Recently, Google released Blockly, another visual programming editor. I found it pretty interesting, and it wasn’t too difficult to figure out how to use the tool itself. (Figuring out actual programming is another matter entirely, which is why I’m sure the program visually represented in this post’s lead image will look just awful to anyone who actually knows what she or he is doing with code. All I can say is, it works.)
The most difficult part for me turned out to be figuring out how to actually run Blockly. Fortunately, YouTube user Dennis Daniels (a.k.a. “pleabargain“) was able to help me out:
He was using Linux and I was using a Mac, but he was able to give me enough to go on. All I did was copy the line here that begins with “svn checkout” and run it from a command prompt in Terminal. I didn’t have to do anything else at the command line—no chmod or build was necessary.
Once Terminal had finished doing its thing and I was back at the command prompt, I quit Terminal and opened a finder window, to see where the files ended up. The file that’s needed to get started is index.html, and it lives in the “demos” folder. In my case, the path was /users/username/blockly-read-only/demos/index.html. I just dragged that file into an open Firefox window, and I was good to go. (It wouldn’t work in Chrome, and I didn’t try Safari.)
One of the nice things about Blockly is that it lets the user work with visual elements, and will then provide the code for what’s been built in a few different languages (including Java and Python). Mr. Daniels gives us another video, in which he explores using Blockly in conjunction with CodeAcademy:
As he points out, the code that Blockly generates isn’t perfect. Still, it gives those new to programming an interesting way to (quite literally) see how the pieces of a program relate to one another, and how those relationships are expressed in a few commonly used languages.
If you’ve used Blockly—or a similar tool—what did you think of it? Did you find it helpful? Let us know in the comments.
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