Advantages of LC as high level language--examples

Richard Gaskin ambassador at
Tue Nov 30 12:08:25 EST 2010

Devin Asay wrote:

 > In trying to explain to students how high level languages such
 > as LiveCode can make development faster, I would like to give
 > concrete examples of how single-line LC commands actually
 > execute dozens of C++ commands in the engine. For example,
 > a simple one-liner like:
 > 	show field "demo" with visual effect dissolve
 > Must have lots of lines of compiled C code behind it. Does
 > anyone have any concrete examples? I may end up directing this
 > to the mother ship, but thought I'd try here first.

That leverage is of course powerful:  you can write a single line of 
code that executes many hundreds or even thousands of lower-level 
instructions in a language like C.

But that doesn't tell the whole story, and with modern frameworks like 
Cocoa you get a lot of leverage there too.

Being a lazy person by nature, I would let others make my argument for 
me - these three articles do a pretty good job:

Scripting: Higher Level Programming for the 21st Century

In Praise of Scripting:  Real Programming Pragmatism

Rise of the Scripting Language

The first one is especially good IMO, since although it focuses on the 
benefit's of the author's Tcl most of the points he makes apply equally 
well to Rev.  The value of typelessness for programmer productivity 
cannot be overstated.

For all of the reasons presented in those articles, scripting has been 
enjoying quite a renaissance in recent years.  Once limited to 
domain-specific languages and considered suitable only for "script 
kiddies", many modern very-high-level languages (VHLLs) are 
Turning-complete and surprisingly efficient with their dynamic typing 
and garbage collection.  Most of the web economy is driven by VHLLs, and 
a growing number of desktop apps are too.  When Adobe delivered 
Lightroom, with so much of it driven by Lua, I knew scripting had 
finally arrived.

With LiveCode we have all the benefits common to most modern VHLLs with 
a few extras:

- Chunk expressions make short work of one of the most common sets of
   tasks in any language, parsing and concatenating text.

- The object model is highly visual and deeply integrated syntactically;
   while it can be used to make abstract classes, it's inherently very
   physical, with the message path for the most part following the
   layering of objects as they appear on screen, making it much easier
   to grasp than more complex models replete with abstract classes.

- Associative arrays are the key to many modern name-value-pair
   programming systems like CoreData, the NoSQL data stores, and
   others, but with getProp and setProp those are uncommonly easy
   to implement in LiveCode.

- The out-of-the-box component set is pretty rich, with objects
   provided for native-looking controls in addition to both vector and
   raster graphics, and multimedia support with players that even goes
   so far as to provide built-in support for QTVR nodes.  That's a
   lot of stuff.

- The bundled externals for handling DBMSs and embedded browsers
   provide additional richness that opens up many other application

- With behaviors and the new group properties and messages you can
   roll your own custom objects of just about any type you can
   imagine.  If you've ever written an LDEF you can really appreciate
   what the DataGrid provides. :)

In fact, that LDEF may be a good example for your class:  Have them use 
the APIs provided by the OS to craft a custom list definition using a 
form layout, then have them use the DataGrid.

Heck, even if they wrote their own DataGrid-like nested groups, if you 
can accept the limitation of 32k vertical pixels for groups it avoids 
the complexity Trevor had to address with virtualizing the scrollbar, 
and a usable subset that copies a template group into a master for 
delivering form-like lists can be made in a few minutes.

Compare and contrast with the many days it would take to write the 
modern equivalent of an LDEF in Objective C, and the many more days 
debugging to get it to work.

Then write it two more times using the APIs for Windows and Linux. ;)

A simpler example is one of my favorite things about LC, the ability to 
deliver the UI over HTTP:

Compare the ease of putting a stack on a server and running it with "go 
url..." to writing such a web-savvy dynamic UI in C++.

Or even simpler:  Just write a GUI app with native controls that lets 
the user open, edit, and save a text file.

Compare the total time needed for writing and debugging in both C and 

Then have them write that app again for at least one other platform, 
while you just click a checkbox.

Suddenly the benefits of LiveCode become undeniably obvious....  :)

  Richard Gaskin
  Fourth World
  LiveCode training and consulting:
  Webzine for LiveCode developers:
  LiveCode Journal blog:

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