Apple just launched a new open-source programming language

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Gorodenkoff)

Apple has released Pkl, a new open source ‘embeddable configuration language’, hoping to take the stress out of ‘small to large, simple to complex, ad-hoc to repetitive configuration tasks’.

Launched on February 1 2024 into version 0.25, the tech giant’s team have provided a quick tour of the language in a text post on the Pkl documentation website.

Per that tour, Pkl is designed around a key value structure, in a manner akin to JSON, rather than imperative instructions like many other traditional programming languages, Apple has designed Pkl to specialise in configuration, along with a few neat quality-of-life features to turn heads. Indeed, Pkl supports JSON, XML, and YAML property lists at launch to generate static configuration files.

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But wait, there’s more

However, Pkl wants to be more than just a helping hand in your configuration pipeline, and claims that Pkl can stand on its own as a ‘safe, easy, and enjoyable to use’ configuration library. Although it’s only been four days, at time of writing, since Pkl’s first version release, language support is available for Java, Kotlin, Swift and Go, with more, with any luck, on the way.

“In the future, we hope to add support for other popular languages and platforms, realizing our vision of a polyglot config solution based on a single config language.”

Apple seem very excited about something so very niche, but good for them, I suppose. It does seem like a novel way of setting out a programming language, so even if we’re not talking about Pkl in however many years the same way we do Python (which you should learn, actually, as it’s surprisingly down to Earth and very versatile), we can at least note here, now, that it’s a creative solution to what I’m sure is someone somewhere's problem.

Hello, Apple marketing department, can you hear me?

Yes, okay, this is very niche stuff, but for anything to be successful, it’s helpful to have a unique name or acronym. ‘Pkl’ is cute, we all like pickles, and, to be fair, it’s easily memorable on that basis. But will something this niche ever supplant the dreaded Google SEO for the Pro Kabaddi League, or a place in the UK that will do up your kitchen? Only time will tell.

So far, only searching ‘pkl apple’, which I only knew to do because this story was there in our news list when I staggered in this morning, gets you the one we’ve all been waiting for: the Github page for the language, containing a link to the relevant documentation for getting started with the Pkl command line interface, available on macOS, Linux, Alpine Linux, and Java.

While Java will ensure multi-platform support, this comes with caveats: it ‘requires a Java 8 (or higher) runtime on the system path, has a noticeable startup delay, and runs complex Pkl code slower than the native executables.’

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Luke Hughes
Staff Writer

 Luke Hughes holds the role of Staff Writer at TechRadar Pro, producing news, features and deals content across topics ranging from computing to cloud services, cybersecurity, data privacy and business software.