Monday, June 13, 2005

Tools for derivative languages

In a discussion of tools for dynamic languages, Jon Udell mentions the creation of domain-specific "little languages" from dynamic languages, which he rightly traces back to Lisp and Smalltalk. Oddly, though, he misses a key tool need for dynamic languages -- the ability to simple extend an IDE to embrace the derivative languages with syntax highlighting and the like.

I spent years using AutoLISP, and the syntax-highlighting editor we purchased was worth every penny and the inconvenience of its odd copy protection scheme. However, this tool didn't help me much with decoding the undocumented derivative language that a contractor had used to create many programs that I had to maintain after he left. It would have been nice to have been able to extend the development tool to include these functions once I'd figured them out. Of course, that would have never worked with that particular tool, given the paranoia of its developers.

While UDDI may never really work on the Web, perhaps a similar sort of system for IDE's would help address this problem.

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