Tech & Work

3 iOS apps for learning to code in bite-size lessons

Learning to code, or improving your skills, is a great New Year's resolution. Here are three iOS apps to help you make good on your promise.

Zivica Kerkez

What ever happened to spare time? I ask myself that question often at the end of a week—it seems like all the things I planned to do never happened, and not for lack of want. We're all busy, and hobbies seem like a luxury, not to mention trying to carve out the time to learn a new skill.

If you're suffering from the same lack of free time it may seem downright impossible to keep a New Year's resolution like learning to code. That's the sort of skill that takes dedicated time to practice—at least it usually does.

Learning to code in bite-size mini lessons is completely possible if you choose one of these three mobile apps. With lessons as short as five minutes there's always time to squeeze one in during a break, on the bus, or before bed. If you've been looking for a way around your crowded schedule read on—you'll find the answer right here.

Enki: Best for those really short on time

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Image: TechRepublic/Brandon Vigliarolo

First up is Enki, which breaks coding lessons up into super short bits. Each lesson is little more than a few paragraphs detailing a specific topic, followed by a series of multiple choice questions. The average lesson is only about five minutes long, and each lesson tells you the average duration before you start.

One of my favorite features of Enki is its bookmarking ability. Each bit of learning, called an insight, can be flagged as something you want to come back to or work on. All of your insights are gathered together on a separate tab where you can easily see what you've covered along with what you've bookmarked.

SEE: Stack Overflow founder Spolsky: The three skills every software developer should learn (TechRepublic)

Enki also has mini games that provide practice for each lesson. The only game I've unlocked so far is a Tetris-like game where I had to separate blocks containing Python values into truthy or falsy. A wrong guess leads to the blocks stacking up, and once they reach the top it's game over.

Enki only offers a few topics right now, but there are several more in development. The app is completely free with no in-app purchases, which is great for the user but is a likely cause of its sparse offerings. If you want to learn Linux, JavaScript, Java, Python, Git, or CSS you should definitely take Enki for a test drive. Everyone else will have to wait and hope that "coming soon" actually means it.

Mimo: Best for the beginner

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Image: TechRepublic/Brandon Vigliarolo

Mimo offers short lessons like Enki, but it has a vast library of courses to choose from. There is one catch, though: It's not free. The first unit of each topic is available without a subscription, but if you want access to everything else it's $5.99 a month. Yearly and lifetime subscriptions are also available.

SEE: 10 free resources to help you learn to code (TechRepublic)

While Enki presents information and quizzes you at the end of a lesson Mimo mixes questions right into the lesson, making the process seem smooth and interactive. Even simple feedback—like putting your name into a Swift variable to get a "Hello, Brandon!" response—feels rewarding and helps reinforce what the app is trying to teach.

There are too many offerings to list here—I suggest downloading Mimo and giving it a look. If you're serious about learning to code don't let a $5.99 subscription fee stop you.

Py: Best for those who already have some coding knowledge

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Image: TechRepublic/Brandon Vigliarolo

To be fair, Py isn't strictly a coding app. It offers classes in a variety of subjects, from coding to grammar to US history. Coding definitely dominates the available classes, but if you want to throw in some essay writing tips along with your Swift lessons Py has you covered.

The lessons in Py are a bit different from Mimo or Enki. It does break lessons up into short bits, but each chapter is one long scrolling page, making it a bit confusing if you're trying to find a specific thing or go back to a particular lesson.

Being free, Py is also slightly limited in what it has to offer. Swift, JavaScript, HTML/CSS, Python, Java, R, SQL and Haskell are all available, but that's it for coding. If you're looking for a learning app that focuses on coding but has some other subjects tossed in—humanities, math, computer science, and science in this case—Py is worth a look.

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About Brandon Vigliarolo

Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.

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