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Ask Slashdot: Why are we still writing text based code?

Rasberry Jello (1589629) writes | about 3 months ago

4

Rasberry Jello (1589629) writes "*Improving upon what I posted yesterday. I really must know the answer to this question! It's been driving me crazy for years!*

"I consider myself someone who "gets code," but I'm not a programmer. I enjoy thinking through algorithms and writing basic scripts, but I get bogged down in more complex code. Maybe I lack patience, but really, why are we still writing text based code? Shouldn't there be a simpler, more robust way to translate an algorithm into something a computer can understand? One that's language agnostic and without all the cryptic jargon? It seems we're still only one layer of abstraction from assembly code. Why have graphical code generators that could seemingly open coding to the masses gone nowhere? At a minimum wouldn't that eliminate time dealing with syntax errors? OK Slashdot, stop my incessant questions and tell me what I'm missing."

4 comments

Ever tried LabVIEW? (1)

wildriver (3453431) | about 3 months ago | (#46138991)

One example of a graphical coding environment I have experience with is LabVIEW. I sometimes use it for simple projects. It is surprisingly easy to create an un-maintainable mess in LabVIEW when things get even slightly complex.
Diagrams need to be translated into words before humans can reason about them; this translation is not needed with written code. Thus written code is more effective to fully define a software program.
This is also the reason that code generation from UML has not caught on in mainstream programming.

Re: Ever tried LabVIEW? (1)

Rasberry Jello (1589629) | about 2 months ago | (#46182113)

Interesting point. I have used labview and I agree it can quickly get messy. Perhaps it's a little too free form in terms of the visual diagrams. I can imagine that for more complex programs, textual code may be better. That said it seems like a graphical code generator could help non-coders develop simple programs to automate processes, etc. Thanks for the reply.

Helix (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 3 months ago | (#46140617)

You could also look into Helix [wikipedia.org], a Macintosh database that is programmed visually. (Current publisher is apparently QSA Toolworks [qsatoolworks.com]. )You should be able to track down some reviews, even if they are old. You might even be able to get a demo version, assuming you have a mac, or can find an old version to use with either an old Mac or emulator.

There are trade-offs when you use visual tools, such as the screen size needed to make them work. Text is much more compact. Speed is another - it is pretty quick to add just another line of text to the code of a program whereas it is going to be more involved to drag around tiles in a GUI and then fill in the blocks to make the program statement complete. If you are doing a large project that might get to be difficult to navigate; I've read of some project management tools running into that problem as well. Of course there are code exploration tools that create visual cues with the code to help show structure, which can be handy when investigating an old codebase.

Re: Helix (1)

Rasberry Jello (1589629) | about 2 months ago | (#46182285)

I took a look at Helix. Very interesting and a bit unfortunate it hasn't had more success. I can't help but wonder if the reason text coding is faster than graphical has more to do with our interface devices (keyboard vs mouse) than something more fundamental. Perhaps the proliferation of touch screen devices will have some effect. Thanks for the response!
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