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Domain-specific language

Domain-specific language

(also DSL)

Domain-specific language definition

A domain-specific language is a computer language specialized to a particular application domain.

Unlike general-purpose programming languages (Python, Java, or C++), DSLs tackle specific problems within a particular domain.

See also: object-oriented programming, data manipulation language, HTML5, domain

Key DSL characteristics

  • Specialization. DSLs are highly effective for tackling particular tasks.
  • Ease of use. For those working within a specific domain, DSLs are easier to learn and use because they align closely with the concepts of that domain.
  • Integration. DSLs often work in conjunction with general-purpose languages. For instance, SQL queries can be embedded in a Python program to interact with a database.
  • Efficiency. By focusing on a specific domain, DSLs offer more efficient solutions.
  • Types of DSLs. There are two main types of DSLs: internal and external. Internal DSLs are built on top of an existing general-purpose language (e.g., LINQ in C#), while external DSLs are stand-alone languages with their syntax and parser.
  • Limitations. DSLs’ narrow focus means they are unsuitable for tasks outside their specific domain.

Examples of DSLs

  • SQL. Used for managing and manipulating relational databases. SQL allows users to query, update, and manage data in a database.
  • HTML. The standard language for creating and designing web pages and web applications.
  • CSS. Used for describing the presentation of a document written in HTML or XML. It describes how elements should be rendered on screen, in print, or other media.
  • LaTeX. A typesetting system commonly used for technical and scientific documentation.
  • MATLAB. A high-level language and interactive environment used for numerical computation, visualization, and programming in science and engineering.

Further reading

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