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In computer programming, a free-form language is a programming language in which the positioning of characters on the page in program text is insignificant. Program text does not need to be placed in specific columns[disambiguation needed] as on old punched card systems, and frequently ends of lines are insignificant. Whitespace characters are used only to delimit tokens, and have no other significance.
Most free-form languages descend from ALGOL, including C, Pascal, and Perl. Lisp languages are free-form, although they do not descend from ALGOL. REXX is mostly free-form, though in some cases whitespace characters are concatenation operators. SQL, though not a full programming language, is also free-form.
Most free-form languages are also structured programming languages, which is sometimes thought to go along with the free-form syntax: Earlier imperative programming languages such as Fortran 77 used particular columns for line numbers, which many structured languages don't use or need. Structured languages exist which are not free-form, such as ABC, Curry, Haskell, Python and others. Many of these use some variant of the off-side rule, in which indentation, rather than keywords or braces, is used to group blocks of code.
- Indent style
- Obfuscated code
- Curly bracket programming language - most free-form languages are within this set
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