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Dart Is Not the Language You Think It Is

A terse language without ceremony

When Dart was originally launched, many developers mistook it for some sort of Java clone. In truth, Dart is inspired by a range of languages such as Smalltalk, Strongtalk, Erlang, C#, and JavaScript. Get past the semicolons and curly braces, and you’ll see a terse language without ceremony. Dart has evolved into its own, and here are some of my favorite language features.

Dart is a source code VM

The Dart VM reads and executes source code, which means there is no compile step between edit and run. As with other popular scripting languages, it’s very quick to iterate with Dart. The Dart VM runs on the command line and servers, and can be embedded into browsers. Just point the VM at Dart source code and you’re up and running!

Dart is optionally typed

Dart understands that sometimes you just don’t feel like appeasing a ceremonial type checker. Dart’s inclusion of an optional type system means you can use type annotations when you want, or use dynamic when that’s easier.

For example, you can explore a new idea without having to first think about type hierarchies. Just experiment and use var for your types. Once the idea is tested and you’re comfortable with the design, you can add type annotations.

Here is a comparison between code that uses type annotations, and code that uses var for dynamic. Both of these code snippets have the same runtime semantics:

With type annotations:

Or, without type annotations:

Type annotations are great for the “surface area” of the code (such as method and function signatures), and the tools are getting good enough for you to consider using var inside methods and functions.

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