What Makes Roku Brightscript a Powerful Scripting Language

Olivia Witkowski
Apr 29, 2017 · 3 min read
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Image Source: techcrunch.com

Developing compelling and powerful applications for streaming devices isn’t child’s play. At Float Left Interactive, we develop apps for Roku devices by using the Roku SDK, which includes the Brightscript scripting language. We strategically combine built-in features with our custom SceneGraph components for the best results.

The average consumer expects a smooth and engaging experience. Content is king, but user experience (UX) is equally important because viewers will turn away from must-see content if the app underperforms. Too often the cause of diminished user experience is inexperience on the app developers part. In fact, fully understanding the Roku SDK goes a long way towards building robust, high-performance Roku applications.

We’ll take a look at what makes Roku Brightscript such a powerful scripting language and shed some light on some pros and cons.

Part And Parcel Of The Roku SDK

Brightscript was created for Roku’s BrightSign line of products but is now the key component of the Roku SDK (Software Development Kit). Roku Streaming Devices are built and optimized to use Brightscript, which streamlines the development process which maximizes the utilization of the Roku hardware.

However, there are a few notable drawbacks to this platform. While Roku products make up a sizeable chunk of the total streaming device market, the Brightscript developer community is relatively small compared to iOS and Android, and their official documentation leaves room for improvement. The Roku Corporation has taken steps to minimizing these limitations by sunsetting the old standard visual components and increasing the frequency of posts on the Roku Developer Blog since the beginning of last year.

Easy And Quick Implementation

Time is an incredibly valuable and limited resource for everyone, including app developers and engineers. There’s no point in squandering time with cumbersome programming languages and APIs when more efficient alternatives are available.

Brightscript is quick to implement, allowing developers to focus on both media and networked applications for embedded devices. Brightscript is an interpreted language, which means that code is executed at runtime, rather than through compiled object files. In theory, running and testing Brightscript programs is less time-consuming.

Written In C But Easy As Basic

Roku devices are embedded systems which run a heavily modified version of Linux as it’s operating system, called Roku OS. Brightscript Components are written exclusively in C, which is an incredibly powerful, fast, efficient and portable programming language.

But, developers do not require any knowledge of Linux or C to build Roku apps. In fact, Brightscript’s syntax is closer to Basic or Lua, with XML defining the various Roku SceneGraph components. This feature makes Brightscript an incredibly accessible language for most programmers.

Making The Most Of A Non-Cross-Platform Scripting Language

Brightscript is a feature-rich scripting language that boasts a vast library and optimized to take advantage of Roku’s embedded devices. But since it’s the only option available for anyone wanting to launch on Roku, there are a few drawbacks. Documentation, support, updates, and small community size does hinder both the SDK and Brightscript development. Built-in Brightscript components may need to be supplemented with tailor-made solutions to make the most of the Brightscript language.

Originally published at floatleft.tv on April 28, 2017.

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