Survey Reveals Developer Preferences
Written by Janet Swift   
Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The Stack Overflow Developer Survey reveals a lot about developer preferences regarding languages, operating systems, source control and whether they favor tabs or spaces. 

The Stack Overflow 2015 Developer Survey, conducted during February had 45 questions. We have already looked at the results regarding age, gender and education from its more than 25K respondents.

Now we turn to the Technology section of the report and discover how devs like to work. This is summed up in the report by:

[using}JavaScript with NotePad++ on a Windows machine (theme: dark) using Git, and tabs instead of spaces. 

First let's digress with the survey finding on caffeine consumption. It is generally thought that devs are fuelled by tea, coffee and other beverages with high caffeine content. However, based on 16,516 responses, which is less than two thirds of the total number of participants, the average developer drinks only 2.2 servings of such drinks per day. Norway, Sweden and Finland all come near the top of the league table with around 3 cups per day on average.



The results also suggest that those in senior roles are the ones pushing up the average suggesting that caffeine consumption is pretty moderate among programmers.

So what languages are currently being used on a day-to-basis and has this changed at all over the last couple of years?

As far as 2015 is concerned the Most Popular Technologies are ranked as shown below, based on almost 22K responses:



Back in 2013 SQL topped the list but the same five languages have appeared as the top five since 2013. Back then C++ and C were more popular than Python. Node.js has almost doubled in popularity and entering the technologies table this year AngularJS.

Stack Overflow probed deeper by asking devs questions about their attitude to the languages and technologies they had used over the past year and which ones they would like to work with.

In the following chart:

Most Loved refers to:

% of devs who are developing with the language or tech that have expressed interest in continuing to develop with it. 

Most Dreaded refers to:

% of devs who are developing with the language or tech but have not expressed interest in continuing to do so. 

Most Wanted refers to:

% of devs who are not developing with the language or tech but have expressed interest in developing with it.


The first thing to note about the Most Loved list is the lack of correspondence with the Most Popular table above. C# and Python appear in both with around two-thirds of users happy to continue using them and there's an even greater vote of confidence in C++ 11. The other languages that devs want to use are either new as in the case of the top nomination, Swift, or are specialized languages used only by a minority of admittedly enthusiastic developers: Rust Go, Clojure, Scala. F# and Haskell.

Being used only by a small proportion of those survey probably also contributes to the  explanation of the entries in the Most Dreaded list. In some cases it may be that it is the nature of the task rather than the technology that is to be avoided or that a new approach would be seen as preferable. 

As well as being the most used language JavaScript also appears in second place in the Most Wanted list, with Node.js and AngularJS in third and fourth slots. Android heads this list, probably indicating a desire to gain a share of the mobile market and the list also includes iOS and Swift, which would have the same motivation. The inclusion of Arduino/Raspberry Pi may reflect an interest in IoT. The remaining entries Python. Java and C# are, like JavaScript, an indication of language popularity.


When it comes to operating system Windows accounts for well over half with Windows 8 making a reasonable showing and Windows XP and Vista all but gone from the scene. sos2los

In 2015 Mac overtook Linux for the first time. However, when you consider Linux has 1.5% of global desktop operating system share, its 20.5% showing among developers is still a healthy share. Ubuntu Linux is the version of choice by almost 60% of 4,667 Linux users.

NotePad++ was the preferred Text editor of over a third of the almost 17K devs who provided this information. Further analysis by Stack Overflow shows however that Sublime Text is preferred by Front-end web developers while DevOps and Sys admins favor Vim respondents. 

When it comes to source control Git was used by almost 70% of respondents. Subversion came next with 37%. There is obviously overlap as this already over 100% and other packages do get a look in: 


The shocking fact to emerge from this question was that as many as 1 in 10 developers still don't use this type of tool.

In response to a question about IDE theme, almost 8% of devs admitted to not using an IDE but of those who did the majority preferred a dark theme, although not among desktop developers who opt for a light one.

The survey also confronted the questions of Tabs versus Spaces, which is subject to heated debate. Although the clear winner appears to be Tabs, Stack Overflow reveals this is not as straightforward as it seems, commenting:  

Upon closer examination of the data, a trend emerges: 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.



More Information

Stack Overflow 2015 Developer Survey

Related Articles

Stack Overflow Developer Characteristics


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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 15 April 2015 )