The Idle Scripting Language

NEWS: Idle 1.02 released!
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I am happy to release Idle version 1.02. This adds two new functions and updates core components.

Please see the list of changes for a short description of what has changed between versions.

So what is Idle, then?
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Idle is a simple but powerful scripting language, in basically the same vein as the venerable Perl or Python languages. It is, however, an altogether more lightweight application: the basic installation zip weighs in at around 800 KB (and this includes the full documentation and loads of example scripts).

At the core of Idle sits a tweaked and significantly enhanced version of Lua. Idle inherits from Lua its elegant and powerful language definition as well as a highly-optimised interpreter kernel (an extremely fast compiler is included as well). Idle, like Lua, is readily extended with additional functions, modules and libraries (which can be written either in C/C++ or in Idle itself).

The small language kernel is complemented by an extensive collection of runtime libraries, almost all of which are squeezed into a single DLL file (with a size of around 230 KB).

Idle will run under Windows 2000 or newer Windows systems and comes as freeware, with an MIT-style licence.

How does it work?
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Well, depending on your requirements the most basic Idle setup consists of just two or three files:

Besides the Idle standard runtime modules there are a few other modules, notably for networking and database/SQL connectivity. There are also direct interfaces to Perl and the Tiny C compiler. Indeed, the latter can be integrated with any Idle script: this makes it possible to compile and execute C code on the fly.

An additional file that may be required if you want to deploy or distribute your scripts is the Idle compiler, idlec.exe. It compiles a .idle script file either into a .idol byte code file or into a standard Windows executable. If compiling to a .exe file the compiler supports both the GUI and console subsystems as well as compression and encryption.

The Idle compiler produces relatively small executables: a minimum Idle script like


will produce a .exe file with a size of roundabout 10 KB. Even relatively big Idle scripts of, say, 80 KB length will typically compile to a .exe file of 40 KB or even less. The compiler can easily integrate all required Idle modules into a single Idle executable: such a .exe file only requires the Idle runtime. This makes it possible to deploy an Idle application simply by copying two files: the compiled .exe and the runtime DLL (ie idle03.dll).

Who needs yet another scripting language?
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See the Idle FAQ for an answer to that and a few other questions.

The Idle documentation
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The documentation for Idle comes in four main parts:

If you want to get in touch about any aspect of Idle (I am especially interested in bug reports and feature suggestions), you can do so via either of the following channels:

Well, give all this a whirl and tell me what works and what, if anything, doesn't!

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