuable open-source tool coders use to save and share their code, (read more about that here).

“If you’ve done all of those things and they’ve all been great that’s the point where you need to dive deeper in some way. That can be in taking a class at Galvanize,” said Reid. “What I find as the reason people come to Galvanize is because they’ve been trying to learn on their own and they’ve hit some kind of wall ... We give projects and context to everything. So, opposed to just learning about functions [in the abstract] we learn about functions in some sort of exercise so we’re able to create those associations.”

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