Which Raspberry Pi Programming Language should you use in 2020? Comparison Guide

Just own a Raspberry Pi and wonder what’s next? Well, you could grab some modules and start pairing them up by coding with a programming language of choice. However, with the seeming number of programming languages supported on the Pi, making that decision of which one you should be using may be a tough nut to crack. Hence, we’re here today with a rundown of the available options, alongside a comparison guide to help you make that right decision!

Before we get started…

  • If you have not owned a Raspberry Pi, do check out the latest and greatest Raspberry Pi 4 Computer Model B 4GB available here at Seeed!
  • If you solely wish to learn how to program with Python language on the Raspberry Pi, do check out my previous post here!

List of Raspberry Pi Programming Language available

1. Scratch

Scratch

If you’re new to the Raspberry Pi, chances you’ve already come across Scratch, an entry-level programming language that comes with Raspbian OS (the primary operating system of the Pi). Designed as a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab, Scratch programming language is made for the young ones, those ages 8 to 16. It aims in helping them to easily learn to code and program their very own interactive stories, games, and animations.

  • Ease of usage: Easy
  • Target Audience: Children and young adults, aged 8 to 16
  • As a beginner to programming, should you use this language? Yes.

2. Python

Python Org

One of the most widely used programming languages on the Raspberry Pi is none other than Python. Python has an easy, beginner-friendly syntax (arrangement of words, phrases, in sentences) and a wide adoption rate among the community, giving access to libraries, frameworks, and tools to help users get started!

Useful in applications in different industries such as web development, GUI, automation, and machine learning, learning Python programming language is the safest and easy way to get started!

  • Ease of usage: Easy
  • Target Audience: General users, students, developers
  • As a beginner to programming, should you use this language? Yes.

3. HTML5

The essence of HTML programming langugae lies with what you’re using to see this blog post right now, the internet, and World Wide Web. HTML5 is the latest version of HTML, with it essentially being the internet’s primary building block, telling your browser how to layout web pages, and allow for websites to link to another.

If you’re looking to solely get started into web development or building your personal website or even something across a wide spectrum of browsers, this may be the programming language for you.

  • Ease of usage: Easy to moderate
    • Takes 1-2 weeks to complete a course and about a month’s practice to get comfortable
  • Target Audience: Web developers
  • As a beginner to programming, should you use this language? Well, if you’re determined to just work on web development, Yes.

4. JavaScript

Well, moving on to a programing language that works mainly as an add-on to HTML for more interactivity to websites, it’s JavaScript. One could consider it as a scripting language instead of a full-fledged programming language, with its purpose being to add client-side scripting to web browsers, or adding usability to existing applications.

  • If you wish to find out more about the difference between JavaScript and HTML, do refer to this post.

If you’re planning on running JavaScript, you’ll need to first understand the previous HTML5. Thus, you could say learning JavaScript will be a tad bit harder.

  • Ease of usage: Moderate
  • Target Audience: HTML5 programming language users, Web developers
  • As a beginner to programming, should you use this language? Not recommended.

5. JQuery

Yes, you may be wondering isn’t JQuery just a JavaScript library instead of a full-fledged programming language? Well yes, but I thought that I would have to give an honorable mention to it as with JQuery, it makes scripting of HTML easier, and allow you to create web interfaces without much JavaScript knowledge!

If you wish to achieve a solid foundation in JavaScript language, learn JavaScript first before learning JQuery. However, if you think that you can’t handle the high learning curve of JavaScript, you may use JQuery to build something simple!

  • Ease of usage: Easy
  • Target Audience: Beginner developer who wish to build something simple
  • As a beginner to programming, should you use this language? No, as this is not a programming language but an add-on tool to JavaScript

6. Java

One of the most versatile programming languages is Java, the first of its own that allows for program writing on any operating system without having to re-write codes. Essentially, it’s a cross-platform, multi-purpose langugae with more than 3 billion devices running on it.

If you’re using a multi-purpose setup alongside the Raspberry Pi, Java would be a purposeful langugae when compiling codes and running between different operating systems. This means you could write code on your Raspberry Pi, compile it, and continue writing on Windows, Mac, etc.

  • Ease of usage: Easy, with a huge community support to help you along the way
  • Target Audience: Developers, General Public
  • As a beginner to programming, should you use this language? Yes.

7. C programming language

Alongside Java, C programming language is one of the more widely used languages in the world as well, where even Linux (the OS that runs the Raspberry Pi) was mainly written in C.

The main features of C language include low-level access to memory, a simple set of keywords, and a clean style. All these are catered and suited toward system programming usages like an operating system or compiler development.

  • Ease of usage: Easy, though it’s a little more cryptic in its style as compared to other languages
    • Take about a week to learn, with a lifetime to master
  • Target Audience: General users, developers looking to develop enterprise applications, applications that require calculations, compiler development, etc.
  • As a beginner to programming, should you use this language? Yes.

8. C++

As compared to the above C programming language, the C++ langugae supports object-orientation, with it being a combination of both procedural and object-oriented programming langugae, making it a hybrid.

That aside, the C++ is still a powerful and flexible general-purpose programming language that can be used to develop operating systems, browsers, games, etc.

  • Ease of usage: Hard
    • With its uniqueness comes a more difficult way to pick up and apply. It can be one of the hardest languages for students to master.
  • Target Audience: Operating software developers, game developers, etc.
  • As a beginner to programming, should you use this language? No.

9. Perl

Next on this list Perl. Perl programming language is a feature-rich and stable option that can be used for practically any programming task with support for C/C++ libraries interfacing. Despite its lack of popularity as compared to earlier languages on today’s list, it still remains to have a loyal following and a huge library of modules for interfacing.

Perl programming language can be used for system administration, web development, network programming, GUI development, and more!

  • Ease of usage: Easy
  • Target Audience: General users
  • As a beginner to programming, should you use this language?
    • Some may say it’s not worth learning with its low community engagement ranking and popularity of other choices

10. Erlang

Lastly, Erlang. Erlang programming language is one that’s used more in commercial or industrial applications with its ability to build massively scalable soft real-time systems. With Erlang, it’s possible to create programs that run across several computers, where it’s designed so that if one computer fails, the others make up for it.

Erlang programming language is mostly used in telecoms, banking, e-commerce, computer telephony, instant messaging, etc.

  • Ease of usage: Moderate
  • Target Audience: Businesses, Users looking for commercial applications
  • As a beginner to programming, should you use this language? Yes.

In Summary, which Programming Language should you use for Raspberry Pi?

Well, picking a programming language to use ultimately depends on the purpose or the project that you’re embarking on. Hence, I’ve summarised the languages listed today with a comparative table below:

Programming Languages Easy to use/learn Purpose/Applications
Scratch Yes For children and young adults (aged 8 to 16) to learn how to code
Applications include Interactive stories, games, and animations
Python Yes Useful in applications in different industries such as web development, GUI, automation, and machine learning
Especially useful for interfacing with Raspberry Pi Modules where coding is required due to the wide no. of libraries available
For General Pi users, students, developers
HTML5 Yes More suited towards web development applications
For web developers
JavaScript Moderate Serve as a add-on to HTML for more interactivity to websites
Recommended to learn HTML before learning this.
JQuery Yes Honorable mention but not considered as a full-fledged programming language
Serve as a JavaScript library that makes scripting of HTML easier and allow for creation of web interfaces without much JavaScript Knowledge
Java Yes More suited for Cross-platform coding
Has a huge community to help you along the way
C Yes More widely used language on the Pi as Linux is mainly written on it
More sited towards compiler development, enterprise applications, or applications that require calculations
C++ No More versatile as compared to C programming language as it supports object orientation
High in performance and suitable for operating software development, game development
Suitable for those that are willing to learn this complex language
Perl Yes May not be worth learning this language due to the low community engagement ranking of perception of it “dying off”
Still has a loyal following with a no. of module libraries for interfacing
Suitable for system administration, web development, GUI development, etc.
Erlang Moderate Recommended for those that are looking to develop more commercial/industrial applications
Such applications include telecoms, banking, e-commerce, etc.

Personally, I would highly recommend Python usage due to its large community support and most module configurations/libraries being written in Python language. However, feel free to dive deeper into each programming language and see which is the one for you!

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