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Best Approach to Learning Java?

Ben Jass
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 25, 2010
Posts: 76
I'm curious on what is the best approach to learning Java. I want to get to the point where I pretty much understand anything that is shown to me. At least the stuff that most people use. I would like to be able to be presented with a task and as long as it's within Java's limitations I could figure out how to do it.
I've jumped around a lot on ways to learn how to learn Java. I've watched a bit of video tutorial series on Youtube. I've downloaded a program called Academic Java. The most recent thing I've done is buy the book Java Head First 2nd Edition. I'm not expecting this to happen in 20 days or something like that.
I'm in High School so I can't go to college, I've seen the videos on Youtube called "CS106A". Those are somewhat hard to work with. I can't really get hands-on with the stuff that goes on there. The Java tutorials on Sun.com (can't remember what it is called) are really boring to follow. The book I'm reading right now is working well, I'm just afraid that it will leave out stuff. I want to get into game development.
So I'm curious on how you learned Java? If it is a book, name the book and tell me if it worked well for you.
Wouter Oet
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Oct 25, 2008
Posts: 2700

The only way to learn Java (or any other language for that matter) is to practise, practise, practise (did I mention practise?) . Although the Sun/Oracle tutorials are a bit boring to read from time to time they are good. Books are another great source of information and are usually more fun to read. Although I haven't read Head First Java I hear great things about it.

Try, experiment, read, ask, and have fun. That is a great way to learn Java.


"Any fool can write code that a computer can understand. Good programmers write code that humans can understand." --- Martin Fowler
Please correct my English.
pete stein
Bartender

Joined: Feb 23, 2007
Posts: 1561
Wouter Oet wrote:The only way to learn Java (or any other language for that matter) is to practise, practise, practise (did I mention practise?) . ...


And don't forget to practice. ;)
Ben Jass
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 25, 2010
Posts: 76
I suppose that is a big problem that I have. Although Java Head First is a good book because it provides exercises. Other then that, I don't know how to practice lol. I wish that I could be presented with projects based of my Java knowledge so far (basically a college course). I guess a better way of putting it is: I don't know what to practice.
Stephan van Hulst
Bartender

Joined: Sep 20, 2010
Posts: 3394
    
    9
That's the point. You should set a problem for yourself you *don't* know how to tackle, and then find out how to do it. That's how you learn. Practicing the same old tired stuff will make you fluent, but not learned.
I highly recommend finishing at least the basic Oracle tutorials. They are very good, even if you find them a bit boring. Studying a language isn't always exciting.

I challenge you to make a text based Tic-Tac-Toe game. It should be a good first project to get a lot of the essentials down.
The game should print the game board to the console every turn, and it should accept keyboard input.
Once you've done that, you can think about making a graphical interface and making network games.

If you want to do something else, that's fine, but just start doing something.
Ben Jass
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 25, 2010
Posts: 76
Thanks, You're right though about the oracle tutorials. I think I'll start studying them. One question though. Do they provide exercises at all? Or do they just provide a large amount of clear examples? Either way is fine. Appreciate the help.
Stephan van Hulst
Bartender

Joined: Sep 20, 2010
Posts: 3394
    
    9
They provide clear examples, and questions and exercises with answers.
Stephan van Hulst
Bartender

Joined: Sep 20, 2010
Posts: 3394
    
    9
Also, books that have really improved my programming are:
- Just Java 2 by Peter van der Linden
- Effective Java by Joshua Bloch
- Java Puzzlers by Joshua Bloch and Neal Gafter

I would recommend reading these *after* you get your basic Java knowledge down though, with the possible exception of Just Java 2.
Ben Jass
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 25, 2010
Posts: 76
Thanks for the advice, out of curiosity how long did it take you to become good/professional/efficient, however you consider yourself to be? I do understand that we all move at own pace though.

Would it really be worth it getting these books though? Would money be wasted because 3/4 of the chapters are about things I already know? Or are they advanced add-ons to beginner java books?
Christophe Verré
Sheriff

Joined: Nov 24, 2005
Posts: 14687
    
  16

Effective Java is definitely worth it.


[My Blog]
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Stephan van Hulst
Bartender

Joined: Sep 20, 2010
Posts: 3394
    
    9
Ben Jass wrote:Thanks for the advice, out of curiosity how long did it take you to become good/professional/efficient, however you consider yourself to be? I do understand that we all move at own pace though.

Would it really be worth it getting these books though? Would money be wasted because 3/4 of the chapters are about things I already know? Or are they advanced add-ons to beginner java books?

I consider myself a good Java programmer, but not professional, since I only work on hobby projects. I have a good understanding of the Java basics, as well as a decent understanding of concurrent programming, I/O, AWT and Swing, and some 2D and 3D (with OpenGL) graphics. I have used Java for 4 years now. There is still plenty and plenty of stuff to learn, and I am considering doing the certification exams.

Like Christophe said, Effective Java is worth every penny. This book has done more for my programming style than any guide I could find online. I think it's a must for every serious Java programmer.
Just Java 2 is a student course book. I think it's an excellent one at that, and explains a lot of the lesser well known peculiarities of the language. If you've learned the basics of Java, it may contain a lot of stuff you already know, but I still sometimes grab it for reference.
Java Puzzlers is a very entertaining read. It's not essential, but it's *highly* informative. A great companion to Effective Java.
Seetharaman Venkatasamy
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 28, 2008
Posts: 5575

Christophe Verré wrote:Effective Java is definitely worth it.


definitely! to understand effective java, you need to stay in javaranch!.
Ben Jass
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 25, 2010
Posts: 76
Thanks guys, I appreciate the advice.

I think I'll approach learning Java by readying Head First Java (Already bought it, so I have too lol, besides, It's wonderful so far)

I'll read a bit of the oracle tutorials Every Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday
I'll watch a video that is part of a video series on Youtube every Monday, Wednesday, Saturday

I think this will be the best approach, it isn't too hard and It shouldn't interfere too much so I won't get bored with one thing.
I'm weird -- I know

After this, I'll debate about getting Effective Java and Java Puzzlers. Just Java 2 I think will be not worth it as much as the others considering I'm reading a beginner/Intermediate book now.

 
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