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Presentation

Nice is a new programming language. It extends the ideas behind
object-orientation in order to better support modular programming and
static type safety. It also incorporates features from functional
programming, and puts into practice state-of-the-art results from
academic research. This results in more expressivity, modularity and
safety.

Safety

Nice detects more errors during compilation than existing
object-oriented languages (null pointer accesses,
casts exceptions).
This means that programs written in Nice never throw the infamous
NullPointerException nor
ClassCastException.
This aspect is developed in more details in
this article.

Modularity

In object-oriented languages, it is possible to add a new class
to an existing class hierarchy.
In Nice, it is also possible to add methods to
existing classes without modifying their source file.
This is a special case of multi-methods.

Expressivity

Many repetitive programming tasks can be
avoided by using Nice’s advanced features.
Ever got bored
of writing tons of loops, casts, overloaded methods with default
values, anonymous classes, … ?

In addition to traditional object-oriented features, Nice offers:

Parametric types

This is especially useful for containers
(lists, hash-tables) and allows for shorter and safer code.
Values of primitive type (int, float, …) can be used in polymorphic code,
in which case the wrapping and unwrapping is done automatically by the
compiler.

Anonymous functions

Functions can be created and manipulated as
first-class expressions, just like in Lisp and ML.
This is much lighter than Java’s anonymous classes in many situations,
for instance with listeners in a GUI.

Multi-methods

They allow methods to be defined outside classes.
This means that new methods can be defined on classes that
belong to a different package (even in java.*).
This allows for a more modular style: you don’t need to pack classes with
all possibly useful methods, but you can split them into several packages
dealing with different aspects. Development can then happen independently
in each package.

Multi-methods also extend usual methods with the possibility to
dispatch on every argument, instead of only the receiver class.
This article shows why using multi-methods
is preferable to applying the Visitor pattern.

Tuples

This allows in particular methods to return several values.

Optional parameters to methods

Optional parameters have a default value that is used when the parameter
is not present in the call. This is much simpler than in Java, where one
has to write several versions of the method for each combination of
parameters. The names of the arguments can also be specified at the call
site, improving readability and making argument order irrelevant.

Contracts and assertions

Contracts can be attached to methods, to better describe their specification
and detect illegal uses automatically at runtime, in debug mode.
Contracts and assertions can be disabled, in which case they cause
no slow down of the running program. Furthermore, they can be used on any
version of the JVM, even prior to 1.4.

The current implementation is tightly integrated with the Java environment,
which offers several advantages.
The huge amount of Java libraries can be used directly in Nice programs.
Libraries can also be written in Nice and called from a Java program.
The Nice compiler produces java bytecode, which means
Nice programs can be executed on virtually any platform, with any Java
Virtual Machine. Or they can be compiled to native programs with a native Java compiler.
The compiler is itself written in Java and in Nice.
The compiler needs a JVM version 1.2 or higher to run.

Nice is freely available under the GPL. The runtime classes are licensed
under the “GPL + linking exception” license, which means that libraries and
programs written in Nice can be licensed under any terms.

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