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Find out hot programming trends — and what going cold

What follows is a list of what’s hot and what’s not among today’s programmers. Not everyone will agree with what’s A-listed, what’s D-listed, and what’s been left out. That’s what makes programming an endlessly fascinating profession: rapid change, passionate debate, sudden comebacks.

Hot: Preprocessors
Not: Full language stacks

It wasn’t long ago that people who created a new programming language had to build everything that turned code into the bits fed to the silicon. Then someone figured out they could piggyback on the work that came before. Now people with a clever idea simply write a preprocessor that translates the new code into something old with a rich set of libraries and APIs.

The scripting languages like Python or JavaScript were once limited to little projects, but now they’re the foundation for serious work. And those who didn’t like JavaScript created CoffeeScript, a preprocessor that lets them code, again, without the onerous punctuation. There are dozens of variations preslicing and predicing the syntax in a different way.

The folks who loved dynamic typing created Groovy, a simpler version of Java without the overly insistent punctuation. There seem to be dozens of languages like Scala or Clojure that run on the JVM, but there’s only one JVM. You can run many languages on .Net’s VM. Why reinvent the wheel?

Hot: Docker
Not: Hypervisors

This isn’t exactly true. The hypervisors have their place, and many Docker containers run inside of operating systems running on top of hypervisors. However, Docker containers are soooo much smaller than virtual machine images, and that makes them much easier to use and deploy.

When developers can, they prefer to ship only Docker containers, thanks to the ease with which they can be juggled during deployment. Clever companies such as Joyent are figuring out how to squeeze even more fat out of the stack so that the containers can run, as they like to say, on “bare metal.”

Hot: JavaScript MV* frameworks
Not: JavaScript files

Long ago, everyone learned to write JavaScript to pop up an alert box or check to see that the email address in the form contained an @ sign. Now HTML Ajax apps are so sophisticated that few people start from scratch. It’s simpler to adopt an elaborate framework and write a bit of glue code to implement your business logic.

There are now dozens of frameworks like Kendo, Sencha, jQuery Mobile, AngularJS, Ember, Backbone, Meteor JS, and many more, all ready to handle the events and content for your Web apps and pages.

Those are merely the Web apps. There are also a number tuned to offering cross-platform development for the smartphone/tablet world. Technologies like NativeScript, PhoneGap, and Sencha Touch are a few of the options for creating apps out of HTML5 technology

Hot: CSS frameworks
Not: Generic Cascading Style Sheets

Once upon a time, adding a bit of pizzazz to a Web page meant opening the CSS file and including a new command like font-style:italic. Then you saved the file and went to lunch after a hard morning’s work. Now Web pages are so sophisticated that it’s impossible to fill a file with such simple commands. One tweak to a color and everything goes out of whack. It’s like they say about conspiracies and ecologies: Everything is interconnected.

That’s where CSS frameworks like SASS and its cousins Compass have found solid footing. They encourage literate, stable coding by offering programming constructs such as real variables, nesting blocks, and mix-ins. It may not sound like much newness in the programming layer, but it’s a big leap forward for the design layer.

Hot: SVG + JavaScript on Canvas
Not: Flash

Flash has been driving people crazy for years, but the artists have always loved the results. The antialiased rendering looks great, and many talented artists have built a deep stack of Flash code to offer sophisticated transitions and animations.

Now that the JavaScript layer has the ability to do much of the same, browser manufacturers and developers are cheering for the end of Flash. They see better integration with the DOM layer coming from new formats like SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics). The SVG and HTML comprise one big pile of tags, and that’s often easier for Web developers to use. Then there are large APIs that offer elaborate drawing on the Canvas object, often with the help of video cards. Put them together and you’re left with few reasons to use Flash anymore.

Hot: Almost big data (analysis without Hadoop)
Not: Big data (with Hadoop)

Everyone likes to feel like the Big Man on Campus, and if they aren’t, they’re looking for a campus of the appropriate size where they can stand out. It’s no surprise then that when the words “big data” started flowing through the executive suite, the suits sta