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9 cutting-edge programming languages worth learning now

Peter Wayner | Nov. 4, 2014
These strong alternatives to the popular languages are gaining steam -- and may be the perfect fit for your next project.

Finally, all of the Java programmers who've envied the simplicity of dynamic languages can join the party without leaving the realm of Java.

OCaml: Complex data hierarchy juggler
Some programmers don't want to specify the types of their variables, and for them we've built the dynamic languages. Others enjoy the certainty of specifying whether a variable holds an integer, string, or maybe an object. For them, many of the compiled languages offer all the support they want.

Then there are those who dream of elaborate type hierarchies and even speak of creating "algebras" of types. They imagine lists and tables of heterogeneous types that are brought together to express complex, multileveled data extravaganzas. They speak of polymorphism, pattern-matching primitives, and data encapsulation. This is just the beginning of the complex, highly structured world of types, metatypes, and metametatypes they desire.

For them, there is OCaml, a serious effort by the programming language community to popularize many of the aforementioned ideas. There's object support, automatic memory management, and device portability. There are even OCaml apps available from Apple's App Store.

An ideal project for OCaml might be building a symbolic math website to teach algebra.

CoffeeScript: JavaScript made clean and simple
Technically, CoffeeScript isn't a language. It's a preprocessor that converts what you write into JavaScript. But it looks different because it's missing plenty of the punctuation. You might think it is Ruby or Python, though the guts behave like JavaScript.

CoffeeScript began when semicolon haters were forced to program in JavaScript because that was what Web browsers spoke. Changing the way the Web works would have been an insurmountable task, so they wrote their own preprocessor instead. The result? Programmers can write cleaner code and let CoffeeScript turn it back into the punctuation-heavy JavaScript Web browsers demand.

Missing semicolons are only the beginning. With CoffeeScript, you can create a variable without typing var. You can define a function without typing function or wrapping it in curly brackets. In fact, curly brackets are pretty much nonexistent in CoffeeScript. The code is so much more concise that it looks like a modernist building compared to a Gothic cathedral. This is why many of the newest JavaScript frameworks are often written in CoffeeScript and compiled.

Scala: Functional programming on the JVM
If you need the code simplicity of object-oriented hierarchies for your project but love the functional paradigm, you have several choices. If Java is your realm, Scala is the choice for you.

Scala runs on the JVM, bringing all the clean design strictures of functional programming to the Java world by delivering code that fits with the Java class specifications and links with other JAR files. If those other JAR files have side effects and other imperative nasty headaches, so be it. Your code will be clean.


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