Scripting languages are both fascinating and functional. Learning your first scripting language, or a new one, can help you get a new job or make more money at your current jobs on better projects. However, before you learn a new scripting language, it is best to learn about the different options and what each scripting language is used for. We’ve made a list of the top 10 scripting languages to know in 2021.
Definition of Scripting Languages
What Scripting Languages Are Used For
Scripting languages make coding easier and faster, and are used widely in web development. Scripting languages can also perform different actions within a particular runtime environment, like automating task execution, enhancing the functionality of parent software, performing configurations, extracting data from data sets, and more. They are also used for operating systems, statistical analysis software, office applications, game engines, and several other types of platforms.
How Scripting Languages Come About
What Scripting Means in Programming
Scripting is basically writing a series of commands that are interpreted one at a time by an application or scripting engine. The script guides the platform through what to do step by step, and the execution is performed by the runtime environment. This is why scripting languages are not the same as programming languages. There is a separate list of the best programming languages to learn in 2021.
What Are Not Scripting Languages
There are some coding languages that occasionally are called scripting languages, but you can’t actually script with them. These include:
- Markup languages like HTML and XML.
- Stylesheet languages like CSS, Sass, and LESS.
- Any kind of library or framework built on top of a scripting language, like jQuery, PostCSS, Django, and more.
- Languages that are compiled into a scripting language.
- Runtime environments for more than one scripting language
10 Scripting Languages to Know in 2021
Now that you know what scripting languages are (and aren’t), let’s go over the 13 top scripting languages that are relevant in 2021 because they are updated regularly and used in production. If you are ready to learn a new scripting language, these are the top choices to consider.
PHP is a general-purpose, open source scripting language used in backend web development. The acronym PHP stands for “Personal Home Page,” because PHP was originally designed to add dynamic functionalities to static HTML pages. Over time, it has evolved into a standalone scripting language. This scripting language is loosely typed, can be embedded into HTML documents, and has object-oriented features.
PHP can be executed on various HTTP servers like Apache and Nginx. The most common PHP server stacks are LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP), LEMP (Linux, Nginx, MySQL, PHP), WAMP (Windows, Apache, MySQL, PHP), and MAMP (macOS, Apache, MySQL, PHP.) It is also used by many CMS (content management systems) like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla, and web application frameworks. You can also utilize PHP for local WordPress development.
Python is most frequently used in machine learning, backend web development, data analytics, automation, scientific computing, and web scraping. The most popular Python implementation is CPython. Python also has other runtime environments, like PyPy.
Ruby is another open-source, general-purpose scripting language with an easy-to-read and compact syntax. It is often called one of the easiest programming languages to learn due to its principles of object-oriented programming and ability to let you write clean and logical code. Everything is an object in ruby, even types that are primates in other languages, like booleans and integers. Ruby also heavily uses object-oriented concepts like inheritance, mixins, and metaclasses. It supports both procedural and functional programming.
Ruby is typically used in backend web development and powers Ruby on Rails, which is used by Airbnb, Shopify, GitHub, and Hulu. Many popular web development tools are also written in Ruby.
Groovy is a flexible language written for the Java Virtual Machine, or JVM, that can be both a scripting and programming language. It is an open-source project maintained by the Apache Software Foundation. Groovy is another object-oriented language that supports both static and dynamic typing and has native support for lists, associative arrays, regular expressions, and markup languages like HTML and XML. Plus, you can use it along with existing Java libraries.
Groovy is used as a general-purpose programming language, like Java. But there are so many implementations of Groovy that you can use it as a scripting language.
Perl is a general-purpose scripting language that has been in existence since way back in 1987. It was created as a UNIX scripting language for report processing, and its name stands for “Practical Extraction and Reporting Language.” It gained popularity in the 1990s when it was used widely for CGI (Common Gateway Interface) scripting, and it remains popular today.
Though Perl is not the number one most popular scripting language in 2021, it is used successfully in backend development. In addition to the CGI runtime environment, it also executes on the Apache and Nginx web servers. There are also some Perl web development frameworks. Perl is used by Amazon, IMDB, Booking.com, and the BBC iPlayer, as well as in network programming and system administration.
Lua is a fast and lightweight scripting language that is maintained by the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. In fact, “lua” means “moon” in Portuguese. It supports the procedural, object-oriented, and functional programming paradigms. It can be embedded easily into applications using its C API, and you can use Lua to extend existing applications written in C-based languages.
Lua is typically used to develop video games like Angry Birds, World of Warcraft, and Grim Fandango. It is also a popular choice for embedded devices like set-top boxes, instrument panels in cars, and IP cameras. Lua can also be used in web development. Wikipedia chose Lua as its template scripting language.
Bash is the name of a command-line interpreter (shell) for the GNU operating system and also its belonging scripting language. It is a replacement for the original UNIX Bourne shell (sh). It also has features from other shell scripting languages like command-line editing and command history. Bash can be used in interactive mode and scripting mode.
You can use Bash to make changes and perform various actions related to your operating system, like executing commands, carrying out tasks without using a graphical user interface, customizing and automating administrative tasks, connecting to a remote server, and more. Bash is the default shell for lots of Unix-based operating systems, and you can also run Bash scripts on Windows 10.
PowerShell was originally a command-line shell and scripting language solely for the Windows operating system. However, Microsoft has since open sourced and moved it to .NET Core, which creates applications for Windows, Linux, and macOS. PowerShell is now cross-platform and has been renamed from Windows PowerShell to PowerShell Core. It accepts and returns .NET objects instead of plain text, which allows new opportunities in task automation. PowerShell also has a compact syntax that makes it faster to work in the command line.
This scripting language is typically used for system administration, task automation, and configuration management. You can use it on Windows, Linux, macOS operating systems, and ARM devices.
R is a free and open source GNU project and an implementation of the S statistical computing language, which is not in active development anymore. It is a software environment scripting language that is used for statistical computing, data analysis, and graphical display. You can use it for various statistical techniques like classical statistical tests, clustering, time series analysis, linear and non-linear modeling and more. Keep in mind that R’s syntax is different than many scripting languages and it features some unusual elements.
R is cross-platform and you can run it on Windows, Linux, and macOS operating systems.
Choose the Right Scripting Language for You
You might want to learn a scripting language if you are angling for a new job or if you want to teach your kids how to program. If you are ready to learn a scripting language in 2021, it is a good idea to check out the popularity of each on GitHub or the TIOBE index. Then, choose the right one for you!
- What is a scripting language?
- What are scripting languages used for?
- Which scripting languages are important to know in 2021?
- What is the difference between a scripting language and a programming language?
- Which is the best scripting language for beginners?