Understanding Domain-Specific Languages

Massimo Caliman
2 min readAug 8, 2023
Photo by Andrea De Santis on Unsplash

Due to my passion for various programming paradigms, I first became interested in DSLs back in 1999. A Domain Specific Language (DSL) is a programming language specialized for a particular application domain. This means that it has been designed to solve specific problems in a certain field, as opposed to a general-purpose programming language (GPL), which can be used across a wide range of domains.

There are many examples of DSLs, some of which are widely used and applied in various industries. For instance, HTML and SQL.

Using a DSL can bring many benefits. Firstly, it allows for clearer and more direct expression of problems and solutions, thanks to the use of domain-specific concepts and rules. Additionally, it can increase work efficiency, as not everything has to be done manually and some repetitive operations can be automated. Finally, using a DSL can improve the quality of the final product by reducing the number of errors and increasing the maintainability of the code.

I wrote my first DSL in 2000 to make a management system more flexible. The system was designed to manage payroll and, in particular, the overtime of employees in a company. I had written the management system in Java and used the Interpreter design pattern]. Today, for tasks like this, we can use more advanced tools such as ANTLR (ANother Tool for Language Recognition).

Recently, two websites have become my go-to resources for information on DSLs:

https://tomassetti.me and https://strumenta.com. These sites offer a wealth of information on the subject, including articles, tutorials, and other resources. I highly recommend checking them out if you’re interested in learning more about DSLs.

You can find this post and others on my blog: trueprogramming.com