One of the most frequent comments i hear when people dismiss or decide against considering Oxygene as their development tool of choice goes along the lines of the title of this blog post:
“With Oxygene i need to learn all the new platform APIs. If that’s the case, i might as well learn C# [or Java or Objective-C].”
That’s certainly true. When moving to and learning a new platform, there’s a vast number of things to learn — new classes, new APIs, new concepts, new ways of doing things. Learning a new language, especially if it’s one from the same broader family of languages you already know (i.e. Object Oriented languages) is only a small and insignificant part of that.
But, i think it is missing the point of Oxygene, to think its whole reason d’être is to save you from learning a new language. Quite the contrary.
Oxygene is based on Object Pascal, and is, at its root, very close to the “Delphi” language (which basically represents the state-of-the-art of Object Pascal ca. 2003). The main reason for that is not that Delphi developers (which the creators of Oxygene were too, at the time) do not have to learn a new language. The reason for that is that Pascal — as much as it has gone out of fashion over the past 20 or so years — is a freaking amazing base point for a programming language. It’s clean, well structured, easy to learn, and — very importantly — easy to read.
Many developers underestimate this, but they spend a lot more time re-eading their (and other’s) code than they originally spent writing it — so having a language that makes code easy to parse and understand by the human brain is a very important and undervalued feature of a language. One that Oxygene shines at like no other.
So that’s the why Oxygene is what it is, but is that enough reason to choose it over C#, Java or even Objective-C? No, of course not.
The biggest selling point for Oxygene in my opinion is not that it’s Pascal based, and is not that is allows you to natively compile for today’s three major platforms (.NET, Java and Cocoa) with the same code base, and it most certainly not that it saves you from doing anything (be it learning a new language, or be it spending more money on a more expensive development tool).
The biggest selling point of Oxygene is — quite frankly — that it is an amazing modern language, with features that developers using the other mainstream languages don’t even begin to dream about.
Going into details on all the features that make Oxygene unique and powerful, the features that will change your life as a developer, would require several posts on its own. But the scope ranges from Class Contracts to language-integrated parallelism, from nullable types to the amazing Future types, from small but powerful things like the colon operator and double boolean comparisons to “for” loop expressions (not to be confused with regular “for” loops), and from duck typing to language-native tuples.
The list could keep going on.
So when you’re looking at Oxygene (and i know you are), don’t just look at it from the perspective that it will let you keep coding in Pascal without having to learn a new language. Sure, that’s a big factor too. If you’re a Delphi developer, you probably love Pascal (like we do), and have been using it for the past 10, 20 or even more years. And being Pascal certainly is one thing that makes Oxygene attractive to you.
But don’t stop there; you’re doing Oxygene and yourself an injustice, if you look at that as the main benefit.
Instead, think of using Oxygene as switching to the most powerful and modern object oriented language out there, today. That it’s Pascal-based is just the icing on an already very delicious cake.
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