Fortress Presentation

I've seen Fortress come upon the main page a few times, so I thought some people might be interested in a Fortress presentation by Guy Steele.

I imagine there is nothing new for people following the language, but for those, like myself, who don't, it makes for a nice overview. For instance, it explains how they are doing entry of that crazy mathematical notation.

I also found the explicit juxtaposition operator fascinating, though most likely I just haven't run across it's previous incarnations before.

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Getting Fortress

For anyone interested, I think it's worth a reminder that Fortress is available as open source, at (as mentioned on LtU a year ago).

I think they moved to

i think the latest Fortress can be found at


One very interesting thing that Steele says is that they plan to use HCI techniques to test their thoughts on syntax.

Syntactic issues seem to set people on fire even more than really important stuff like vi vs emacs. But when you get down to it, most arguments on syntax seem to boil down to either the gut feel from experts or the masses essentially arguing that familiar syntax = good syntax no matter what the semantics. In other words, you can get exactly the same arguments in any other discussion on interface design and the only cure is to build interface alternatives and test them empirically.

A quick search for "HCI" on LtU didn't give anything obviously relevant and a search for "syntax design" got me to a exactly the paragraph above. Do any LtUers know of any work on the use of HCI techniques for evaluating syntactic choices?

You might find the

You might find the discussion here relevant. Not directly syntax related, but an application of HCI methods none the less appears here.


Thanks Ehud, mining around in there gave Usability Issues in the Design of Novice Programming Systems which, while focused on the newbie programmer niche, did have a treasure trove of links to other work including both expert opinions and empirical studies.

Also of interest was this: Evaluating a New Programming Language about attempting to do usability studies for C#. The detailed conclusions aren't as interesting as the meta-conclusions about how hard it was to interpret the results.