What are developers like? Stack Overflow's survey provides an interesting overview

Stack Overflow surveyed 26,086 developers from 157 countries to find out what they're like, and to answer important questions like: Vim or Emacs? Tabs or Spaces?

Chart of developers by age...
Developers by age... Source: Stack Overflow
Stack Overflow, the website for programmers, has surveyed 26,086 people from 157 countries for its annual Developer Survey to find how who they are and what they like. The results are obviously biased, and there is no way of knowing how accurately Stack Overflow respondents represent the whole industry. However, as "the most comprehensive developer survey ever conducted," the results are interesting.

First, the average developer is 28.9 years old, and 53 percent of developers are in their 20s. Only 10 percent are over 40. However, American developers are 31.6, on average, which is higher than the average age in Russia (26.6) or India (25.0). UK developers are 30.3.

Gender is overwhelmingly male (92.1 percent), but India has a higher proportion of females (15.1 percent) than the USA (4.8 percent). But the men have been programming for longer - 37.1 percent of the women have been developers for less than two years, compared with 18.2 percent of the men - so perhaps the balance is changing.

JavaScript is the most commonly used technology (54.4 percent) but it's down on last year's survey (58.9 percent). SQL, in second place, is down even more: from 57.1 percent to 48.0 percent. However, Java is steady in third place (37.4 percent), having re-overtaken C# (31.6 percent).

The drawback with JavaScript and Java is that they don't pay as well: in the US, developers are averaging $90,259 and $89,054 respectively. They get more for developing in Objective-C ($98,828), Node.js ($96,539) or C# ($94,280). Either way, the highest salaries go to people working in niche technologies such as (in descending order) Cassandra, Spark, F# and Scala. Cloud and big data jobs also pay well.

Chart of OS choices
Which operating system? Source: Stack Overflow
Most developers are using Microsoft Windows, with Windows 7 being the most common version (33.8 percent). Mac OS X (21.5 percent) is only just ahead of Linux (20.5 percent). The most dramatic change has been the decline of Windows 7 - used by 48 percent in 2013 - and the rise of Windows 8 from zero in 2013 to 19.5 percent now. That rise has also been at the expense of Windows XP (down from 10.8 percent to 1.0 percent) and Vista (down from 1.6 percent to 0.2 percent).

Ubuntu is by far the most popular Linux for developers (12.0 percent) ahead of Debian (2.2 percent) and Mint (1.6 percent).

Notepad++ is the most popular text editor (34.7 percent), ahead of Sublime Text (25.2 percent), Vim (15.2 percent) and Emacs (3.8 percent). Front-end web developers like Sublime Text best while DevOps and SysAdmins go for Vim.

Git dominates source control (69.3 percent) ahead of SVN (36.9 percent) and TFS (12.2 percent).

Most developers nowadays appear to be web developers (48.5 percent), rather than mobile (9.1 percent) or desktop (8.3 percent) developers. Of the 1,900 mobile developers, 44.6 percent work primarily on Android, 33.4 percent on iOS and 2.3 percent on Windows Phone, with 19.8 percent professing no allegiance.

Finally, there's the vitally important issue: Tabs or Spaces? It turns out that more developers prefer tabs by a majority of 45.0 percent to 33.6 percent.

However, Stack Overflow says: "Developers increasingly prefer spaces as they gain experience. Stack Overflow reputation correlates with a preference for spaces, too: users who have 10,000 rep or more prefer spaces to tabs at a ratio of 3 to 1."

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