Syntactic sugar is everything

Now that I’m playing around with Java again, I notice how I really like some of the design decisions in C#. For example, C# supports so-called properties, which just syntactic sugar for getter and setter methods.
I know some people think that “syntactic sugar” is not really useful in this age of modern IDEs and code completion, some even think it’s a bad thing because it hides implementation details. But then…

If, in Java, you want to please the gods of object orientation and encapsulate your fields, you use getter and setter methods. It’s not even a lot of work, I just tell my IDE to “encapsulate fields”, and it creates all those tiny ugly methods for me. Incrementing a value on an object will be a simple matter of something like:

mycoolobject.setSomeVariable(mycoolobject.getSomeVariable() + 1)

You can see exactly what’s going on, but it’s just plain ugly. In C#, using properties, you can do the same thing with

myCoolObject.SomeVariable += 1

This looks like a petty difference, but it makes your code much more conscise. You immediately see what I’m going to do. This also goes for things like the foreach loop or the using construct. I really like if I can express my ideas in code, instead of expressing the syntactic limitations of the language. I hope I’ll find some time to try out Ruby…
My other gripe with Java are the checked exceptions. I just wanted to write a simple application for fun, and don’t get bogged down with every possible error condition. In another language, I would just allow the exceptions to fall through. If there was an error, my application would fail early, and everything would be fine.

In Java, I’ll just select a menu item that reads “surround with try-catch”, which catches each exception type seperately and prints a stack trace. (The very existence of this feature is an indication of the problem.) If an exception is thrown, I will probably never know. I could also automatically add throw clauses, but the truth is it would still be a major hassle. I get nagged about error conditions which I don’t care about. And the only easy way around this prevents the application to fail early if there really is a problem.


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