Tag Archives: python

Top languages on Github: JavaScript reigns, Ruby and Python next

I cloned a github repository today, and while browsing the site noticed the language stats:


Git was originally developed for the Linux kernel and is mainly for the open source community. I was interested to see JavaScript, the language of HTML 5, riding so high. PHP, C and C++ are lower than I would have guessed, Ruby and Python higher.

Here are some figures for the venerable Sourceforge:

Java (7,163) 19%
C++ (6,449) 17%
C (4,752) 13%
PHP (3,521) 10%
Python (2,694) 7%
C# (2,481) 7%
JavaScript (2,011) 5%
Perl (1,138) 3%
Shell (757) 2%
Visual Basic NET (688) 2%
Delphi/Kylix (581) 2%

This comes with a health warning. I have taken the figures from the what you get if you browse the directory and drop down Programming Languages; but the total is only about 37,000, whereas Sourceforge hosts around 324,000 projects. I am not sure what accounts for the discrepancy; it could be that language is not specified for the other projects, or they are dormant, or some other reason. But I hope the proportions indicate something of value.

Github is madly trendy, and Sourceforge ancient, so this tells us something about how open source activity has shifted towards JavaScript, Ruby and Python, and away from Java, C/C++ and C#.

Of course the overall picture of programming language usage is quite different. For example, you can get some kind of clue about commercial activity from a job board like indeed.com, which currently has 77,457 US vacancies for Java, 22,413 for JavaScript, and only 5030 for Ruby.

Nevertheless, interesting to see what languages developers on Github are choosing to work with, and perhaps an indicator of what may be most in demand on the job boards a few years from now.

Finally, looking at these figures I cannot help thinking how short-sighted Microsoft was in abandoning IronPython and IronRuby back in 2010.

What is the best programming language for a child progressing from Scratch?

Someone asked me what is the best programming language for a child to learn after starting (and having success) with Scratch.

Scratch is a visual programming language which actually runs on Smalltalk, though its users do not need to know this. Scratch 2.0 seems to be written in Adobe Flash so you can create and program projects in a web browser. As far as I can tell though, there is no obvious and natural progression from Scratch to a code-centric programming language.

I guess the first answer is not to move away from Scratch until you need to. You can do a lot with Scratch, as the many shared projects demonstrate.

Still, I agree that it makes sense to learn text-based programming before too long. What is the best one for a child to learn, not necessarily with computer science or a professional career in mind, but just to take the next step and create some cool games and applications?

I find myself leaning towards Microsoft’s C#. The reason is that there is a capable free version and  you can add XNA Game Studio for game development. C# is an excellent language and has some family resemblance to other languages including C, C++, Java and JavaScript, and Visual Studio is a strong IDE that is perhaps more approachable than say Eclipse or Netbeans.

Snags with C# are that Visual Studio only runs on Windows, the language is proprietary to Microsoft (though Mono is free and open source) and it is not ideal if you want to run on the Mac, or Google Android or Apple iPad.

That said, I could also make a case for Java, or JavaScript, or Python.

I would value suggestions though: what would you recommend to a teenager?

Microsoft lets go of IronPython and IronRuby

Visual Studio corporate VP Jason Zander has announced that IronPython and IronRuby, .NET implementations of popular dynamic languages, are to be handed over to the open source community. This includes add-ons that enable development in Visual Studio, IronPython Tools and IronRuby Tools. Of the two, IronPython is a more mature and usable project.

Why? Here’s a few reflections. For what it must cost Microsoft to maintain these projects, versus the goodwill it earns in the open source world, I would have thought they represent good value and I am surprised to see them abandoned.

On the other hand, it is easy to see that they are not commercial propositions. I’d guess that they were more valuable a few years back, before C# acquired dynamic features, and when dynamic languages were strongly in vogue and Microsoft was keen not to allow .NET to fall behind. To some extent dynamic languages are still in vogue, but we are now well past what is “the peak of inflated expectations” in the Gartner Hype Cycle, and few are likely to abandon .NET because it does not have an official Python or Ruby.

The other reason they are not commercial propositions is that Microsoft has under-invested in them. I recall Martin Fowler at ThoughtWorks telling me that JRuby, an implementation of Ruby for the Java Virtual Machine, is important to their work; it lets them work in a highly productive language, while giving clients the reassurance of running on a trusted and mature platform. JRuby performs very well, but IronRuby is a long way behind. Perhaps if Microsoft had really got behind them, one or both of these language could be equally significant in the .NET world.

The fact that F# rather than IronRuby or IronPython turned up as a fully supported language in Visual Studio 2010 is also significant. After talking to F# leader Don Syme – see the interview here – I understood how F# was important to some of Microsoft’s key customers in the financial world; and I’m guessing that neither Python nor Ruby had that kind of case made for them within the company.

Although it is a shame that Microsoft is withdrawing official support, the clarity of Zander’s statement is better than leaving the projects in limbo. The folk appointed as project leaders are also very capable – Mono guru Miguel de Icaza is on both teams and a great motivator, though it seems unlikely he will have much time to devote to them given his other commitments – and this may actually be good rather than bad news for the projects themselves.

Jim Hugunin, creator of both Jython (Python for Java) and IronPython, is leaving Microsoft for Google, and his farewell is worth a read. He says C# has evolved into a nicer language than Java, but notes:

I like to have a healthy relationship with Open Source code and communities, and I believe that the future lies in the cloud and the web. These things are all possible to do at Microsoft and IronPython is a testament to that. However, making that happen at Microsoft always felt like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole – which can be done but only at major cost to both the peg and the hole.

PyCharm: JetBRAINS IDE for Python and Django

JetBRAINS has released PyCharm, an IDE for Python and the Django web development framework.

The company is best known for the IntelliJ IDEA Java IDE, and indeed PyCharm is mostly written in Java, but now has other tools for languages including PHP and Ruby and Rails. It also does add-ins for .NET developrs working in Visual Studio.


PyCharm has a small number of refactorings, lots of code search and assistance features,  integrated support for CVS, Git, Mercurial and Subversion version control, unit testing with a graphical test runner, graphical debugger, built-in deployment to Google App Engine as well as error highlighting for GQL queries, and editing support for HTML, CSS and JavaScript as well as Python.

Dynamic language slowdown at Microsoft?

Jimmy Schementi, until recently a Program Manager at Microsoft working on IronRuby, has posted about why he is leaving the company; and in doing so answers a question I posed a few months back, Why F# rather than IronPython in Visual Studio 2010?

When my manager asked me, “what else would you want to work on other than Ruby,” I started looking for a new job outside Microsoft …. a year ago the team shrunk by half and our agility was severely limited. I’m omitting the internal reasons for this, as they are the typical big-company middle-management issues every software developer has. In short, the team is now very limited to do anything new, which is why the Visual Studio support for IronPython took so long. IronRuby’s IDE support in Visual Studio hasn’t been released yet for the same reasons. While this is just one example, many other roadblocks have cropped up that made my job not enjoyable anymore. Overall, I see a serious lack of commitment to IronRuby, and dynamic language on .NET in general … I invite the Ruby and .NET communities to come help us figure out how to continue the IronRuby project, assuming that Microsoft will eventually stop funding it.

The dynamic language work at Microsoft is very interesting and has done a lot to persuade the world that .NET is not just a C# and Visual Basic story. Personally I’d add my voice to those encouraging the company to re-invigorate its investment in IronRuby and IronPython.

A couple of other observations though. Schementi is talking about efforts to continue work on IronRuby irrespective of Microsoft’s funding, and if that succeeds it could bring the project to a better place rather than a worse one.

Second, one thing I learned in talking to Don Syme, the F# man at Microsoft, is that functional programming is in high demand in financial institutions, one of Microsoft’s most important markets. IronRuby and IronPython win Microsoft plenty of kudos, but the benefits in terms of revenue are presumably harder to identify.

Whatever happens to these languages, the impact of dynamic languages on the .NET platform has been significant, and C# now also has dynamic capability.

Why F# rather than IronPython in Visual Studio 2010?

Dynamic languages are all the rage; and after JavaScript, Python is perhaps the dynamic language of the day, loved by Google and gaining increasing attention. IronPython, built on .NET, is stable and at version 2.6. Now Visual Studio 2010 turns up with an additional language in the box, but it is not IronPython; rather it is a little-known language out of Microsoft Research called F#.

Now, F# is very interesting and brings real diversity to Visual Studio; it is great for mathematics and for parallel programming. But wouldn’t IronPython have sparked more immediate interest from the .NET community? Judging by this feature request, with 500 votes, it would. It’s is a little embarrassing for Microsoft that the favoured IDE for IronPython work is SharpDevelop. Plenty of IronPython enthusiasts are pressing for Visual Studio support.

Here’s what IronPython MVP Jeff Hardy says:

I think I can safely say that adding full, high-quality support for IronPython to Visual Studio would require at least a couple of man-years of work. The rabbit hole goes pretty deep when you consider all of the functionality that VS offers, not to mention the difficulty of doing IntelliSense well. I estimate they’d have to at least double the IronPython team to get full support into VS11. IronRuby would require the same commitment.

Hardy is hopeful for VS 2012.

I still find it odd. Official Visual Studio integration would do a lot to raise awareness and usage of IronPython; and make Microsoft’s commitment to dynamic languages more visible – though I guess F# supporters will be happy with Microsoft’s priorities here.