9 Scripting Languages You Need To Know - InformationWeek

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11/22/2015
12:05 PM
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9 Scripting Languages You Need To Know

Scripting languages can bring new functions to applications and glue complex systems together. Here are nine that could hold the keys to your next project.
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(Image: BenjaminNelan via Pixabay)

(Image: BenjaminNelan via Pixabay)

When you need to order a computer around at the hardware level, nothing beats a good programming language. Sometimes, though, you just need to make something happen and you don't care how many layers come between your command and the computer's response. When that's the case, a scripting language can be your best friend.

Scripting languages aren't new. They've been around since the glory days of the mainframe. Even then, they made things happen by bossing other software around. It might have been the operating system, a job loader, or another application, but the result was the same -- a set of operations completed to produce the desired results.

The nine scripting languages here are most similar in their importance and familiarity. Each is likely to have special significance for a different group of IT professionals, the differences showing up in the systems used (and sometimes in the era when a professional learned his or her profession.)

For example, if you have distinct memories of keeping decks of JCL punched cards wrapped by rubber bands in your Samsonite briefcase, then you've just established the age during which you learned to code. (My briefcase, by the way, was the thinner, light-brown model, and I kept my JCL decks close to my green IBM flow-chart template. Get off my lawn.)

Scripting languages have proven their utility by sticking around. Javascript and PHP are heavily used today, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a working Unix admin who doesn't have a stash of Bash scripts at her or his disposal.

Let's take a look at these languages and the times when they might be useful -- if for nothing more than sparking nostalgic conversation.

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Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Analyst at Omdia, focusing on enterprise security management. Curtis has been writing about technologies and products in computing and networking since the early 1980s. He has been on staff and contributed to technology-industry publications ... View Full Bio

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Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
11/27/2015 | 4:39:56 PM
Re: scripting and compliling and studio
@dried_squid, if Microsoft has brought a "GUI-less" version of Windows Server to market, I'm not aware of it. It's the sort of product that would be of tremendous interest to cloud service providers, so it will be interesting to see if it ever surfaces! As for the GUI versus CLI benefits, my experience is that CLI is faster if you know exactly what you're doing and need to make specific changes on a repetitive basis. If you're trying to figure something out, or need to do one thing a single time, GUI works pretty darned well. And that glass ceiling? I think it was a very real thing five or ten years ago. Now, GUI knowledge is the default and will get you the job in lots and lots of places.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
11/25/2015 | 5:49:59 PM
Re: scripting and compliling and studio
@dried_squid, thanks for a thoughtful post! Every now and again I'll sit down to learn (or re-acquaint myself with) a tool. Even if I don't end up using it for a lot of work I find that stretching my thought processes to include a new language helps me with my existing work.

And I think we're going to see more languages leaning on a visual interface. It will be interesting to see how that has an impact on applications.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
11/25/2015 | 5:46:42 PM
Re: Scripting on Windows
@ewaldman630, you're the second person to mention Powershell so I really will have to include it in a future article. As for VB, I did include VBA, so don't I get at least a little credit? <grin>

I knew I was going to leave some significant scripting languages off the list: I think I could have done "73 Scripting Languages You Should Know" and still have missed some. It's good for me to hear from everyone which languages they think are important (and why): It really will help me on future articles...and the conversation is fun!
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
11/25/2015 | 5:42:27 PM
Re: Scripting
@BogdanB766, I'll refer you to my other responses on Python to explain my reasoning behind it not being included. Basically, I feel that Python doesn't fit my definition of a scripting language -- it operates too directly on the underlying system.

And I'll agree that VB wouldn't be a good inclusion -- but Visual Basic for Applications might just be the most widely used scripting language we have right now.

I thought seriously about MATLAB and you're right -- it's a solid scripting language. In fact, it's one that I might well include in a future article that focuses on scientific and academic tools.

As for Powershell, we've already got another reader talking about just how useful it is. If we want to get into a discussion of GUI tools versus CLI, then we're heading into a different level of "religious war" altogether!

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on the article -- I appreciate your viewpoint and look forward to more discussion.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
11/25/2015 | 5:35:38 PM
Re: Rexx, PHP and Javascript
@TerryB, I'm going to split hairs with you just a bit on your comment. You talk about a definition of scripting languages that centers on them not being compiled. While it's true that scripting languages are only rarely compiled, there are a number of powerful, general-purpose languages that are interpreted rather than compiled. I don't include the lack of compilation is part of my definition of a scripting language.

I agree that there are scripting languages that can be very powerful, and they're powerful precisely because they're able to control other software (like browser or the operating system) in very precise, and sometimes very destructive, ways. The security problem there, though, has more to do with privileges assigned to scripts than to the compiled or interpreted nature of the software!

And I also agree that you'd better know what you're doing, both in the scripting world and that of system administration, if you don't want to open your system up to a world of trouble!
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
11/25/2015 | 5:30:09 PM
Re: Rexx, PHP and Javascript
@manassehkatz, I think where you and I have a difference of opinion is on just how the language in question makes things happen on the resident system. Python reaches too far down the stack to let me limit it to the scripting language label -- that's why it's not here. I agree that some of the languges in question can run in "stand alone" mode, but in my opinion, to be a scripting language the code has to make an impact on the underlying system by causing some third-party system to do things. Whether that third party is an application, a browser, a database, or an operating system is less important than the fact that it's required.

At least, that's the way I think about scripting...
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
11/25/2015 | 5:25:44 PM
Re: Old vs Modern
@gbaggett75002, you're not the only person to mention Python. As I said in an earlier response, I finally came down on the side of Python as a general purpose language rather than a scripting tool. If I were forced to sort things into buckets, I'd be more likely to call "R" a scripting language than to put the label on Python.

I look forward to people telling me why I'm wrong, though -- that's part of the fun of language discussions!
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
11/25/2015 | 5:22:59 PM
Re: more
OK, @mneedleman, keep clicking. PHP is there -- I couldn't leave it out!
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
11/25/2015 | 5:17:50 PM
Re: Python
@mneedleman, Python was the first language I thought of, but the more I thought about scripting languages the more I decided that Python really doesn't fit the description any longer. Python is a general purpose language that just happens to be interpreted. You can reach farther down the stack with Python than with most scripting languages, so I decided to save it for another list with another set of qualifications.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
11/25/2015 | 5:15:36 PM
Re: Pending Review
Thanks, @JoshauCouture. One of the reasons for writing a piece like this is to give readers a bit of info on tools they might not know. I'm glad to know I hit the target for you!
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