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Choosing a Scripting Language on NetWare

Articles and Tips: article

Venkat Raghavan S
Senior Software Engineer
Novell Applications Group

01 Aug 2000

This AppNote takes a look at the scripting languages available on NetWare: Novell Script for NetWare, Perl 5, and ScriptEase, comparing the various features included in each language.

What's the Hullaballoo About Scripting?

The Net has transformed so many things in the world. Some people envision an age when software would not need to be written, when IS Managers would be able to download required components from the Net and "assemble" them to get the software of their choice. Software development is already headed in that direction, with component technologies gaining momentum.

Today, the easiest way to build software using components is to use scripting languages. Scripting languages power Web sites, spice up Web pages, and even help in proliferation of viruses! There is a whole new genre of developers working with scripting languages, because they:

  • are easy to learn and use

  • allow quick development of applications

  • dramatically reduce cost of development

Novell has bundled one or more scripting languages with NetWare, right from the 4.x days and delivered some others through the Novell Developer Kit (NDK). But with NetWare 5.1 being positioned as a Web server platform, it was essential to provide a choice of scripting language for the developer. So, we had Novell Script for NetWare (NSN), Perl 5 for NetWare and ScriptEase for NetWare, along with good old NetBasic.

Three Aces and a Joker

Novell Script for NetWare (NSN) is the new avatar of NetBasic, which still gets bundled with NetWare.

  • It is 100% VBScript compatible, with a few features of VBA also thrown in.

  • It allows compiled scripts for secure distribution and better performance.

  • It comes with a whole range of UCX (Universal Component eXtension) components, which cover NetWare services and mimic FrontPage compatible server-side ActiveX controls, among other things.

Perl 5 for NetWare is the port of the leading CGI scripting language.

  • It is the port of the 5.003 version, with the 5.(00)6 version slated to follow soon.

  • It includes all standard modules, including DBI.

ScriptEase for NetWare is the JavaScript clone from Nombas Inc.

  • It is 100% ECMAScript compliant. It is also based on C script.

  • It includes a set of extensions and utility libraries, including C kind of functions.

  • It has a unique remote debugging facility.

Universal Component System (UCS) is the glue that binds these scripting languages with the world of components, which includes Java classes and Beans, ActiveX controls and UCX components. UCS extends the freedom of the script developer to a choice of components too. For more details, refer to the NDK page on UCS (

Clash of the Titans

It was not a pleasant situation when the only option to develop on NetWare was NLM programming, using C/C++. But now, when a range of scripting languages is available, there is room for confusion. This section attempts to clear up the confusion.

Before we analyze point-by-point, take a look at the comparison table below.










Server Console




Support Modules

Native UCX components covering NetWare services, Web publishing services and others

Standard modules covering a variety of utility functions

Libraries and extensions covering basic utility functions


Built-in server-based debugger

Built-in server-based debugger

Remote debugger

Directory Access

Yes - NWDir UCX component

Yes - NWDir UCX component or JavaBean

Yes - NWDir UCX component or JavaBean

Database Access

Yes - NDO UCX component

Yes - DBI module, NDO UCX component

Yes - SEDBC extension, NDO UCX component

Works with ASP?

Yes - default language of NSP

Partially - does not support ASP components

Partially - does not support ASP components

HTML Support

Yes - Document UCX component

Yes - CGI module

Yes - tinyhtml.jsh


Yes - uses a project file


Yes - straightforward

String Matching

Primitive built-in functions

Powerful built-in regular expression syntax

RegExp extension





C/C++/Java interfacing

Yes - can call into NLMs

Yes - can access C/C++ libraries using SWIG; also can be embedded into C/C++/Java programs

Yes - can call into NLMs using built-in objects

Open Source




Target Users

5 million VB users

1million Perl users

JavaScript users - estimates not available


The basic features of all the languages are more or less the same, with CGI, shell, and console-based interfaces. Perl does not have a shell, which is the case on other platforms too. So, Perl programmers would not feel particularly handicapped.

Support Modules

  • NSN has the clear edge here since all NetWare services are wrapped up as UCX components. So, NSN is probably the easy way to go if you are interested in programming on NetWare. There is another set of components which mimic FrontPage compatible ActiveX server-side controls like Ad Rotator and Page Counter.

  • Perl includes a wide variety of utility modules ranging from Socket to Math.

  • ScriptEase scores with C kind of functions like printf and getch.


While NSN and Perl have a built-in debugger, ScriptEase provides a client- based debugger, the obvious advantage of which is debugging scripts on remote servers.

NSN is still better than Perl, since it gives a window-based interface.

Directory and Database Access

NDS is one of Novell's key products and a lot of people are interested in programming to it. Scripting simplifies this task by allowing use of the NWDir UCX component (as shown in the code snippets below) or the NWDir JavaBean. Similarly, there is the NDO UCX component for accessing databases. NSN has the advantage of having UCX components as native, whereas the other languages have to use it through UCS. For database, however, Perl and ScriptEase have their own arrangements.


Set Nds1 = CreateObject("UCX:NWDIR")
 Nds1.Login("admin", "novell")
 Print ("Full Name: " 
 Set Entries = Nds1.Entries
 Print ("Entry List:")
 Entries.Reset ()
 While (Entries.Hasmoreelements())
             Set Entry = entries.Next()
              Print (Entry.ShortName)
 Nds1.Logout ()


use UCSExt;
 $nds1 = UCSExt-
 $fullname = $nds1-
 print "Full Name: $fullname \n";
 $entries = $nds1-
 print "Entry List:\n";
         $entry = $entries-
       print $entry-
{"shortName"} . "\n";


#link "ucsjs"
 var nds1 = CreateObject("UCX:NWDIR");
 nds1.login("username", "password");
 Clib.printf("Full Name: %s\n",nds1.fullname);
 var entries = nds1.entries
 Clib.printf("Entry List:\n");
              var Entry = entries.Next();


Active Server Pages (ASP) technology from Microsoft has carved its own niche in the server-side scripting arena. Novell provides Novell Script Pages (NSP) which clones ASP. Since NSN is VBScript compatible, it is natural that NSN is the default language of NSP. Perl and ScriptEase do not have the luxury of the built-in ASP components like Server, Request, and Response; but can still be used with NSP.

HTML Support

All the languages provide some form of HTML support. Perl has a very mature implementation, but the same cannot be said about the other two.


NSN and ScriptEase provide a pseudo-compiler, which converts scripts into a binary form, but require the respective interpreters for execution. The advantage is a preservation of source code and slightly quicker execution. But compiling NSN scripts is a bit cumbersome involving project files, whereas it is straightforward in ScriptEase.

String Matching

If we consider each aspect of our analysis as an award, this one has been instituted just so that we can give it away to Perl! Perl's powerful regular expresion syntax beats all the rest hands down. ScriptEase tries to make up with a RegExp object, while NSN is content with basic functions.


ScriptEase and Perl follow today's norm of providing for the object paradigm, but the former's implementation is a bit cumbersome. NSN does not support objects by itself, although UCX components are instantiated as objects.

C / C++ / Java Interfacing

  • NSN requires a small declaration indicating which function and which NLM you would access.

  • Perl provides SWIG to access C/C++ libraries. It can also be embedded into C/C++ and Java programs and compiled.

  • ScriptEase also permits calling into NLMs using the built-in function.

Target Users

  • NSN aims to tap into the 5 million strong pool of Visual Basic / VBScript programmers.

  • Perl is provided on NetWare to attract the 1 million strong community, most of whom are in Unix environments.

  • ScriptEase is for the unestimated millions of JavaScript programmers, mostly on the client-side.


Perl is reportedly the fastest on NetWare. ScriptEase follows close behind.


This analysis shows that no particular language stands apart from the rest. Each of them has its own advantages and disadvantages.

If you are a JavaScript fan, you'll be inclined to use ScriptEase. If you're moving from NT onto NetWare, NSN would be the best bet. If you feel that Perl is "practical rather than beautiful," you might want to stick to it.

No matter which scripting language you choose on NetWare, you get more or less the same features. But some language might be more suitable for a particular kind of application. Ultimately, it boils down to your preferred scripting language and the nature of your application.

Clever of me to throw the ball back into your court, eh?


Here are some references for further information:

  • Perl Mongers

  • Microsoft Scripting Technologies

  • Web Developer's Virtual Library

  • ScriptEase Desktop Edition

  • ScriptEase Web Server Edition

* Originally published in Novell AppNotes


The origin of this information may be internal or external to Novell. While Novell makes all reasonable efforts to verify this information, Novell does not make explicit or implied claims to its validity.

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