Kotlin is a high performance language (developed by JetBrains), runs on the JVM and uses existing Java libraries and tools. On the other hand, Java can also interact with Kotlin components seamlessly. The primary goal of Kotlin is to make it useful for practical real life projects, so it has been developed from scratch and made attractive to the existing Java developers. It is also easy to learn compared to the other JVM based languages like Scala. As Java has a deep interoperability with Kotlin, Java developers are more attracted to learn and test it. Kotlin has a strong commercial support and stable business model, so it will not likely to get abandoned in near future. From a developer’s perspective, Kotlin is very promising and it will bring more opportunities in the coming days. So we can safely predict that Kotlin will be the next big thing for the Java community.
Solving Java development issues
JetBrains did not intend to do anything revolutionary with Kotlin. It wanted to provide a useful language that solves existing problems. Kotlin has the following objectives which will help to solve or avoid existing issues in Java and perform better.
- Provide an intuitive language that can infer from codes written by developers and do a lot of work on behalf of developers.
- Improve productivity by reducing the effort needed to write code. For example, a 50 lines (approx.) code written in Java can be reduced to 2/3 (approx.) lines in Kotlin.
- Prevent null pointer exceptions.
- Provide quick code compilation.
- Reduce learning time for developers by providing documentation and support.
- Kotlin code syntax is easy to understand, so the code review is simple even for a new comer.
- Runtime overhead is also low as the standard library is small and compact.
Apart from the above major advantages, Kotlin also provides lot of other supports like easy code conversion between Java and Kotlin, easy IDE integration, full debugging, re-factoring and profiling etc. So, in total, Kotlin is definitely going to reduce the pain points faced by the Java developers.
Love Kotlin features
The salient features of Kotlin are described below which Java developers should love to use.
No more null pointer exceptions
This is probably the most important feature. The null pointer exception is one of the most dreaded, unsolved issues developers face. Kotlin’s type system does not compile code that assigns or returns null. See the below example.
val name: String = null // tries to assign null, won’t compile
stephen getName() : String = null // tries to return null, won’t compile
Since every method call on a nullable type can potentially cause a null pointer exception, the Kotlin compiler forces the developer to use the Elvis operator whenever the call result is assigned to a non-null type.
Kotlin compiler can infer or understand from the code written by a developer and can develop or write the remaining code unlike in Java. Java requires the developer to explicitly write everything which consumes a lot of time and effort. Kotlin saves effort and time and improves productivity. For example, Kotlin compiler can infer types in variable declarations as well as compiler-generated getters/setters/equals/hashCode. On the other hand, the Java compiler does not infer as much and requires the developer to explicitly write code.
Easy to learn and use for Java developers
Since Kotlin is nothing revolutionary, any software developer can learn and start to use it especially the Java and Scala developers. The main reason is Kotlin is dependent on Java in a lot of ways and extensively uses the Java library, for example. Also, Kotlin was inspired by Scala and according to many; it looks a lot like Scala. The code uses the JVM and the Javac, the primary Java compiler. The learning curve for Java developers is not steep and they can leverage the Kotlin documentation and get started quickly with coding.
Kotlin offers backward compatibility for Java versions 6 and 7. It states in its blog that over the next few releases, it is going to speed up development workflow, reduce the size of the runtime library and provide more tooling support. Kotlin will be introducing a feature known as incremental compilation in its Gradle build plug-in. This will enable Kotlin to compile and build only the changes in the code and not the whole code over. This is going to save a lot of time.
Kotlin has a lot of supports for enhancing productivity. It is highly interoperable with the IDEs, so refactoring, debugging, searching, unit testing are very easy to perform.
Implementing and using the above features are really interesting, so the Java developers should give it a try and taste the beauty of Kotlin. May be, a Java developer can convert part of his Java code into Kotlin and see how it performs. Whatever way we follow, Kotlin is definitely going to give you a good impression.
Its evolving state notwithstanding, Kotlin already looks like a tool that is going to improve productivity significantly. Many developers are positive about Kotlin enabling them to achieve a breakthrough in their productivity. A discussion on Hacker News website which hosts a discussion on Kotlin reveals that Kotlin solves many Java pain points without really reinventing how coding should be done. What are the challenges ahead? To find huge acceptance, it needs to be able to impress firms like Google which is a huge Java user and has been working on other alternatives to Java. It will be interesting to watch how Kotlin goes about its plans and how it faces the challenges ahead.