When comparing Scheme vs Racket, the Slant community recommends Racket for most people. In the question“What is the best programming language to learn first?” Racket is ranked 2nd while Scheme is ranked 6th. The most important reason people chose Racket is:
Racket is based on Scheme (LISP Family) and is very similar to Clojure. So there are a ton of (). The reason it is easier to learn is that it is not trying to be "Pure" if there is even such a thing in terms of Functional Programming. The great thing about Racket is it has everything included. You get DrRacket for developing programs. You want to add a picture to your software you can insert pictures. If you want to add libraries just open the package manager. The Syntax is an opinion but it really does feel easier to see what is happening since everything is in brackets) Racket is a really a Programming Language for making Programming Languages. So there are smaller syntax Racket called Student Racket which makes things easier to pick up.
Ranked in these QuestionsQuestion Ranking
Pro Simple syntax
Scheme syntax is extremely regular and easy to pick up. A formal specification of the syntax fits onto just a few pages; it can be introduced informally in a paragraph or two. Students are not distracted by remembering how to write if statements or loops or even operator precedence because every syntactic follows the same pattern.
Ultimately, everything looks something like this:
(func a b c)
This includes not only user-defined functions but even control flow:
(if cond then-clause else-clause)
or even primitive operations like
(define foo 10) (set! foo 11)
This means that nothing really has special syntactic treatment in the language. There are essentially no weird edge-cases to memorize, and different concepts are given a more equal weight in the language. (Unlike Algol-like languages which tend to given undue weight to loops and assignment statements, for example.)
Pro No Magic - it's clear how everything works
Scheme has far less built into the language itself, helping students see that things like OOP are not magical: they are just patterns for organizing code. Everything in Scheme is built up from a very small set of primitives which compose in a natural and intuitive fashion.
Having a language that does not accord many things special status helps keep students open minded. This will help students later go between different languages and paradigms from procedural to object-oriented to functional.
Pro Great at teaching fundamental programming ideas
Scheme teaches the important, fundamental ideas immediately without the distraction of unnecessary syntax or language features.
Pro Great, well known textbooks
There is a set of very strong textbooks introducing CS and programming using Scheme. These books are available for free online.
The most famous example--and one of the most famous CS books full stop--is Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs usually known as SICP. This book introduces fundamental ideas in computer science and covers an incredible amount of material quickly and clearly without requiring any prior knowledge.
However, some people find SICP a bit challenging as a first text. Happily, there are other more introductory texts as well. Simply Scheme is a book designed to be read before SICP, easing beginners into the language as well as CS and programming in general. How to Design Programs is another text used in introductory college courses.
Pro Robust metaprogramming
The quotation functionality of Lisp allow for extremely powerful, yet syntactically straightforward metaprogramming via macros. This is more powerful than the C preprocessor while being less involved than something like Template Haskell or F# quotations.
Using macros to properly decompose a problem domain teaches new developers good habits, improving composibility and reliability when tackling large programs. Scheme metaprogramming also serves as a gentle introduction to domain specific languages.
Pro Multi platform
GNU/Linux, OS X, and Windows versions available.
Unlike most languages, Scheme actually accords both functional programming and imperative programming roughly equal status. Many other languages like Python and Java are staunchly imperative while SML and Haskell are primarily functional; Scheme is a nice middle ground.
Additionally, since Scheme syntax is extremely flexible, it can easily be re-purposed for teaching non-deterministic and logic programming. There is no need to learn a new language like Prolog when the same ideas can easily be expressed with Scheme syntax.
This gives students a good perspective on different ways to think about and organize programs, which makes it much easier to move forward to other languages and technologies.
Pro Racket was designed to teach functional programming from the start
Racket is based on Scheme (LISP Family) and is very similar to Clojure. So there are a ton of (). The reason it is easier to learn is that it is not trying to be "Pure" if there is even such a thing in terms of Functional Programming. The great thing about Racket is it has everything included. You get DrRacket for developing programs. You want to add a picture to your software you can insert pictures. If you want to add libraries just open the package manager. The Syntax is an opinion but it really does feel easier to see what is happening since everything is in brackets)
Racket is a really a Programming Language for making Programming Languages. So there are smaller syntax Racket called Student Racket which makes things easier to pick up.
Pro Realm of Racket is an excellent entry-level guidebook
Realm of Racket teaches the big-bang approach for managing world state. It does so by walking the reader through the development of small games. There are few guidebooks that are as useful and entertaining.
Pro Free resources to Learn
Includes several free online books and great documentation.
Pro Great RPEL IDEA included Dr. Racket
Pro Active community
Racket has an active community of users/developers that makes it easy to get help when needed.
Pro Syntax fits to functional programming
Although syntax is different from that of mainstream languages, S-expressions are a perfect match to functional programming.
Pro Easily embeddable
Racket is famously embedded in the game engine underlying Naughty Dog's Uncharted and The Last of Us games, because it proved to be so easy to embed.
Con Little Job Market
There are little to none jobs searching for a Scheme programmer. The ones that exist are more related to Research in Maths or Artificial Intelligence.
Con Fragmented ecosystem
Scheme is an IEEE standard, not an implementation. Unfortunately, the standard is too minimal and practical implementations have diverged--they had to expand on the standard to get anything done, but did so in incompatible ways.
The later de facto standard R6RS tried to correct this, but lost Scheme's minimalist elegance in the process. The newer R7RS standard takes the best of both worlds with an elegant minimalist core and a practical standard library.
Con A language that is purely academic
If someone said "I am starting a project in Scheme" then they are either talking about their homework or they are starting a joke.
Con Very different semantics from mainstream programming languages