Please don't post "spam" or "Thank you" posts in this thread since this is meant to be used as a guide for all beginners and I am sure we would like it to be on topic. I hope you understand this.
» Introduction to Java «
To start off, Java is a general purpose programming language liked by application developers and web developers alike. It is the force which drives a large number of enterprise applications out there. Read more about it here. And yes, just for the records, Java is not slow!! [ 1 , 2 , 3 ] ;-)
» Getting started «
All you require to develop Java application is a text editor and a JDK which encompasses a Java compiler, a Java Virtual Machine and a host of tools which ease your development. Some handy links (ignore the specifications for the time being):
Though compiling Java programs using the javac tool or an IDE may seem fine enough now, it has its limitations. Compiling, building and deploying an entire application using repetitive commands becomes quite tedious. Build tools to the rescue! It is a good thing to have the knowledge of at least one of the build tools under your belt if you want to work with Java in a professional setting. There are a lot of open source build tools out there, Ant and Maven being well known among them. Which build system to use is a personal / project choice though Ant is a good one for beginners.
As those who don't mind writing their build scripts in a scripting language rather than the verbose XML, Gradle looks promising and has a decent userbase.
» Unit Testing «
It's a good thing to get into the habit of unit testing your code. Test cases have a host of advantages over your normal print statements placed throughout your program. Testing helps you in focus on the way your Java object is actually used / the part it plays in the system, thereby improving class design. And above all, its fun. :-) Get the unit testing framework JUnit here or the more recent TestNG Google for 'junit tutorial' and you will surely find something to get you started.
If there is talk about Unit testing, mocking deserves a mention. In simple terms, Mocking provides a mean to simulate your external dependencies in unit tests. As an example, your payment gateway might need to reference a "service" class which sends across a message to an external entity (for e.g. a bank). To unit test this functionality, it is not feasible to send a message since it would count as a stateful transaction. To get around this, your unit test can "mock" out the service and hence the service call during unit testing.
To know more about mocking, this video might help. Once you are comfortable with the concept, head over to Mockito, a very famous Java mocking library and start mocking!
» Links «
When it comes to Java tutorials, there are plenty of tutorials floating around, most of them wrong in a multitude of ways. I would recommend starting out with the official Oracle tutorial.
Just google for 'java faq' and you surely would stumple upon a gold mine of well written FAQ's.
» Certifications «
After getting a good grasp of the subject, you might want to get a good certification to add a feather to your cap. You can find more about Java certification here. Google for 'scjp notes', 'java mock test' or 'scjp mock' to get started. Getting a certification or not is a choice you have to make.
That being said, you can find a lot of open source Java projects on Java source . Play with them to your fullest, try to see how things are done in the real world and walk the path of a hacker! ;-)
» Game Development «
The Java Monkey Engine makes 3D game dev possible with advanced features like shaders, cloth simulation, bump mapping, inbuilt sound and user interface support and much much more. You can learn more about it on the JMonkey Home page.
Given that 3D game development can be a bit daunting for entry level game programmers, there's an excellent 2D game engine called libgdx worth looking into.
» Epilogue «
After all this, if you still find yourself struggling with some issue, make sure you read this thread and this essay before creating a new topic in the Java forums.
It has taken a lot of effort to come up with these links so that you don't waste your time searching for some study material / reference text. Appreciation goes out to Stephen , Ezzaral , Peter , Alok and others for their suggestions and corrections. So, just go for it, learn, contribute to this thread and above all, enjoy programming!
Though it is not Java specific and not targeted for beginners, ... is an excellent book for anyone engaged in non-trivial programming or interested in software best practices. It's filled with a ton of information and suggestions gleaned from years of professional development experience - all that stuff that most of us working developers have learned the hard way in bits and pieces and wish we'd known from the outset.
How about some Free Online Video Tutorials in Java, here are a couple of links: 1.) ... 2.) ... If you prefer and have got money to spend and would prefer video learning or supplement your learning with commercial java video training/tutorials, you might want to try: 1.) ... by Arthur Griffith *The problem with this video is that it covers the version 1.4 before versions 5.0 and 6.0, given sun's confusing marketing versioning system…
It may seem helpful to a beginner, but it's not. IDE's are for people who already know what they're doing in order to increase their effeciency. You need to understand the tools and the processes behind everything and an IDE shields that from you.
Anyone designing programs that involve more than one or two classes could benefit from familiarizing themselves with design patterns. An excellent introduction to this is Head First Design Patterns. Design patterns may or may not be appropriate for a given application, but learning about them and their usage will teach you to look at your program organization in a more critical manner from perspectives that you may not have considered at the outset.
Could I recommend both Notepad++ and JGRASP as lightweight beginner IDEs? I like them a lot when writing individual java files and I don't feel like waiting for Netbeans to come up. They both have the basics, such as Indentation Guides, but JGRASP is more focused on Java, while Notepad++ is highly configurable (such as add-ons, custom highlighting, and code-completion). Just my two cents to help everyone.