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Scripting Languages: Perl, JavaScript, VBScript & AppleScript

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  • 0:07 Scripting Languages
  • 2:14 JavaScript
  • 3:58 Perl
  • 5:08 VBScript
  • 5:39 AppleScript
  • 7:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Paul Zandbergen

Paul has a PhD from the University of British Columbia and has taught Geographic Information Systems, statistics and computer programming for 15 years.

Scripting languages are used extend the functionality of existing software, such as creating dynamic content for web pages and automating repetitive tasks. Learn about some of the most popular scripting languages and their applications.

Scripting Languages

Developing software requires programming. Programming consists of writing a series of very detailed instructions that tell a computer what to do. The code for a typical software application can be very complex and long. For example, the code for word processing or illustration software can easily reach one million lines of code.

In many cases, however, you may want to do something simpler than developing your own software. For example, let's say you have a few hundred digital photographs and you need to resize them and then upload them to a website. You have photo-editing software that can resize photographs. However, doing this one-by-one is going to be cumbersome, so you want a tool that automates this process.

What you need is a script. A script is a set of instructions that automates the execution of tasks which would otherwise be done one-by-one by a human operator. You can write scripts using a scripting language, which is a type of programming language to write scripts.

Scripting is a form of programming, but it typically takes place within an existing application. You can use scripting to extend the functionality of existing software. Scripting is widely used with certain types of software applications, to enhance web pages within browser software, and to automate tasks within an operating system.

There are many different scripting languages. Several of these are specifically used for one particular purpose. For example, Visual Basic for Applications is used within Microsoft Office, and JavaScript is used mostly to develop dynamic content for web pages. Other scripting languages are more general-purpose and can be used for a range of different tasks, such as Perl and Python. This lesson will discuss some of the widely used scripting languages and their typical applications.

JavaScript

JavaScript is used for client-side scripting of dynamic content of web pages. Client-side scripting means that the script is part of the web page itself when you download it and is executed by the browser software. This is in contrast to server-side scripting where the scripts are run on a central computer server.

JavaScript was originally developed for one of the earliest Internet browsers called Netscape. It quickly became popular to enhance the content of web pages, and it remains very popular. The name JavaScript is somewhat confusing, since the language is not related to another programming language called Java - these languages have nothing in common other than their name.

A standard called ECMA-262 was developed for JavaScript by Ecma International. You will therefore see the name ECMAScript instead of JavaScript being used, but they refer to the same language.

The most common use of JavaScript is to develop dynamic content within regular web pages in HyperText Markup Language, or HTML, format. Basic HTML consists mostly of text and images, and JavaScript can make things more interactive. For example, when you move your pointer over a button and it changes color - that is a few lines of JavaScript code. The code goes something like this: 'if the cursor is over this button, then do the following.' Dynamic content development using JavaScript also includes things like animations, forms and other user interaction.

Perl

Perl is a general purpose scripting language. It is widely used in server-side scripting, where users submit a request and this is processed by a script running on the server. Typical examples of such requests are posting user contributions to Internet discussion boards and the processing of customer orders. Website like Amazon.com and Craigslist rely heavily on Perl scripting.

Like several other scripting languages, Perl is also used as a glue language, connecting different systems together that were not originally designed to work together. The earlier example of resizing hundreds of digital photographs and then uploading them to a website is a typical scenario where Perl scripting would be useful. Perl is also widely used for database applications.

The name Perl is a modification of 'pearl.' It is not officially an acronym. The symbol of the language is a camel, which is derived from one of the first manuals for the language, which featured a camel on its cover.

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