Coding doesn’t require the internet but it helps a lot. You don’t need the internet to code but it will make learning easier and debugging simpler. More than 80% of professional developers use the internet when they get stuck, so it can be tough to fix issues without it as a crutch.
However, the internet is not a prerequisite for software development and you can make applications without it. Part of the beauty of front-end development is that you can open NotePad or any other text editor on your laptop and start creating things immediately.
You would need to download the necessary applications like VS Code beforehand to improve your experience. Plus it would be useful to have whichever compiler and packages you intend to use installed as well.
Let’s take a closer look at why the internet is useful for coding and why it’s absolutely essential for new developers.
Is the internet necessary for coding?
The internet is not totally necessary for coding but it makes your life infinitely easier when learning or if you encounter a tough problem. Nearly 55% of developers visit Stack Overflow at least once a day, so going without this resource would be a difficult task for most people in software development.
Modern front-end development in particular uses a lot of external packages that are usually installed via Node. Without the internet, you would either need to create everything from scratch which requires a lot of time and effort, or have a good idea of all the packages you’ll need for a project and install them beforehand in a location that has the internet.
Most progressional software engineers also use a particular IDE to code in and have various compilers installed. This helps reduce the amount of time a task takes as they become more and more familiar with their own setup. Shortcuts and code snippets are commonplace in modern IDE applications like VS Code. They offer various plugins to improve efficiency, and just make life generally easier when writing code.
But it is possible to code without the internet. You can open a text editor and write some HTML, save it, and then open it in a browser. Ideally, you don’t want to go bare bones. If you are going to code without the internet, I’d recommend getting everything installed and prepped, then writing offline if necessary.
Ideally, you should always aim to have an internet connection. It makes life a lot easier and will make learning a lot faster. Even if you have to pay out for monthly internet access while you learn, the burnout will be worth it because you’ll become a full-time programmer. We also covered why it’s not a good idea to learn to code without the internet.
Why is the internet helpful when coding?
The internet is incredibly helpful when coding because it allows you to read documentation, learn new skills, view existing examples, and ask questions to other developers. With 98% of software engineers utilizing Stack Overflow, getting help from your peers is one of the most popular ways to get the answers you need.
Programmers don’t memorize code so being able to research and find a solution online is the perfect way to solve problems. The internet is so helpful because it allows developers to:
- Learn new skills
- Read official documentation
- View existing examples
Let’s take a look at each item above in more detail and explore why the internet is so helpful when writing code, even if you don’t specifically need the internet to code.
A big part of progressing in your development career will come from your ability to troubleshoot issues. The internet helps you troubleshoot by providing access to certain frameworks or packages on Github. Here you can see if anyone else has come across the same issue, how it has been resolved, and get pointers on where to look for more information.
You can troubleshoot on your own and it’s highly recommended to do so before jumping online. But Stack Overflow and Google are invaluable assets for a developer trying to troubleshoot an issue.
The amount of help available online to developers is incredible. Youtube provides a range of free videos to help you learn any aspect of programming. Then there are paid services such as Udemy and Udacity, plus various developers with their own courses.
When you start coding it can feel like a daunting task trying to learn everything. The things available on the web give the information structure and allow you to learn faster. You can also get access to the likes of HackerRank, Codewars, and Leetcode which are great for tackling those interview questions asked by top tech companies.
For some things, there is just nothing better than the official documentation. When done right it can give you all the answers and allow you to ask the correct questions. For mature, well-written libraries official documentation is a godsend.
Unfortunately, without access to the internet, it can be incredibly difficult to get the information you need. You won’t have access to articles and information written by the very people who created the package you are using.
They say imitation is the best form of flattery but in development, it is an absolute necessity. To write the best code you need to copy those who have more mature setups. There are tonnes of repositories created just to give examples of best practices. For example, the BulletProof React repo highlights how you should have your React applications laid out for enterprise-level quality.
On a smaller scale, looking at how other developers achieve certain things with their code is a good way for you to learn new things.
How to code offline
While it is better to have access to the internet when coding, there are some occasions when that just isn’t possible. If you’re working from home and the internet cuts out you don’t want to have to stop learning. Or give up on the work you are doing.
The best ways to code offline include:
- Reading books
- Using resources offline
- Avoiding problems that you need help with
- Working on familiar code
- Coming prepared
Coding without the internet is always a challenge but it doesn’t mean you should avoid it altogether. In fact, not having the internet as a crutch may even help your problem-solving skills. It will force you to break down the problem into more manageable chunks and plan ahead.
When learning to code, books are a valuable source of information that help mix things up. It can be easy to stare at a screen but not absorb any information. Reading a coding book changes the pace a little and forces you to concentrate a bit harder. It also helps cement the core components of a specific language or topic. I’d recommend:
- Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding – For parents with children under eight who want to get them into coding without touching the internet, this book is a great start.
- HeadFirst Python Programming – A Python-focused variant of the Head First series which is perfect for backend developers with a connection to the internet. You’ll learn basic concepts and get a good idea of how the language operates.
Use Resources Offline
The most popular online course platforms like Udemy and Codeacademy are all available offline. However, you have to come prepared and download the material beforehand. It means that if your internet cuts out your coding won’t be affected.
Once the resources are downloaded you can enjoy them regardless of whether you have an internet connection. The follow-along style also means you won’t need to research anything online.
Avoid complex problems
If there is something you know you are struggling with at the moment or a concept you haven’t quite nailed then avoid it. Without the internet, you won’t be able to research and learn the things necessary to get to a solution. If you know you are going to code without the internet, make sure it’s something you are familiar with.
Working on familiar code
Tackle a codebase or project that you are familiar with. A lack of internet is not the time to be exploring a codebase you just downloaded. Or trying to create something that is far too complex for you.
Without access to the web, you should stick with what you know until the internet is restored.
The undercurrent of all the points we have made basically boils down to coming prepared. You aren’t going to be able to learn coding from scratch without the internet. But you are going to be able to pick up where you left off if you have the right things installed, and are working on some basic projects. If you know there won’t be access to the internet, prepare some stuff that will allow you to continue to learn but won’t require outside assistance.
Nathan Britten, the founder and editor of Developer Pitstop, is a self-taught software engineer with nearly five years of experience in front-end technologies. Nathan created the site to provide simple, straightforward knowledge to those interested in technology, helping them navigate the industry and better understand their day-to-day roles.