Is a modern programming language interoperable with Java and works on Android? If that’s a question that’s been on your mind, then you’re probably familiar with the Kotlin programming language. First developed by Czech software vendor JetBrains in 2016, it was declared the official programming language for Android platforms by Google in 2017. This statically typed language is a great fit for Android application development and has since become the preferred choice for multi-platform applications.
Let’s learn more about Kotlin and find out why this general-purpose programming language has garnered a large community of users across the world.
What is Kotlin?
Kotlin is an open-source programming language that runs on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) and is primarily used to develop Android and server-side applications. It is an alternative to Java with simplified codes, better transparency, and productive programming. In fact, according to JetBrains, the current Kotlin customer satisfaction score is 86%.
In 2019, Google crowned Kotlin the standard Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for Android development. Besides being compatible with Android and Java, as well as other languages, Kotlin also brings functional programming and Object-Oriented Programming (OOP) across unrestricted and distinctive platforms.
What is Kotlin Used for?
Even though Android development is one of the primary applications of the Kotlin programming language, it has a broad range of alternate functions. These are some of the most widely used applications of Kotlin:
Kotlin became a popular choice across the Android developer community after Google declared it as a first-class language. The main reason it is preferred is because of its simplified code.
Kotlin’s Multi-Platform Mobile (KMM) simplifies mobile development. What’s more, it works on enhancing the user experience across not just Android but iOS as well.
Additionally, Kotlin enables data scientists to write simplified code while providing access to standard Java libraries.
Why Should One Learn Kotlin?
The Kotlin programming language is fairly easy to learn for those who already know Java. Apart from being easy to write, it can also be used to develop multi-platform applications. Ever since Google implemented Kotlin across more than 60 applications such as Google Play, Google Drive, Google Maps, etc., it has inspired software developers worldwide to learn the programming language.
Today, companies such as Airbnb, Zomato, Netflix, and Uber all use Kotlin to build high-performance applications. Its popularity, therefore, has increased the demand for developers well-versed in Kotlin.
Safety Features in Kotlin
Kotlin’s type system has been designed to eliminate the dangers of null references, which is a common pitfall across many programming languages. A null reference is a saved value that indicates that the pointer or reference does not refer to any valid object. Kotlin enables null safety and eliminates Null Pointer Exception (NPE) errors from the code. It introduces nullable types by allowing developers to designate variables that potentially contain “null” as their value.
For example, using the safe calls feature, nested fields of a nullable object can be accessed using case surfaces.
Advantages of Kotlin
The main benefit of the Kotlin programming language is that it can be integrated across multiple platforms. This minimizes the time spent maintaining code on other platforms. Some other advantages of Kotlin include:
1. Clear and Concise
Kotlin provides concise code and eliminates redundancy in the basic syntax of languages like Java.
Thanks to features like null safety, NPE, Lambda function, and Smart casts, Kotlin helps avoid common coding errors.
3. Constantly Improving
Despite being a new programming language, the developers at Kotlin constantly keep improving its features and language to make it more user-friendly.
Disadvantages of Kotlin
While Kotlin is an extremely efficient programming language that continues to find new applications in the software world, it does have some disadvantages when compared to other languages. These are some of the major drawbacks of the Kotlin programming language:
- Slower speed and fluctuations in code compilation, particularly in incremental development tasks
- The community of Kotlin developers is still considerably small worldwide: this translates to minimal tools for learning and tougher-to-locate industry experts
- Compared to Java, there are fewer learning opportunities, resources, and tutorials pertaining to Kotlin
Kotlin Programming Language Example
Kotlin programs are generally defined in packages that contain one or more Kotlin files and a package header. Writing code on Kotlin involves a combination of comments to help make the source code easy to understand and compile. This can be a single-line or a multiple-line comment. Let’s understand how this works with the help of a basic program called “Hello, world!”
To start writing the code for the program, you will first need to create a file named firstapp.kt in your notepad, followed by this code:
// Kotlin Hello World Program
fun main(args: Array＜String＞)｝
After the program is compiled, run the program to see the output in the command line compiler.
How to Learn Kotlin Programming Language?
The Kotlin programming language is particularly easy to learn for developers who are already proficient in Java programming. Given its broad range of applications in the software industry, Kotlin is likely to be a programming language of choice in the near future.
A great place for beginners to start their learning journey would be the official Kotlin website. It features documentation containing key concepts and features about the Kotlin programming language that every novice should know before writing code. The website also has a tutorial section where coders will find step-by-step lessons on setting up a working environment and the right way to work with a compiler.
Apart from this, coders can also learn from certified online courses, Kotlin bootcamps, or verified blogs about Kotlin programming by industry experts.
Kotlin vs. Java
The matter of choosing between Kotlin and Java has been an ongoing debate among software developers. The main reason for introducing Kotlin to Android developers was to boost convenience by reducing the length of codes. These codes are much safer and more concise than Java codes. However, since Kotlin and Java are interoperable, it is possible to have both files on an Android application, and everything will still compile.
Both programming languages bring forth their own unique benefits when it comes to application development. For example, Java works better for large applications with multiple features that need to function across varied platforms since it has more mature libraries. On the other hand, Kotlin is great for applications that need to be cross-compiled or maintain platform independence. The advantages of Kotlin seem more compelling because of its concise coding system, extension functions, and solid support from Google.
According to the Stack Overflow Survey 2022, more than 63% of developers picked Kotlin as their favorite programming language. Since Kotlin is a modern programming language that is user-friendly and entails powerful features, it could very well be the future of Android application development. If you aim to build impactful multi-platform applications powered by Kotlin, upskill with an online coding course from Emeritus to steer your software development career in the right direction.
By Neha Menon
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