The Script Language Contenders

These are the various script-language contenders (in no particular order):

  • Perl
    The swiss army knife of languages, with keywords and features tacked in as they seem useful. The vast majority of server-side CGI scripts are created with perl. Large libraries of useful scripts found across the internet. Perl scripts tend to be compact but also very confusing. Created by Larry Wall. Free source code and implementations. Default domain: Web Server CGI (especially Unix)

  • JavaScript
    Popularity exploded when released with Netscape version 2.0. Now an international standard under the name ECMAScript. The vast majority of client-side web scripting is done with JavaScript (ten times as much as Java). With Netscape, Microsoft, and other browser support it is now safe to assume your user's browsers will support JavaScript. Developed independently by Microsoft (JScript) and Netscape for browsers, and Nombas (ScriptEase) for everything else. Default domain: Web browsers and other desktop applications.

  • Tcl/Tk
    Developed by Sun. A compact and strong language available for most systems (but not 16-bit DOS or Windows 3.x). Greatest advantage is tight-linking with Tk, a cross-platform GUI library. Used in scientific and Unix work, and for general-purpose and cross-platform GUIs. Free source code and implementations. (Mike Doyle from Eolas has contributed note and a demo for the advantages of Tcl/Tk). Default domain: general-purpose GUIs for Unix and cross-platform applications.

  • Visual Basic
    Although not considered by most to be a scripting language, Visual Basic is by far the most used tool for GUI application development, and is responsible for most applications developed today. Similarities with RAD scripting principles, with leanings toward a system language. Developed and sold by Microsoft and its VBA partners. Default domain: Win32 applications.

Other worthwhile script languages that don't seem to be gaining acceptance for web work, or at the wrong place at the wrong time:

  • Rexx - the original - from IBM - Rexx CGI Scripting - Rexx Web Server
  • Python - similar to JavaScript - also uses Tk for GUI - hard to find anyone with negative comments about this language
  • Scheme
  • Dylan
  • Oberon
  • S-lang
  • VBScript - Microsoft's initial response to JavaScript - but it has seen very little use - may have second life on MS servers
  • etc ....... - there is now and will be no end of new script languages - they're fun for computer geeks to design

I don't contend to say that one particular script language is better than other. Once you accept the scripting revolution, any of the language provide a great benefit. I chose the top four "contenders" not because they have any inherent superiority over the others, but because they are clearly in widespread use (for example, the slider puzzles on the previous page were easy to find only for these languages).

The non-contender usually end up in this list not because they aren't as good as the contenders, but because they weren't first to be supported by some influential company in a new domain.

Most of these languages are available for server-side, client-side, or standalone systems.

My personal choice? I am president of Nombas, a company dedicated to making it easy to add JavaScript to any application or embedded system. I'm biased. I pick JavaScript.



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