re: Should programming languages be made for IDEs rather than humans? VIEW POST


You're missing the point: text files are easy. They can be a little verbose sometimes, but as a 'substance of expression', if you will, they're unmatched. You can create or modify text with the single most common human-interface device metaphor in existence, which children now learn to manipulate in or even before schooling. You can read text with a million different programs and style it, filter it, format it, cut and paste and perform a billion different operations on it. A certain clunkiness in writing out equations is a small price to pay for that kind of flexibility.

If you were to "decouple" formatting and semantics like you propose, you wouldn't be able to avoid coupling the semantics to the editor instead. And there'd only be one editor, until you developed something else that could interact with your structured representation of a syntax tree. This isn't to say it can't or shouldn't be done -- APL had its day, educational tools like Scratch do well, and there are of course a variety of "no programming experience required" flowcharting and modeling languages -- but it's an idea that can only compete against text files in some pretty specific niches.


If you were to "decouple" formatting and semantics like you propose, you wouldn't be able to avoid coupling the semantics to the editor instead

Not necessarily, css/html is also a decoupling of formatting and semantics. The main point here being that the semantics on their own are no longer supposed to be read by humans.


This separation already exists. The source code defines the semantics, and the configuration of the editor describes the styling.


HTML and CSS also aren't programming languages as such but markup and styling languages (although HTML5+CSS3 are evidently Turing complete if you're willing to put in the effort). But this is actually an interesting point: WYSIWYG markup editors which truly decoupled formatting or visual layout from the semantics of data binding and interaction were a thing in the 00s before everybody realized they were terrible and concentrated on building better plain-text templating languages instead.

HTML and CSS also aren't programming languages

True, but I wasn't suggesting using exactly those. In most languages, a program has a certain structure (rather like an AST, but not entirely). That is the "meaning" of a program. Where HTML has an <img> tag, an imperative program has a while loop.

Indentation, variable names, operators, import statements... those are all styling for humans. You could drop all of them and the language would be just as expressive, but not as readable.

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