The reason Linux never succeeded on the desktop is the lack of usability testing. Open-source programmers hate users, and created such an ugly baby that only a fanboy could love it. It's funny watching the same thing happen to "Visual Studio Code", Microsoft's answer to the Atom editor. You'd think with Microsoft behind it, that it'd be guided by usability testing. The opposite is true. It spends a lot of time hyping it, but every time I try to use it, I encounter unreasonable hurdles for the simplest of things. It's the standard open-source paradigm -- they only spend effort to make something work in theory without the extra effort to make it usable in practice.
Firstly, you'll need to install NodeJS and VS Code. Just choose the defaults, it's uneventful.
Secondly, you need to understand how projects work. This is the first hurdle everyone has with an IDE. You don't simply run the code or use a makefile. Instead, you manage a lot of other things, such as the debugging environment.
VSCode manages projects by putting things in a folder. In other words, you don't "open a project", but instead "open a folder". Any project files (or version control files) that it needs it'll create as it goes along. When you first tell it to start debugging, it'll create a config file for the debugger filled in with defaults that'll work for you.
The steps to create/debug a "hello world" program are therefore:
[click new file icon in the project, create "app.js"]
[click debug icon, save/close the launch.json file it creates for you]
[click go icon]
By default, execution starts at 'app.js'. If you've named your file something else, like 'hello.js', you'll need to change your launch.json settings. Otherwise, you'll get a "app.js does not exist" error message.
At this point you aren't out of the woods. When I tried this, I got the error message "cannot launch target (reason: spawn node ENOENT)"
Normally, I don't mind such error messages. When the user has done something so weird that the programmer can't figure out how broken things are, then cryptic error messages like this are expected.
But this isn't something weird, but the most common problem somebody is likely to have. Specifically, it can't find the path to "node.exe" to launch NodeJS. That's because I'd just installed both NodeJS and VSCode, and told the installer to launch VSCode directly. It meant the shell wouldn't have node.exe in it's path until I logged out and back in again. Every new user is going to have the same problem. Yet, there is really no help available anywhere that explains what's going on.
After you install both NodeJS and VSCode, make sure that these programs are "added to the PATH variable" (the default in the installer). Then, restart Windows. Or, at this point open a virgin new command-prompt, at which point they'll be in your path, so the steps I describe above on the command-line should work.
Then, I got my "hello world" to work:
I'm writing this post with the two error messages above in the hopes that Google can find them. When I googled the error messages, I got nothing helpful.
In general, when using VSCode, and you get stuck, just assume that the VSCode programmers are a bunch of fscking retards, and try to reverse engineer what retards would do. In my case, I knew that not having node.exe in the path was the most common problem in the world, but that retards would nonetheless have the most cryptic error message in the world when it encountered the problem.