August 21, 2012 at 12:22 PM EDT
5 Ways To Learn Code From The Comfort Of Your Own Browser
One of the big trends of the past couple years, spurred the growing demand for programmers, is the rise of in-browser programming tutorials. Gone are the days when you'd have to buy a book and configure a development environment before you could get your hands dirty with a little code. Maybe you want to start learning on your work computer and don't have access to install a programming environment. Or maybe you want to get started right away and don't want to deal with ordering books or installing software. Whatever your motivation, here are five places you can point your browser at right now to get started.
code-school-zombies

One of the big trends of the past couple years, spurred the growing demand for programmers, is the rise of in-browser programming tutorials. Gone are the days when you’d have to buy a book and configure a development environment before you could get your hands dirty with a little code.

Maybe you want to start learning on your work computer and don’t have access to install a programming environment. Or maybe you want to get started right away and don’t want to deal with ordering books or installing software. Whatever your motivation, here are five places you can point your browser at right now to get started.

1. Eloquent JavaScript

Eloquent JavaScript is actually a computer science book but it’s available on the web for free. And the web version contains interactive lessons that can be completed from within the browser. You just type your code into a little box and the page runs it. This is a great resource if you’re a beginner wanting an introduction to computer science, but the the lessons aren’t immediately applicable. This could be frustrating if you just want to learn enough JavaScript to get started hacking right away, but it’s better for deeper understanding.

2. Codecademy

We’ve covered Codecademy and its mission to bring code literacy to the masses several times before. For example, here’s our coverage of the company’s addition of Python lessons to its repertoire. It also offers JavaScript, HTML and CSS. Codecademy has also been criticized for presenting conceptual lessons that aren’t immediately applicable to real-world problems, but the team has been taking steps to improve.

3. Khan Academy

Last week the Khan Academy revamped its computer science section to include a set of in-browser JavaScript tutorials. Unlike the other tutorials mentioned here, the Khan Academy lessons are focused on creating graphics and animations. They use the JavaScript implementation of the Processing programming language, which is designed for multimedia artists. The lessons might not be immediately applicable for someone trying to learn business oriented front-end development, but if you’re looking to make art or games this is a good place to start.

4. Code School

Code School‘ offers a mix of free and paid in-browser courses, many of which are aimed at more accomplished programmers. But it also has a free course on the JavaScript library jQuery that claims to include “just enough” JavaScript to get started working with jQuery right away. This might be a good place to start if you’re a web designer looking to expand your skill set.

Other courses cover Git, CSS, Ruby on Rails, Node.js and more.

The courses include videos followed by interactive exercises, along with artwork and themes. “Rails For Zombies,” the intro course on Ruby on Rails is shown above.

5. Code Avengers

Code Avengers reminds me a lot of Code School’s highly stylized in browser lessons, but with less art and no videos. It currently offers three tutorials: JavaScript Level 1, JavaScript Level 2 and HTML/CSS.

Although it’s getting generally positive reviews from computer science education sites, I agree with Rebecca Hyams who writes that the JavaScript lessons don’t seem very practical.

Bonus 1: Programr

Programr, which we’ve covered before, doesn’t offer many in-browser lessons (though there are a few), but it provides a browser based space for learning and experimenting with different languages from within a browser without the need to install a programming language and development environment. It’s not the only browser based development environment – companies like Code9 IDE and Action are also making it possible to develop for the web from the web. But Programr is focused on learning and experimentation.

Bonus 2: Try Ruby

TryRuby is a web based Ruby tutorial created by the famous why a lucky stiff and now maintained by Andrew McElroy. It was one of the first ever in browser coding tutorials. I found it to be a bit buggy when I tried it a couple years ago (though apparently McElroy), and it’s been superseded by the cross-platform desktop app Hackety Hack.



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