Almost all implementations provide a traditional Lisp-style read–eval–print loop for development and debugging. Many also compile Scheme programs to executable binary. Support for embedding Scheme code in programs written in other languages is also common, as the relative simplicity of Scheme implementations makes it a popular choice for adding scripting capabilities to larger systems developed in languages such as C. The Gambit, Chicken, and Bigloo Scheme interpreters compile Scheme to C, which makes embedding particularly easy. In addition, Bigloo's compiler can be configured to generate JVM bytecode, and it also features an experimental bytecode generator for .NET.
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Because of Scheme's minimalism, many common procedures and syntactic forms are not defined by the standard. In order to keep the core language small but facilitate standardization of extensions, the Scheme community has a "Scheme Request for Implementation" (SRFI) process by which extension libraries are defined through careful discussion of extension proposals. This promotes code portability. Many of the SRFIs are supported by all or most Scheme implementations.
The R6RS standard has caused controversy because it is seen to have departed from the minimalist philosophy. In August 2009, the Scheme Steering Committee, which oversees the standardization process, announced its intention to recommend splitting Scheme into two languages: a large modern programming language for programmers; and a small version, a subset of the large version retaining the minimalism praised by educators and casual implementors. Two working groups were created to work on these two new versions of Scheme. The Scheme Reports Process site has links to the working groups' charters, public discussions and issue tracking system.
Implementations of the hygienic macro system, also called syntax-rules, are required to respect the lexical scoping of the rest of the language. This is assured by special naming and scoping rules for macro expansion and avoids common programming errors that can occur in the macro systems of other programming languages. R6RS specifies a more sophisticated transformation system, syntax-case, which has been available as a language extension to R5RS Scheme for some time.
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Like most modern programming languages and unlike earlier Lisps such as Maclisp, Scheme is lexically scoped: all possible variable bindings in a program unit can be analyzed by reading the text of the program unit without consideration of the contexts in which it may be called. This contrasts with dynamic scoping which was characteristic of early Lisp dialects, because of the processing costs associated with the primitive textual substitution methods used to implement lexical scoping algorithms in compilers and interpreters of the day. In those Lisps, it was perfectly possible for a reference to a free variable inside a procedure to refer to quite distinct bindings external to the procedure, depending on the context of the call.
Scheme is widely used by a number of schools; in particular, a number of introductory Computer Science courses use Scheme in conjunction with the textbook Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (SICP). For the past 12 years, PLT has run the ProgramByDesign (formerly TeachScheme!) project, which has exposed close to 600 high school teachers and thousands of high school students to rudimentary Scheme programming. MIT's old introductory programming class 6.001 was taught in Scheme, Although 6.001 has been replaced by more modern courses, SICP continues to be taught at MIT. The textbook How to Design Programs by Matthias Felleisen, currently at Northeastern University, is used by some institutes of higher education for their introductory computer science courses. Both Northeastern University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute use Scheme exclusively for their introductory courses Fundamentals of Computer Science (CS2500) and Introduction to Program Design (CS1101), respectively. Rose-Hulman uses Scheme in its more advanced Programming Language Concepts course. Indiana University's introductory class, C211, is taught entirely in Scheme. The introductory class at UC Berkeley, CS 61A, was until 2015 taught entirely in Scheme, save minor diversions into Logo to demonstrate dynamic scope; all course materials, including lecture webcasts, are available online free of charge. A self-paced version of the course, CS 61AS, continues to use Scheme. The introductory computer science courses at Yale and Grinnell College are also taught in Scheme. Programming Design Paradigms, a mandatory course for the Computer science Graduate Students at Northeastern University, also extensively uses Scheme. The introductory Computer Science course at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, CSCI 1901, also uses Scheme as its primary language, followed by a course that introduces students to the Java programming language. In the software industry, Tata Consultancy Services, Asia's largest software consultancy firm, uses Scheme in their month-long training program for fresh college graduates.
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Up to the R5RS standard, the standard comment in Scheme was a semicolon, which makes the rest of the line invisible to Scheme. Numerous implementations have supported alternative conventions permitting comments to extend for more than a single line, and the R6RS standard permits two of them: an entire s-expression may be turned into a comment (or "commented out") by preceding it with #; (introduced in SRFI 62) and a multiline comment or "block comment" may be produced by surrounding text with #| and |#.
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R5RS resolves this confusion by specifying three procedures that return environments and providing a procedure eval that takes an s-expression and an environment and evaluates the expression in the environment provided. (R5RS sec. 6.5) R6RS extends this by providing a procedure called environment by which the programmer can specify exactly which objects to import into the evaluation environment.
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