Why You Should Explore the Kotlin Programming Language

When Google announced earlier this year that Kotlin would become a first-class language for writing Android apps, it excited a crowd of programming enthusiasts already familiar with the language’s abilities.

Google’s announcement predictably sparked a good deal of buzz in the developer ecosystem. Within weeks, analyst firm RedMonk (which generates a semi-annual ranking of programming languages) announced in a blog posting that Kotlin had become a language to watch:  “The big question facing Kotlin then isn’t whether it will experience gains based on interest — the language already has jumped nearly twenty spots in a year’s time which is very unusual — but how quickly, and to what degree.”

Kotlin also began climbing the TIOBE Index, which attempts to measure programming languages’ popularity based on data from a variety of aggregators and search engines, including Google and Wikipedia. “The mixture of expressive power and compilation speed might be the key features of Kotlin to succeed,” TIOBE wrote in a note accompanying the June rankings.

What made Google select Kotlin as a first-class Android language—and why should anyone interested in developing for Android explore its capabilities? In a May blog posting, RedMonk analyst Stephen O’Grady provided a pretty succinct breakdown. At the top of his list: the language is a lot like Swift, Apple’s new(ish) language for building apps in iOS and macOS. “The syntax for Kotlin, like Apple’s Swift, is clean and modern,” he wrote. “The reaction amongst developers learning Kotlin is not dissimilar to the initial experiences with Ruby years ago, in that the syntax is so intuitively designed that even without any exposure it’s almost possible to guess it.”

Other reasons? The language is Java-compatible—and as any developer knows, the ability to mesh with Java code, which is pretty much everywhere, is all-important. Its tooling support also boasts a fine reputation, and its supporters seem enthused.

All of which begs the question: how do you break into Kotlin development? Start by checking out this Dice page that summarizes the language, its objects and classes, and its designated properties. After you’ve absorbed that overview, swing past Kotlin’s homepage, which shows how the language can prove crucial for Android, browser, native, and JVM development.

Those interested specifically in building for Android can head over to a developer page hosted by Google. Tooling support for Android is built directly into Android Studio 3.0 and above. “Android Studio is built upon IntelliJ IDEA, an IDE built by JetBrains—the same company that created the Kotlin language,” read Google’s note on the language. “The JetBrains team has been working for years to make sure Kotlin works great with IntelliJ IDEA. So we’re inheriting all their hard work.”

Those just starting out in the language can also pull tips from the official community forum, as well as a small but regularly updated Reddit group.

JetBrains itself remains an independent company, and so Kotlin’s release cycles will remain independent of Android. The current version, 1.1.3, includes JDK 9 support, support for parallel builds via the Maven plugin, TODO and Semantic highlighting, and parameter name and type hints.

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