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Date:      Sun, 18 Jan 2009 18:41:59 -0500
From:      Linda Messerschmidt <>
To:        freebsd-questions <>
Subject:   Embedded scripting language advice sought
Message-ID:  <>

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For a project I'm working on, I need to find an scripting language, and I
have a long wishlist:

- able to be "easily" embedded in a C++ application

- "real" object-oriented with inheritance (preferably multiple inheritance)

- able to implement object methods in C++ where needed

- "sandbox" operation (e.g. ability to suppress any file I/O & system
libraries, but keep math and string libraries)

- thread-safe, or, at least able to have multiple coexisting execution
contexts in one running process

- relatively user-friendly syntax (i.e. (not (lisp (based))))

- has to build and embed on FreeBSD

This is a mathematical model, and the goal is to write certain
high-performance parts in C++, but to provide the user a command-line style
interface where they can "explore" interactively, examine/tweak data values,
etc, and then override certain behavior by subclassing from the C++ base
classes using the scripting language to see how it affects the next model
iteration.  One thread is handling the model calculations, and one handles
the user's exploration, with appropriate synchronization when changes are
made.  (We are doing this already, but since the code is C++, only the data
can be edited while it's running and inspection is limited to our hacky

The obvious choice for this was Lua; it hits a lot of the marks, but not all
of them and not all well.  I got as far as creating a Lua "object" in C++
that exposes some core functionality, which is great, but when it comes to
inheritance, and especially multiple inheritance, Lua's object model wasn't
thrilling me.  Also, it uses setjmp for error handling, which I'm worried
will mess around with C++ exceptions; they are already fragile enough in
threaded applications.

I do like Lua, but I'd really rather find an embedded scripting language
designed from the start to support OO, if one exists.  Are there other
alternatives I should look at?   Lua is to C as ______ is to C++?

I tried to give Guile a look but a quick poll of the users vetoed the
syntax.  Lua is clearly ahead in the user-friendly department.

I also wondered if Python would be a good choice, but I'm just not sure
about how well it handles having new code generated more or less on the fly
in the middle of a running application.  I somewhat suspect that if it were
done in Python, it would end up being a Python app with C++ add-ins, rather
than a C++ app with an embedded scripting language.  That isn't a
deal-breaker, of course, as long as it works; results matter.  That's not
exactly "lightweight" though, and I'm not sure if (or how) Python sandboxes.

One last "wouldn't it be nice" wish...  If the user creates something they
particularly like on the fly, compositing up an object a piece at a time on
the command line, it would be just grand if the scripting language were able
to reproduce a class definition for that arbitrary object that could be
saved or tweaked for later reference and reuse.  If not, we'll just have to
abstract the editing process enough to keep one ourselves, which would
probably be a bit user-unfriendly but hardly the end of the world.

But with a wishlist this long and exotic, I'm afraid the question here is
not whether something can do it all, but how disappointed I'm going to be.

I'm grateful for any language suggestions or feedback.  Is Lua as close as
we can get?  Python?  Other?!



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