Models, Documents, and Source Code Let's start with understanding the relationships between models, documents, source code, and documentation, something depicted in Figure 1. From AM's point of view a document is any artifact external to source code whose purpose is to convey information in a persistent manner.
Conclusions For a long time there's been a style of software development that seeks to describe software systems using a collection of domain specific languages.
You see this in the Unix tradition of 'little languages' which generate code via lex and yacc; you see it in the Lisp community with languages developed inside Lisp, often with the help of Lisp's macros. Such approaches are much liked by their advocates, but this style of thinking hasn't caught on as much as many of these people would like.
In the last few years there's been an attempt to support this style of development through a new class of software tool. The earliest and best known of these is Intentional Programming - originally developed by Charles Simonyi while at Microsoft. However there are other people doing similar things too, generating enough momentum to create some interest in this approach.
At this point I'm going to coin some terminology that I'll use in the rest of this essay.
As usual there's no standard terminology in this field, so don't expect the terms I use to be used in this style elsewhere. I'm going to give a brief definition here, but will explain much more about them as the essay goes on - so don't worry if you don't follow the definitions immediately.
The two main terms I'm specifically coining for this article are 'Language Oriented Programming' and 'Language Workbench'.
I use Language Oriented Programming to mean the general style of development which operates about the idea of building software around a set of domain specific languages.
I use Language Workbench as a generic term for this new breed of tools. So a language workbench is one way to do language oriented programming.
It is a limited form of computer language designed for a specific class of problems. I'm going to start by briefly describing the current world of language oriented programming with an example, an overview of the different flavors, and various arguments about the pros and cons of the approach.
If you're familiar with language oriented programming you may want to skip through this stuff, but I've found that many, indeed most, developers aren't that familiar with these ideas.
Once these are explained I'll then build on them to explain what language workbenches are and how they alter the trade-offs.
As I wrote this article, it turned out to be too much for a single article, so I've separated some parts of the discussion into other articles. I'll mention as I go in the text where it makes sense to go off an read those, they're also linked just below the contents.
In particular take a look at the example using MPS - this shows an example DSL built using one of the current language workbenches and is probably the best way of getting a feel for what they will be like. You'll need to get through the general description of language workbenches here before it'll make much sense.
A simple example of language oriented programming I'm going to begin by running through a very simple example of language oriented programming and the kind of situation that leads to it.
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