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Why is Lisp useful?
Is LISP still useful in today's world? Which version is most used?

First of all, let me clarify: I'm aware of Lisp's place in history, as well as in education. I'm asking about its place in practical application, as of 2011.

The question is: What features of Lisp make it the preferred choice for projects today? It's widely used in various AI areas as far as I know, and probably also elsewhere.

I can imagine projects choosing, for instance...

  • Python because of its concise, readable syntax and it being dynamic,
  • Haskell for being pure functional with a powerful type system,
  • Matlab/Octave for the focus on numerics and big standard libraries,


When should I consider Lisp the proper language for a given problem? What language features make it the preferred choice then? Is its "purity and generality" an advantage which makes it a better choice for some subset of projects than the modern languages?

edit-> On your demand, a little rephrase (or simply a tl;dr) to make this more specific:

a) What problems are solvable with Lisp much more easily than with more common, modern languages like Python or C# (or even F# or Scala)?

b) What language features specific for Lisp make it the best choice for those problems?

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marked as duplicate by Thomas Owens, Mark Trapp Nov 28 '11 at 15:37

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Have you seen: gigamonkeys.com/book It's a few years old now, but it focuses on modern, practical projects. I haven't read it myself :( but it's on my list! –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Nov 28 '11 at 15:06
What specific problem are you trying to solve here? As phrased this is just a poll and therefore not constructive. –  ChrisF Nov 28 '11 at 15:07
@ChrisF: It's not a poll in my opinion. He is looking for categories of problems which are more appropriate to solve with lisp. Not a list of specific examples where lisp could be used. There are so many similar questions on Programmers. –  Steven Jeuris Nov 28 '11 at 15:20
There is one unmatched property of Lisp: macros. –  SK-logic Nov 28 '11 at 15:23
Also see Why isn't LISP more widespread? Please do a search before asking questions; we get a variation of this question every few months and the answers are always the same: yes, people still use Lisp in 20nn and there is a well-defined set of use-cases for why people believe Lisp is the best tool for the job. –  user8 Nov 28 '11 at 15:44

1 Answer 1

Well, for example AutoLISP (AutoCAD's scripting flavour) is one of the more popular choices amongst AutoCAD's scripting languages, because it's been there for a long time, and VBA's future is uncertain.

Also, LISP's "encapsule everything" has some advantages when it comes to doing that sort of stuff (CAD drawing where everything is either an object or a property), IMHO.

Have no idea whether this answers your question.

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