A Beginner’s Guide to Computer Language: JavaScript

edited August 2023 in PC Tech

Have you heard of JavaScript? Do you know what JavaScript is used for? Learning JavaScript for beginners may sound like a challenge. But once you are familiar with JavaScript’s role in web development and understand how to run JavaScript on your computer, you’ll see just how accessible it is.   

What is JavaScript? 

JavaScript is a ubiquitous computer language used in web development. In fact, alongside ​​​HTML and CSS, it is often considered one of the building blocks of web development. That popularity is proven by its widespread usage: more than 98% of all websites use JavaScript as a client-side programming language.

To understand JavaScript’s role in a webpage and what it’s used for, it’s essential to discuss it in tandem with HTML and CSS. Summarized briefly, HTML formats a webpage, CSS improves the aesthetics or appearance of a webpage’s format, and JavaScript makes the webpage interactive. JavaScript has the power to, for example, add animated graphics, maps that update in real time, pop-up information entry fields, and much more.

To illustrate how JavaScript works in practice, let’s give an example of one of JavaScript’s core functionalities. One of its most important and useful features is its APIs. APIs are essentially ready-made blocks of code. They make adding certain functions to a webpage much easier than it would be if you had to write it all from scratch.

There are two types of APIs: browser APIs and third-party APIs. Browser APIs, as the name implies, are built into your web browser. They can utilize data from the surrounding computer environment to perform complex functions. An example is the geolocation API, which is what Google Maps uses to plot your location on a map.

Third-party APIs, on the other hand, are not built into the browser by default, which means their code and information have to be fetched from another place on the web. The Twitter API, for example, allows you to display content from Twitter on a website. The API must take information from Twitter, a third-party website, and then send that information to a different location.

What’s the difference between Java and JavaScript?

For beginners to JavaScript, it’s understandably confusing that two different programming languages have very similar names. The reason for the similarity is that when Netscape developer Brendan Eich created a version of JavaScript in 1995, he wanted it to have a similar syntax to Java. Despite this similarity, the programs are quite different. To understand JavaScript, it’s helpful to understand how it’s different from Java.

One of the key differences is that, in general, Java is used for server side or backend applications, while JavaScript is used for client side or frontend applications. JavaScript can, however, be used for backend applications using Node.js.

Another of the main differences between the two is that Java is a compiled language. This means that a computer cannot process Java code automatically: it must first be translated into machine code before a program can be run. With JavaScript, this is not the case: as an interpreted language, a computer can directly read JavaScript code to run a program.

In addition to these differences, there are differences in complexity. Generally speaking, Java is more complex than JavaScript and can be used to perform more complex functions. Java is also a stand-alone program, while JavaScript can only be used in concert with HTML and CSS. For these reasons, Java is a relatively memory-heavy program compared to JavaScript.

How can I learn JavaScript?

Though learning a computer programming language takes a lot of time and effort, choosing the right resource can heavily impact your learning outcomes. Thankfully, there are plenty of options to choose from, which means there is certainly something that meets your needs.

For those searching for a free option, freeCodeCamp is one of the best options. Highly respected in the industry, freeCodeCamp is a non-profit organization that offers a variety of courses related to coding and web development, including one for JavaScript.

After completing the free course, you can receive a verified certification to boost your hireability. Graduates of freeCodeCamp have received jobs at many prestigious tech companies, including Spotify, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and more.

Udemy’s The Complete JavaScript Course 2023: From Zero to Expert!, a paid course, is also a great option. By the end of the course, you’ll have made your own recipe and geolocation apps, two interactive projects that will woo future employers and showcase all of your hard-earned skills.

If you learn best through reading, you could consider buying a book related to JavaScript. This is a great alternative for those who aren’t yet fully committed to the idea, as a book requires a low initial investment but can provide you with a sturdy introduction to the topic. With a book, you can avoid the hassle of a subscription-based learning program while still following a carefully planned learning sequence designed for your success.

If you’ve already gotten through the basics of JavaScript and are looking for a challenge, a project could be a great next step. Projects give you the opportunity to take all the skills you’ve learned and synthesize them into something really neat.

When you make a calculator or a pong game using JavaScript, for example, you learn how to put several elements together into one cohesive program. These projects, when completed, can also serve as evidence of your JavaScript abilities when applying for jobs or looking for clients.

What equipment do I need to run JavaScript?

Though learning and mastering JavaScript takes time, enabling JavaScript on Chrome or another browser is really a breeze - all you’ll need is a code editor and an engine.

A code editor could technically be any text input program - Microsoft Word, your Notes app, Google Docs, etc. There are, however, specialized code editors with features that simplify the coding process. We call these Integrated Development Environments (IDEs).

IDEs like Atom, Visual Studio Code, and Eclipse provide a lot of useful features for web developers, including text completion, color highlighting of different elements, and debugging. Before you commit to one IDE, it’s a good idea to try a few out - once you get used to one, it’s difficult to switch to another.

In terms of engines, the Chrome browser’s V8 Engine is a great choice, particularly since Google Chrome is the most common browser used in web development.


Though it may appear intimidating for the uninitiated, getting started with JavaScript is actually quite simple. Once you’ve set up your coding environment and found a learning resource that works for you, you’ll be able to learn JavaScript in no time. Before you know it, you’ll be using your skills to create interactive, dynamic web pages that enhance convenience and usability for all.

Matthew is a freelance content writer whose work has previously appeared in well-known language-learning blog Fluent in 3 Months and The Happy Self-Publisher. His creative work has also appeared in Otoliths, CafeLit, and the Eunoia Review. He is currently based in Taipei, Taiwan, where he is studying for a master's degree in Chinese Literature.


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