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Drag and Drop Coding with Snap4Arduino 1.1-Beta

Gareth Halfacree

Snap4Arduino 1.1-beta

The Snap4Arduino project, which aims to make the Arduino platform more accessible to programming novices - including primary-school children - has released a new build, dubbed Snap4Arduino 1.1-beta, this week, and it brings with it considerable improvements including enhanced cross-platform support.

Based on Snap, which is itself based on the popular Scratch, Snap4Arduino aims to make it as simple as possible for anyone to write Arduino sketches, even without any previous programming experience. Like Scratch, Snap allows you to simply drag-and-drop blocks which fit together like jigsaw pieces into a functioning program; where Snap improves on its predecessor is the ability to build your own blocks, bridging the gap between the prescriptive but accessible Scratch and the flexibility and complexity of traditional text-based programming languages.

While Snap and Scratch are both designed for use on desktop computers, Snap4Arduino does exactly what the name suggests: allows users to run the program on a computer then output the resulting program to an Arduino. The team behind Snap4Arduino have experience in this area: they previously did the same with Scratch, creating Scratch4Arduino (S4A). Where Snap4Arduino improves on S4A is in two main areas: the aforementioned ability to build your own blocks and thus achieve functionality not easily accessible in Scratch, and some seven-fold improvement in response times of the running code.

The latest beta release includes numerous enhancements the biggest of which is the implementation of a new HTTP protocol for controlling Snap4Arduino programs via a network connection, making it compatible with smartphone apps developed for the older Scratch4Arduino. Other improvements include a move to a new JavaScript engine which will allow the program to run on non-x86 computers, such as ARM-based microcomputers, and keyboard editing shortcuts. The team has also promised to add the ability to program ESP8266-connected Arduino modules over Wi-Fi in a release due before the end of the month.

More information on the project, and download links for Linux, OS X, and Windows, are available from the official website.

Snap4Arduino is a modification of the Snap visual programming language that lets you seamlessly interact with almost all versions of the Arduino electronic prototyping board. Snap4Arduino is being built by the same team that developed S4A, with the collaboration of Ernesto Laval.

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