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Coding vs Programming for Beginners: What is the Distinction?

Every field of work has its vocabulary – specific words that hold distinct meaning that is different than their meaning in the context of everyday life. This is specifically true for the professional vocabulary of the software development industry which continues to grow and evolve. In the field of software development, words like ‘engagement’ have nothing to do with weddings, ‘cookies’ are not edible, ‘classes’ are not something you have to attend, and even ‘bugs’ are annoying due to very different reasons. Another example of this is the debate of coding vs programming – two of the most frequently used terms in the field of software development.

For people not related to the industry, the debate of coding vs programming is non-existent and the difference between the two terms does not matter. The terms seem interchangeable. But in this article, we will provide you with all the information to help you distinguish between the two terms. So, let’s explore the terms further to find out why and how professionals use them differently by answering two main questions – what is coding? and what is programming?

What is Coding?

It is commonly known that computer processors only understand the language of ones and zeros and our natural language is completely different from this binary language. Thus, we need to translate the commands that we want to execute into the language of processors. But what is coding and, most importantly, what do coders do? Coding is the translation of natural language into machine commands and coders use an intermediary language to direct the step-by-step action the machine needs to take. Is coding the same as programming, though?

Depending on the programming language, effective coding requires some skills. You must know the syntax, main keywords, and the basic logic behind the language of your choice (the main point of the coding vs programming dilemma).

What is Programming?

what is programming

While coding is a big part of software development, it is not the most important part. To create a product, you need to take several additional steps. They include planning, design, testing, deployment, and even maintenance. Altogether, the whole process can be called programming.

So, “is coding and programming the same thing?” 

This question is equivalent to “Is a tree and a forest the same thing?”. One is an essential part of the other, but there is also much more to it. Programming requires a lot more knowledge, experience, and various skills to pull off than coding. Let’s move on to answering in more detail the main question of this feature – what is the difference between coding and programming exactly?

What is the Difference Between Coding and Programming?

coding vs programming

Ultimately, is coding and programming the same thing?

Although one can be regarded as a part of the other, coding and programming can also mark a fundamental difference in approach to a project. Depending on scope and complexity, one can be more beneficial than the other.

In most cases, when a professional software creator has to choose between coding vs programming, programming is the way to go. In important projects, before writing the first line of code, you need to have an outline for your program and an idea of how much resources you will need. When the code is done, you need to review, optimize and thoroughly test it.

So, when is coding more important in the coding vs programming dilemma?

First of all, coding is a way to solve simple problems, such as related to one-task applications and one-page websites that don’t need a lot of planning and resources. Another answer to the question What is coding for?” is that it is a starting point for beginners. To learn how to build an intricate program, one has to know how to handle each part of it and that is where the knowledge of what is the difference between coding and programming comes in handy.

Coding Vs Programming Comparison Table

Coding Programming
Coding means the translation of natural language into machine commands through an intermediary coding language Programming means the process of development of a fully functioning software solution
For Coding a text editor would suffice Programming requires analysis tools, modeling programs, code generators, and testing frameworks
A coder requires a basic knowledge of a programming language, its syntax, and keywords A programmer should be a skilled individual with substantial experience in creating algorithms, modeling a problem, data processing, and project management
It follows a trial-and-error approach and needs no previous preparations Programming follows a methodical approach and needs attention to detail
Coding results in a simple solution or a small part of a project Programming results in a full ready-to-use application

The table above shows the main differences between coding and programming, now let’s review each of them in detail.

• Baseline Difference

As it was discussed earlier, the coding vs programming difference lies in the very definition of both processes. Programming is the general process of creating a program that follows certain standards and performs a certain task. Coding, on the other hand,  is a part of programming that deals strictly with converting the language we understand into binary commands for the machine.

• The Difference in Tools Needed

Is coding the same as programming in terms of software tools?

Since coding is a simple act of translation, you don’t need much to perform it. In most cases, a simple text editor like WordPad would suffice (although an IDE with built-in autofill and debug tools is often helpful).

Programmers, on the other hand, need to review documentation and perform analysis besides coding which requires extra tools. You can find various code analysis tools, code generators, databases and testing frameworks in their inventory.

• Difference in Expertise

The next difference in our coding vs programming debate lies in the skills the person performing these tasks needs to have. Coding requires basic knowledge of a programming language. If you want to program, you’d need to understand much more. Like how to create algorithms and math models, how to process data, know math, and in some cases, event management experience.

• Coding vs Programming in Approach

What is the difference between coding and programming in terms of the basic way things are done? Programming requires a methodical and thorough approach. It usually takes from a couple of weeks to a couple of months to achieve your goal as a programmer. Writing code can be done without any preparation and a simple solution can be coded within a couple of hours. It often progresses by trial and error method.

• Difference in Outcome

Another question that often comes up in a Coding vs Programming debate is that ‘will programming and coding the same thing will have different outcomes?’ Different approaches lead to different results. As has already been mentioned, the choice of the method should be based upon the desired complexity of the final product. So, you should not expect to get a fast, multi-functional application with attractive UI and UX from just coding.

Is Coding Hard to Learn?

As we have discussed before in our discussion on coding vs programming, coding is just a part of programming. Yet, it still requires some time and skill to learn. Programming languages are very different from natural languages, and their syntax can sometimes be very confusing. The hardest languages are low-level ones that are close to actual processor instructions.

How Long Does it Take to Learn Coding?

This question does not have a simple and definitive answer. After you understand  ‘what coding is’, the time you need to learn a new programming language will depend on many factors, such as:

  • How difficult the language is;
  • How much prior experience you have;
  • How popular the language is;
  • If there is anyone more experienced available to help you.

What is Coding Language? And which one is the best to learn?

Alongside ‘what is the difference between coding and programming, this isn’t an easy question to answer either, as different languages are created for different purposes. Here are our top contenders for the best coding language title:

  • Python – an easy-to-understand language that is constantly gaining more popularity;
  • Kotlin – the official language for Android development;
  • Swift – a kit made for iOS development;
  • C++ – a reliable and time-tested tool.

What Programming Language Is the Most Popular?

According to the StackOverflow survey, the most popular language in the professional field is JavaScript (but HTML/CSS is a close second). It is irreplaceable for front-end coding and can often be seen used in other fields as well. However, being the most popular makes it less attractive for beginners as the competition for it is too intense.

Final Words

In conclusion, is coding the same as programming?

The general public might not be informed or do not care about the difference between coding and programming. Yet it does not rule out the importance of this distinction. This knowledge can be essential to help you with job search or communication with your coworkers in the field of software development.

If you’re only starting your way in the industry, understanding what is coding and what is programming is valuable knowledge. Hopefully, this article will help you to move your career forward and improve your skills.

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Ava Franklin

The author Ava Franklin

Ava Franklin is a content marketer, an animal lover and a social media enthusiast. Her interests include reading about current affairs, watching football, and fighting trolls on Twitter.

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