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Google's JavaScript challenger gains better tools, performance

Dart enters beta with beefed up editor, compiler

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Hot on the heels of Microsoft's latest TypeScript release, Google has shipped the first beta SDK for Dart, its own JavaScript killer alternative web language, including bug fixes, performance enhancements, and an improved editor.

Like TypeScript, Dart is a language aimed at making it easier to develop large, complex web applications that are efficient, secure, and maintainable. It compiles into JavaScript, so it can run in any modern web browser, but its syntax is designed to ameliorate some of JavaScript's more glaring flaws.

With the beta release, the Dart compiler produces JavaScript code that is up to 3.7 times smaller than that produced by earlier versions, according to a blog post announcing the update. The compiler also runs between 8 and 20 per cent faster when tested against benchmark code.

Performance of the Dart VM – a standalone virtual machine that can execute Dart code natively - without compiling it into JavaScript – has also been improved. The new version includes full SIMD acceleration, and can execute benchmark code as much as 40 per cent faster than previous releases.

Some of the biggest improvements in the beta, however, are to the Dart Editor. The new version features a rewritten code analysis engine that can parse code and locate potential problems 20 per cent faster than before.

The beta editor includes a number of new code refactoring options and new "quick fixes" for automatically resolving code issues. It also features new code completion options, such as the ability to detect "camel case" – so you can type "gN" and the editor will guess that you want a method called "getNext," for example.

In addition, a new "pub deploy" command pulls together all of an application's code and assets and packages them into a directory for easy deployment to a web server.

The Dart team has made a number of other tweaks and enhancements to the language's libraries and tools, too – for a complete list, check out the formal release notes here.

This first beta brings the Dart language that much closer to a formal release, but as for when we can expect Dart 1.0, there's still no word. Google has hinted a few times that it plans to finalize the first release sometime around this summer, but as with so many projects from the Chocolate Factory, it hasn't firmly committed to any timeline.

Dart is open source software released under the BSD License. The beta Dart SDK, tools, documentation, and code samples can all be found at the project's homepage. ®

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