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Here's a word I see often on StackOverflow, "programatically."

Used to indicate that a programmer intends to do something within the code of a program, rather than through user interaction.

For example, "a user can check a checkbox on a form, but a programmer may also do it programatically."

Since this word isn't in the dictionary, I assume it to be either incorrect to use it at all, or this is a new word that's essentially slang.

Is there a better alternative?

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I doubt there's a "better" alternative, as it is a term which is widely accepted and understood. Don't know if there's a more correct alternative though. 'Automatically' is probably the closest. –  falstro Feb 11 '11 at 17:33
Programatically is not listed in the dictionary I have, which reports programmatically that doesn't have the meaning you reported, though. –  kiamlaluno Feb 11 '11 at 17:33
@kiam; en.wiktionary.org/wiki/programatically =) –  falstro Feb 11 '11 at 17:35
I would call it jargon rather than slang. The word has a certain set of connotations to a programmer writing test code that the dictionary definition doesn't capture, but those connotations don't really apply to any other context. –  Erik Johnson Feb 12 '11 at 0:00
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6 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

"Programatic" is a misspelling of "programmatic", which is in the dictionary. Your understanding of the technical usage is correct, and is slightly different than the common, dictionary definition.

I think the only reasonable alternative would be "automatically", since the programmer is automating the process, but this use is clearly inferior (at least to this programmer's ears) to "programmatically".

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I don't think automatically is a reasonable alternative. "Via code", "in code", "using code", or "in this program" fit better. –  Zoot Feb 11 '11 at 18:55
Given that a computer program and a concert programme have different spellings (in British English at least), it's arguable that spelling programatically with a single m is valid when you mean "using a computer program". –  toryan Jul 27 '13 at 23:29
I'm with Zoot. "Automatically" has connotations of an event always happening if a triggering condition is met, whereas "Programmatically" has connotations that the event will happen if the program dictates that it should. There's quite a lot of overlap, but connotations are useful. –  user867 Jul 29 '13 at 4:30
I agree with both of you. But once you rule out more technical language like "via code", you're stuck to something more comprehensible to the layman like "automatically". If I were talking to another programmer, I would always say "programmatically". –  Chris B. Behrens Jul 29 '13 at 14:11
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If we restrict ourselves to circumlocutions to avoid constructing useful and sensible words, then communication may well be impaired. In the case of "programmatically", I wouldn't even say that one has coined a new word. To anyone who understands the concept of using program code to achieve a particular result, the words "programmatic" and "programmatically" seem to me to be rather obvious constructions.

As a programmer, I have great respect for official documentation. In this case, however, I would say that the official documentation is incomplete, out of date, or has been misinterpreted.

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+1 Technically as well as from language point of view, the most appropriate answer. –  Kris Jul 29 '13 at 6:34
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The NOAD lists programmatic, and it reports it means of the nature of or according to a program, schedule, or method; one of the derivates reported by the dictionary is programmatically.

As alternative of programmatically, I can think of by (using a) script , by code, or by scripting.

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It's "programmatically", not “programatically”. However, because many built-in word processor and web form dictionaries don't recognize the word, your misspelling is relatively common in the IT world.

As a Software Developer, I frequently use the word "programmatically" at work, both verbally and in writing. I consider it to be just as valid as "grammatically", but instead of meaning "using proper grammar", I mean to convey "using the proper programming syntax".

It does annoy me that the auto-correct of many dictionaries do not consider it to be a word. I ignore the warning, and if I am properly motivated, I take the time to add the word to the internal dictionary file that the program checks against.

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To the original question in the post, I think there is a better alternative, which is to restructure the sentence to something like "...a programmer may also do it in code." This is the usage I hear and read commonly; it's often used to distinguish between coding a system for some objective, or configuring the same system to accomplish that objective.

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Programmatic was coined as "according to a programme, but meaning bureaucratic, political,or administrative programme, not "a piece of code".

While discussing software programming, "programmatically" feels wrong, and to me it sounds at least redundant, like on a team of surgeons saying "how to perform a coronary by-pass medically?" or someone within a group of musicians asking "how to play Beethoven, musically?"

If we're talking about software we already are speaking about doing things with programs. One could ask "is there an API to do XYZ?" Or "how to do xyz from my code?"

I grew up reading USA programming magazines throughout the 1980s and 1990s and I dare anyone find me one occurrence of the word "programmatically" in Byte Magazine, for instance...

It wouldnt surprise me at all if the rise of usage of the word "programmatically" in software matches the years where software development started being outsourced to cheap India or China software factories.


PS:Ironically, nowadays MSFT Technet is full of this word that still rubs me the wrong way when applied to software

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You "perform a coronary by-pass surgically, not medically. :) And, relax, programmatically is as valid as grammatically and realistically. –  Kris Jul 29 '13 at 6:35
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