Development environments for beginners

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In Alice, Greenfoot, and Scratch, objects correspond to specific graphical objects on the screen, which makes learning object-oriented programming easier. With Alice and Scratch, you can also drag-and-drop programs together without writing a single line of code. The Alice user interface, however, requires a steeper learning curve – even computer-savvy adults can't get very far without the learning material on the Alice homepage. On the other hand, the interface allows for 3D applications.

Because Greenfoot explicitly uses Java code, you have to be willing to spend some time studying. The same goes for Hackety Hack, which provides only an introduction to Ruby programming. You can knock off the four provided exercises in an afternoon, after which recourse to a Ruby book is unavoidable. Hackety Hack is appropriate for those who want to get a taste of Ruby and who won't be bothered by the little bugs in the editor.

Even though Processing began as a didactic tool, getting starting with it isn't as easy as with the other tools. If you want to use Processing, you have to be prepared to read through many guides and wikis. Because of its proximity to the rather cryptic Java and the need for a knowledge of mathematics, Processing isn't appropriate for the younger students.

Scratch will produce results the fastest. The development environment contains a manageable set of actions and control structures. The downside is that the player will only run on Flash in the future. Under Linux, you therefore have to start all user-written programs directly in Scratch.

Because of their different approaches and capabilities, the development environments presented here can be combined quite well. For example, children can start with Scratch, middle schoolers can continue with Alice, Greenfoot can follow, and users can end with Processing. Even adults who have never programmed would be well advised to follow that path. Professional programmers should definitely consider Greenfoot and Processing.


  1. Alice:
  2. Alice program gallery:
  3. Alice teacher portal:
  4. Greenfoot:
  5. Greenfoot introduction:
  6. Greenfoot program gallery:
  7. Greenroom:
  8. Greenfoot hub in New York:
  9. Hackety Hack:
  10. Markdown format used by Hackety Hack:
  11. Shoes library:
  12. Hackety Hack program gallery:
  13. Processing:
  14. Processing program gallery:
  15. Scratch:
  16. Squeak:
  17. Scratch wiki:
  18. Scratch forum for educators:
  19. Scratch program gallery:

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