How to Create Your Own App

Q. How do you create apps even if you’ve never studied computer programming? What kind of coding should I learn, and are there any free classes where I can work at my own pace at an extremely basic level?

A. If you have never studied coding or computer science and are worried about being able to grasp the material, you might want to tiptoe into the topic with a user-friendly site intended for children and teens to learn the basics. Courses meant for young learners are often great introductions to the concept and practice of coding.

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For example, you can try some of the online exercises on the Computer Science Education Week site. (If you want to add a little pop culture to your lessons, you can even find low-stress coding games featuring characters from the Star Wars franchise, the world of Minecraft and Disney’s animated “Frozen” film on the site.)

The web is full of free courses and tutorials for many programming languages, and it can be overwhelming to figure out where to begin. So you might want to start by figuring out what you want to write code for — iOS apps, Android apps, computer games, custom desktop software or something else. Once you decide on a coding destination, find a course in the specific programming language you need to get there. So if your primary interest in coding is to create mobile apps, pick your platform of choice.

The web is full of free courses and tutorials for many programming languages, and it can be overwhelming to figure out where to begin. So you might want to start by figuring out what you want to write code for — iOS apps, Android apps, computer games, custom desktop software or something else. Once you decide on a coding destination, find a course in the specific programming language you need to get there. So if your primary interest in coding is to create mobile apps, pick your platform of choice.

Should your interest lie eventually in making iOS apps, check out Apple’s free software, videos and tutorials for learning the Swift language. If that seems too daunting, you can wade slowly into coding concepts with the free Swift Playgrounds app for the iPad, which is intended for children and available in the App Store. A video from Apple’s developer’s conference last summer offers an overview.

Google has its own visual coding platform for youngsters called Blockly that illustrates basic concepts, and the Code.org site provides a gentle introduction to general coding. If Google’s Android platform interests you, there is a free Android Development for Beginners course on the Udacitysite.

Most Android apps are written in the Java language, and you can take a free Java course at the Codecademy site, which also offers interactive coursesin versatile languages like Python and Ruby. The Google Developers site has a “getting started” guide to building your first Android app.

Likewise, if you want to write code for Windows 10 devices, the Microsoft Virtual Academysite has courses to browse. The company’s Windows App Studio is an online tool for creating apps without having to code them yourself — but you may not learn much about how programming works.

If you want a better understanding of computer-science concepts at a collegiate level, check out the offerings from Coursera and edX. These sites offer many free, self-paced online courses from major universities around the world, including Harvard University’s free CS50x: Introduction to Computer Science class. The Open Courseware site from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has many undergraduate and graduate courses online as well.

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