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-- by Martin Heller
You've got to love a language in which the obligatory "Hello, World!" program consists of, in its entirety, "Say 'Hello, World!'" That's how simple the new NetRexx language for Java is. If you want a pure programming language for Web development, NetRexx gives you what you need in a bare-bones package that's easier for experienced programmers to master than Java.
One ancestor of NetRexx is Rexx, the scripting language for IBM VMS mainframes and for PCs running OS/2. NetRexx inherits from Rexx an especially forgiving and legible syntax, with natural data typing, convenient string handling and arbitrary-precision decimal arithmetic. Its other ancestor, Java, contributes classes, portability, compilers and virtual machines. At first glance their progeny might look like an ungainly crossbreed, but then NetRexx grows on you, especially when you realize that you can freely intermix classes written in NetRexx with those written in Java.
The NetRexx language is considerably easier to learn than Java, particularly if you have some background in Rexx. But it has a downside as well: NetRexx for Java is purely a command-line compiler and runtime package. It contains no visual tools, no wizards and no assistants; it doesn't even have a syntax-coloring editor. We produced NetRexx code the old-fashioned way: We wrote it.
If you're designing a Java user interface, you'll find that using a visual design tool such as Visual Cafe or JBuilder is far more convenient than coding NetRexx. On the other hand, if you're writing string-manipulation, parsing or decimal-arithmetic code, you'll find your task much easier to accomplish in NetRexx than in Java. Even if you have a fancy visual Java design environment, you may want to have NetRexx in your bag of tricks.