AdaCore, a commercially focused Ada programming language company, recently announced the availability of its Gnat Pro 7.0 development environment product with support for the upcoming Ada 2012 language revision.
The new Gnat will feature improvements based on user suggestions and supports several new platforms. It also includes a new testing tool (GNATtest) and sits alongside the rest of the firm's Freely-Licensed Open Source Software (FLOSS).
NOTE: The WG9 committee, after discussions with the ARG and with members of the Ada community, has instructed the ARG to complete the Amendment to Ada 2005 so that ISO standardization of the new version can be completed by 2012.
"It is interesting to compare this latest Gnat Pro release to the first ones, 15 years ago," commented Cyrille Comar, MD of AdaCore's European arm. "It used to consist of a bare Ada 95 compiler for a few native platforms. Now we offer a modern, comprehensive development environment and toolset dedicated to the sound software engineering of long-lived, highly-reliable systems, including those with strong safety requirements."
AdaCore's US chief Robert Dewar has suggested that the Ada programming language is reaching the final stages of a major revision. The new Ada 2012 standard will be sent to ISO (International Organization for Standardization) for ratification and to analyze its capabilities in terms of reliability, safety, and security.
The most important enhancements relate to the concept of "contract-based programming" and the introduction of more powerful assertion mechanisms in the language, such as pre- and post-conditions for subprograms, global assertions, and type invariants, encourage programmers to better specify the meaning of their code, and allow runtime verification to guarantee that their intent is, in fact, obeyed.
NOTE: Microsoft's much-revered Larry Osterman used his space on the MSDN pages to write the following on the contract-based approach:
"A function's software contract, simply put, defines the behavior of a function. It allows the caller of a function to know what the function does, how it fails, and (in general) what happens when the function executes. Contracts can be both explicit and implicit — an explicit contract is expressed directly. A function's explicit contract is embodied in many forms, and is expressed in different places. It's embodied in the documentation of the function (either in official published documentation or just in the comments in the function header). It can be embodied in annotations applied to the function definition. It can be embodied in the names of the parameters to a function. And some contracts are expressed by some well-known conventions."