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Language Workbenches (LWs) are software engineering tools that help domain experts develop solutions to various classes of problems. Some of these tools focus on non-technical users and provide languages to help organize knowledge while other workbenches provide means to create new programming languages. A key advantage of language workbenches is that they support the seamless composition of independently developed languages. This capability is useful when developing programs that can benefit from different levels of abstraction. We reasoned that language workbenches could be useful to develop bioinformatics software solutions. In order to evaluate the potential of language workbenches in bioinformatics, we tested a prominent workbench by developing an alternative to shell scripting. To illustrate what LWs and Language Composition can bring to bioinformatics, we report on our design and development of NYoSh (Not Your ordinary Shell). NYoSh was implemented as a collection of languages that can be composed to write programs as expressive and concise as shell scripts. This manuscript offers a concrete illustration of the advantages and current minor drawbacks of using the MPS LW. For instance, we found that we could implement an environment-aware editor for NYoSh that can assist the programmers when developing scripts for specific execution environments. This editor further provides semantic error detection and can be compiled interactively with an automatic build and deployment system. In contrast to shell scripts, NYoSh scripts can be written in a modern development environment, supporting context dependent intentions and can be extended seamlessly by end-users with new abstractions and language constructs. We further illustrate language extension and composition with LWs by presenting a tight integration of NYoSh scripts with the GobyWeb system. The NYoSh Workbench prototype, which implements a fully featured integrated development environment for NYoSh is distributed at http://nyosh.campagnelab.org .
Version 2, formatted for PeerJ Submission. Typos fixed, references and clarifications added.13 pages, 9 figures. Supplementary material: 4 generated source listings. Comment on this manuscript on Twitter or Google+ with this handle: #NYoSh
Source Files Generated from NYoSh script show in Figure 8
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