Python's biggest compromises

John J. Lee jjl at
Thu Jul 31 19:34:09 CEST 2003

"John Roth" <newsgroups at> writes:
> That said, I've come to the conclusion that the editor should take
> care of these things for you. If you prefer a brace free notation,
> you should be able to tell your editor to present the program to you
> that way. If you prefer braces, then it should be able do that for
> you as well. That kind of stylistic thing doesn't belong in the
> language.

100% agreed: once-and-only-once dictates this.  Manually maintaining
both braces and indentation (as in C, with some editors) is Just Plain
Bad for this reason.

> In fact, if I didn't have to deal with the braces, I think I'd come
> around to the view that the text should have them. Explicit is
> better than implicit,

At least in the absence of proper research results, I think this part
of it *is* religious.  To some people, it's obvious that whitespace is
better on the eyes.  To others, it's obvious that whitespace + braces
is better on the eyes.  One group may well be wrong <0.5 wink>.

This argument (that braces are another visual cue which make code
easier to read -- provided that they're automatically maintained in
sync with the indentation), is the only argument against
pure-whitespace that has ever made any sense to me.  Irrespective of
whether you pick whitespace or braces as the thing the compiler takes
notice of, though, the optimal solution probably still involves an
editor that supports showing/hiding braces, so the syntax is
(theoretically!) a non-issue.  In practice, editors don't seem to
currently support showing and hiding braces automatically.  At least
editors do get you out of most mistakes caused by brace-y languages.

Of course, whitespace *is* still superior because the storage format
doesn't duplicate state -- so people with poor editors can't produce
ambiguous code :-) (remember code can be ambiguous to *people* even if
it isn't to a compiler).  OTOH, *Python's* scheme is inferior to a
pure-space-character indentation scheme because off the tab-vs.-space
issue :-(

> and there are a few things that the
> automatic indentation makes rather difficult in the design area.

What are those things??


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