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Exploring the versatility of Groovy programming

Java developers should peruse Groovy's programming features, such as dynamic typing with static type checks, DSL builders and more.

Developers often spend too much time configuring build dependencies through boilerplate code amendments and adding resiliency to services and container deployments. Apache Groovy enables developers to sequence, chain and transform asynchronous operations to meet the demands of apps built with modern frameworks.

As an open source, object-oriented programming language with functional elements, Groovy offers a versatile scripting approach for the Java platform. It uses a familiar Java-like syntax and works seamlessly with Java bytecode. And the scripting language provides access to the enormous Java code library.

Groovy's lightweight governance approach ensures that code remains high quality, maintains compatibility and aligns with DevOps practices. The programming language includes a number of key coding features: scripting capabilities, runtime and compile-time meta-programming, domain specific language (DSL) authoring and functional programming. Let's look at these features and how they help make Groovy a versatile and useful alternative language.

Scripting capabilities

Developers rely on scripting languages for more than process automation. They can use a range of scripting languages to build feature-rich applications.

A Groovy script is fully parsed, compiled and generated before execution. Groovy scripts can run on any platform that supports a Java virtual machine.

Because Groovy is a dynamically typed language, scripts can compile even if they contain errors that prevent execution or cause them to run improperly. Moreover, dynamically typed languages like Groovy don't require developers to declare the data types of variables before they use them.

But while dynamic typing makes developers more productive, they also need to be wary in this approach. Shorter code is easier to write and read, but dynamic scripts can create ongoing maintenance issues if a developer lacks the proper testing sites and the discipline to run tests regularly. Groovy 2.0 provides static type checking support based on the language's abstract syntax tree transformation mechanisms. The static type checker is an optional feature that works as a trigger and that developers can configure for a desired level of granularity.

Groovy programming code doesn't require as many elements as Java does. This is a characteristic that makes Groovy -- along with its concepts and syntax -- easy to adopt for users with varying levels of Java experience.

For more seasoned programmers, having access to a range of tools facilitates faster development times and increased flexibility. For example, Groovy ensures easy SQL access and XML parsing. It also supports functions such as closures, multiline string formats and expression-embedded strings.

The use of domain specific languages

Groovy offers programmers different builders to create DSLs that tailor an application to a particular domain. A DSL generally combines both functional and technical application requirements into a common set of specifications that all project stakeholders can reference. A DSL can function as a mini language that helps resolve domain-related issues and clarify project goals.

A well-designed DSL can be more effective than a traditional library. It streamlines communication between developers and domain experts, and it can make code easier to understand. The self-documenting interface offers an understandable and powerful means to configure and manage applications.

Closures are an important component of a DSL, and they act as the standard for functional programming in Groovy. Closures represent executable pieces of code that may be passed as arguments to other methods. Groovy also includes several prepackaged DSL builders. The Groovy SwingBuilder helps developers to create GUIs, and the XMLBuilder is a lightweight tool to create simple XML documents.

Finally, developers can use Groovy DSLs to code pipelines that continuously perform automated builds and tests. Pipelines help to ensure that critical fixes are released and application updates occur as soon as possible. In particular, Jenkins Pipeline offers a combination of plugins that use Groovy to simplify CI/CD processes.

Functional programming

At its core, Groovy is not a functional programming language. Rather, it offers functional programming to developers as one of several possible programming options. But the elegant, direct style attributed to functional programming's declarative approach is the perfect antidote for an increase of asynchronous applications within an organization's software environment.

Developers must be able to sequence, chain and transform asynchronous operations -- all key aspects of functional programming. And developers don't have to learn any new syntax to understand the functional approach in Groovy. It requires thinking about software construction in a way based on readability, testability and maintainability.

Runtime and compile-time meta-programming

Groovy supports meta-programming, wherein the program treats other programs as data, at runtime and at compile-time.

By manipulating programs as data, runtime meta-programming enables developers to solve design problems by adding new methods to classes.

Compile-time meta-programming means certain expressions are only computed once during compilation, effectively eliminating the need to perform those computations again at runtime.

Frameworks

Groovy has a rich set of frameworks for web applications, desktop applications, concurrency and testing. These frameworks include Grails, Spring Boot, Micronaut and Spock.

Grails is a full-stack web framework that provides a stand-alone environment and ensures high levels of productivity. It hides much of the configuration details, which enables developers to focus on coding by convention, also known as convention over configuration concept.

Spring Boot and Micronaut have also emerged as lightweight and efficient frameworks to build scalable applications with Groovy.

Finally, the Spock Framework offers a powerful testing alternative to standard Java frameworks like JUnit and TestNG.

Groovy programming is attractive to developers because its features are missing from Java. It fills gaps by supporting both object-oriented and functional programming styles, as well as imperative and declarative programming.

This was last published in May 2019

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