The Raspberry Pi line of single-board computers bridges the gap between physical and digital computing. It is best defined as a cross between an Arduino microcontroller and a personal computer, offering the ability to control electronic circuits and also run a full operating system.
However, picking the correct programming language is essential for realizing a Raspberry Pi's full potential. We'll go over the most popular languages for the Raspberry Pi and examine the unique benefits of each to help you decide which one to choose.
Python's popularity among Raspberry Pi users stems from the language's combination of ease of use, readability, and flexibility. Python comes pre-installed on Raspberry Pi models (along with the Thonny IDE) and is the language most users default to when programming a Raspberry Pi.
It's great for projects involving sensors, actuators, and other electronic components since it offers rich interfacing libraries. Most Raspberry Pi HATs and add-on boards you purchase will often include scripts written in Python, as will most tutorials.
There are also two popular forks of the Python language for microcontroller boards such as the Raspberry Pi Pico: CircuitPython, and MicroPython. CircuitPython is a more fully-featured version of MicroPython with more libraries and drivers. MicroPython was designed to provide the barest minimum to run programs on microcontroller boards; thus its code will compile slightly faster and use up less memory than CircuitPython. Check out the best language for microcontrollers.
If you're just getting started with Python, you can find many helpful tutorials and courses for newcomers on sites like Codecademy and Coursera, as well as in the official Python documentation and books like "Automate the Boring Stuff with Python" by Al Sweigart.
Scratch is a visual programming language developed by MIT for young children who want to learn how to code. It allows you to write programs and create projects using a simple, intuitive block-based interface.
The drag-and-drop code blocks are what make Scratch so special, as they make programming a breeze for beginners without all the hassle of conventional coding. These code blocks can be combined to perform actions with text, images, audio, and physical electronic components.
The block-based style of programming might make it easy to dismiss Scratch as a tool solely for beginners, but it is an incredibly powerful and flexible language that can be used by programmers of all levels.
However, it is important to note that Scratch doesn’t support nearly as many libraries as Python does, and editing text is faster than dragging and dropping blocks. It does make for a great introductory language and the skills learned from programming Scratch will definitely come in handy for other languages,
Scratch itself provides access to a wealth of interactive projects, complete with detailed instructions, on the official Scratch website. The Raspberry Pi projects website also has an Introduction to Scratch project path.
Java is an object-oriented, general-purpose programming language that is designed to run on any platform that has the necessary environment. Its exceptional portability allows developers to build apps on a single platform and deploy them with ease to several systems. If you’re writing code on a Raspberry Pi to run on other platforms, Java should be one of your top choices.
It provides two main libraries for accessing and controlling the GPIO pins on the Raspberry Pi: the Pi4J library and the Device I/O library. While not as quite as feature-rich as Python’s libraries, they should work well enough for most projects.
Like Python, Scratch, and C/C++, Java comes pre-installed with the Raspberry Pi OS. You can either use the BlueJ IDE that also comes with the operating system or install Microsoft VS Code for advanced functionality. Discover the best IDEs for Raspberry Pi that you should check out.
Java code runs much faster than Python code, due to the fact that it is a compiled language while Python is interpreted. While Java lacks the low-level hardware access of C/C++, it is much easier to use for most people.
There are several excellent books on Java programming, such as “Head First Java” by Kathy Sierra and “On Java 8” by Bruce Eckel. The Oracle Java Documentation and Java Programming massive open online course from the University of Helsinki are also highly recommended for beginners.
Among the different programming languages you can use with a Raspberry Pi, C and C++ stand out as the ideal ones for those who demand unparalleled performance and perfect control over hardware. These languages may have a more challenging learning curve than others like Python and Scratch, but the potential benefits are enormous.
Since both C and C++ have direct access to Raspberry Pi's hardware resources, they are the ideal options for applications that demand a lot of hardware power. When the device's CPU and GPU are used to their fullest capacity, multimedia feats, immersive gaming, and system-level programming prowess become possible.
C++ itself is similar to C but not quite the same. It is best described as an extended version of the procedural C language that introduces various object-oriented programming concepts such as polymorphism, encapsulation, and inheritance, and several other features outlined in our guide to the core differences between C and C++.
As mentioned earlier, C and C++ are not the easiest programming languages to learn. However, you can choose one of them as the next logical step once you have attained reasonable proficiency in Python or Java. Discover the best sites to get started learning C++.
Which One Should You Choose?
Your current experience level, the project’s complexity, and the amount of time you’re willing to commit to learning are all helpful factors to consider when choosing a programming language to use with the Raspberry Pi.
If you are already familiar with any one of the programming languages on the list, that would be the best choice for starting out. You can then branch out to other languages as your projects demand it. Once you have a full grasp of basic programming concepts, you will have an easier time picking up and writing programs in different languages.
Each Programming Language Has Its Merits