Toolmakers Respond to Boom in Scripting

Tech Analysis: Richer tools step up as scripting steps into more complex roles.

Using scripting in the right parts of an application stack, to do the right things, is a complex and subjective challenge of finding the right fit between talents and technologies. Writing, debugging and testing scripts is a more straightforward but nontrivial challenge of finding the right fit between complexity and capability.

Toolmakers, recognizing the white-hot interest of system administrators and applications developers in putting scripts to work in more tasks, are responding with innovation and integration to create attractive script development alternatives.

/zimages/3/28571.gifIts necessary for practitioners to recognize and confront scriptings challenges. Click here to read more.

Scripting languages dont have a long tradition of elaborate, integrated development environments because the scripting cycle hasnt normally needed to orchestrate editing, compiling, debugging and performance profiling. Scripts have tended to be produced with ordinary text editors and invoked merely by pointing the scripting engine at the location of the file containing a series of statements.

Many scripters therefore adopt as their environment a high-end programmers editor, such as SlickEdit Inc.s Visual SlickEdit, with JavaScript syntax awareness and source code color highlighting. This industrial-strength product is available in several versions; prices start at $99 for an Eclipse plug-in but quickly rise into hundreds of dollars for complete installations.

As scripting moves into more complex roles, developers are increasingly interested in more broadly capable integrated tool sets for script development. Fortunately, this comes at a time when comprehensive tool suites are becoming ever more affordable, as open-source projects spin off productivity aids to create an aggressive competitive environment—one that makes SlickEdits pricing look increasingly out-of-date.

With its broad use in the open-source community, scripting is a particular beneficiary of this trend. For example, C Point Pty Ltd.s March release of Version 5.0 of its $50 Antechinus JavaScript Editor offers integral syntax checking, code evaluation and integral Web page design aids (

While JavaScript is the "J" in AJAX (the development model that blends asynchronous JavaScript with XML), other script-oriented developers live and breathe in one or more of the languages denoted by the "P" in LAMP, the open-source application stack of the Linux operating system, Apache Web server, MySQL database, and one or more of the scripting languages Perl, Python and PHP.

With their vital role in the fast-growing world of open-source enterprise software, these three "P" languages are supported by an equally fast-growing array of tools and environments. A leading example is Komodo 3.1, an integrated development environment for dynamic languages from ActiveState (

Built on the Mozilla platform, Komodo offers developers multilanguage editing with code navigation, Web page previewing, debugging and extensibility with macros. A personal version, lacking large-project support tools and restricted to noncommercial use, can be obtained for less than $30.

In addition to using scripting tools for administrative and text-file processing tasks, and for adding interactive behavior to the browser-based Web experience, developers can look forward to applying their skills and tools for dynamic scripting in an expanding array of execution environments. The Java virtual machine, for example, is on a path toward supporting dynamic languages, as well as the bytecode-compiled Java language, and both Microsoft Corp. and third parties offer scripting tools that plug into Microsofts Visual Studio .Net workbench.

Scriptings heritage is largely in the Unix space, but it becomes more universal with the availability of products such as MKS Inc.s Toolkit 9.0, released in June, which hosts traditional Unix tools on Windows and can package a script as a Windows service (www. Microsofts .Net environment supports similar functions with surprisingly similar code in dynamic languages such as Perl or VBScript, as well as C#.

Scripting is also becoming integrated into the development environments and component libraries offered to Java developers, as illustrated by the provision of AJAX components in the Version 2 update of Sun Java Studio Creator expected this fall from Sun Microsystems Inc. (reviewed in early-access form by eWEEK Labs on Page 40).

To maximize their gains, those evaluating scripting tools should pay heed to standards compliance. Rapid response to evolving language definitions, as well as to the continuing refinement of scripting target platforms such as Mozilla, requires agility from toolmakers to preserve the freedom of developers.

Technology Editor Peter Coffee can be reached at

Writing the script for developer productivity

  • Text editors handle many scripting tasks
  • Integrated testing and design aids streamline complex projects
  • Script editors can be stand-alone software or plug-ins to integrated tool sets
  • Developers need to balance convenience and power versus standards compliance

Source: eWEEK Labs

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