Six Scripting Languages Your Developers Wish You'd Let Them Use

Several up-and-coming scripting languages--some open-source--are gaining popularity among software developers. These dynamic programming languages deserve more attention for your enterprise software development, even if your shop is dedicated to Java or .NET. Here's why.

Boo

Boo proclaims on its home page that it is "a new object oriented statically typed programming language for the Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) with a Python-inspired syntax and a special focus on language and compiler extensibility."

Josh Coffman, lead developer and founder of Computerist Solutions, would lobby for Boo particularly if he were to implement a domain-specific language (DSL). "It's not an interpreted language because it's compiled to CLI," he says. "Because it runs on .Net, you have all the power of .Net-only it's more flexible, and you can use it as a script or a compiled program." Boo has plenty of technical advantages, too, he says, such as being able to manipulate the compiler output during compilation. "The space indented syntax is kinda fun," he adds.

Matthew Fowle, software developer at Useful Networks, says "A computer language is a tool for making software; Boo as a computer language plays well with existing tools (the .Net ecosystem), but it goes further by allowing developers unprecedented power in developing their own language tooling. Most languages work around a fixed set of concepts; Boo works by giving developers the ability to craft and shape their own language concepts. Further, Boo syntax is wonderfully wrist-friendly, and comes with a variety of interpreters to accelerate rapid development."

I don't mean to imply that these up-and-coming languages are the only ones worth paying attention to. There are several others that IT managers should be aware of-and proponents are invited to add their suggestions in the article comments. Here's a few bonus languages.

Among the interesting languages are Factor, which MacIver described as "modernized Forth, with better support for functional programming."

Software engineer Anthony Cook would prefer to use REBOL, a language that gains its advantage through lightweight domain-specific sublanguages and micro-formats. Cook appreciates Rebol's "dialects" which let you create your own domain-specific languages. "One guy even built a virtual machine Assembly language interpreter as a Rebol dialect to teach it to his students," says Cook. It's also tiny, self-contained and cross platform, so code written for Windows runs exactly the same on Linux or Mac OS X. "It has a built in GUI library, the ability to send e-mails and access Web resources built in, with no includes, in only a couple of simple lines." The size of the executable program is small too, he says. "To do the same thing in Java would take hundreds of megabytes; in C it would take tons of includes and many lines of code to do the same thing."

It's fast, too. Cook says, "I'm used to using Ruby all day, and it's one of the slowest languages out there. REBOL is a Forth-stack based yet dynamic prototype-based language that runs almost as fast as native C code."

Software architect David Brabant would try to convince the boss to let him use Lisp. "Lisp is elegant, Lisp is compact, Lisp is powerful, Lisp is reflexive, Lisp allows me to write my DSL in a snap, using a few macros." But, he sighs, "In the end, I would be forced to use PHP like anybody else."

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