A Student's Guide to Software Engineering Tools & Techniques »

Introduction to Kotlin

Author: Shradheya Thakre


Kotlin is a general purpose, open source, statically typed programming language for the JVM and Android that combines object-oriented and functional programming features.

Why Kotlin?


Highly reduces the amount of boilerplate code.

  • A Java object with getters, setters, equals(), hashCode(), toString() and copy() can be created in a single line in Kotlin
data class Customer(val name: String, val email: String, val company: String)
  • Assigning values based on ranges is much simpler than Java. Below are extracts of code with similar logic in Java and Kotlin:


val quartile: Int
quartile = when (playPercentage) {
    in 0..24 -> 0
    in 25..49 -> 1


int quartile;
if(playPercentage >= 0 && playPercentage <= 24) {
    quartile = 0;
} else if(playPercentage >= 25 && playPercentage <= 49) {
    quartile = 1;


Kotlin protects you from mistakenly operating on nullable types

  • Get compilation error when you mistakenly try operating on nullable types
val name: String? = null    // Nullable type
println(name.length())      // Compilation error


  • Target either the JVM or JavaScript. Write code in Kotlin and decide where you want to deploy
import kotlin.browser.window
fun onLoad() {
    window.document.body!!.innerHTML += "<br/>Hello, Kotlin!"
  • You can literally continue work on your old Java projects using Kotlin. All your favorite Java frameworks are still available, and whatever framework you’ll write in Kotlin can be easily adopted by other Java developers

Tool Friendly

Hyperbolically, a programming language is only as good as what its tools can provide. This is why the advantage of using Kotlin is the built-in language support from IntelliJ. Any Java IDE for e.g. IntelliJ, Eclipse and Android Studio, can be used to write and compile Kotlin code. It also contains the aforementioned Java-to-Kotlin converter and code generators for Java and JavaScript from Kotlin code.

Kotlin for Android Apps

While Java is one of the world's most widely used programming languages and is pretty much the official language of Android development, there are many reasons why Java might not always be the best option for your Android projects.

The biggest issue is that Java isn’t a modern language, and although Java 8 was a huge step forward for the platform, introducing lots of features that developers had been waiting for (including lambda functions), at the time of writing Android only supports a subset of Java 8 features.

Advantages of Shifting to Kotlin

  • Interchangeability With Java
  • Easy learning curve
  • Combine the best of functional and procedural programming
  • First-class Android Studio support
  • More concise code

Drawbacks of Shifting to Kotlin

  • Extra runtime size due to increase in size of .apk
  • Initial readability of code may be hindered for core Java developers
  • Smaller community support

Resources to Learn Kotlin