In the present context, Processing refers to a community-driven project aimed at promoting software literacy within the visual arts and beyond. The original motivation for this project was to develop tools to help teach the fundamentals of programming using computer graphics. While Processing has evolved into a platform capable of producing professional work, it also remains a fantastic language and environment to learn programming concepts. One of the important aspect of this project is its thriving community of contributors who share programs and answer questions. This is an invaluable resource for people engaged in self-directed learning.
The Processing software runs on Windows, Mac OS, and GNU/Linux personal computers. It is available on the Processing website. Select the link that corresponds to your operating system to initiate the download of the appropriate program. Once the data transfer is complete, you need to perform the following straightforward steps to finish the installation. Note that these steps depend on your operating system.
processing.exeto open the development environment.
.tar.gzfile. Using the terminal, move the compressed item to the desired location. Then, perform the command
tar xvfz processing-*.tgz. This will create a directory that contains Processing. Change directory (cd) to the newly created folder, then launch the application with the command ./processing.
If you completed this procedure without encountering hurdles: congratulations, you have successfully installed the Processing software! Otherwise, you may want to consult the Processing troubleshooting page. Given the vast array of hardware platforms and operating system versions, it is heavy technological gymnastics to try to have the installation process run smoothly for everyone. With luck, patience and discipline, you should be able to eventually get a working installation. Your next step is to get familiar with the language and start experimenting.
A key pedagogical feature of Processing is its simplicity by design. The interface is easy to understand and navigate. This enables users to focus on learning programming concepts, rather than spending time getting familiar with an intricate graphical environment. The basic layout of the application contains a development window, where a computer program is created, and a display window that showcases the results. The editing window includes a toolbar with a predetermined set of actions, a text editor, a message area and a console. The text editor plays a central role in the Processing environment. This is where computer code is written, changed and manipulated. The Processing editor supports multiple tabs, a feature which is especially useful for large projects. Below the editor is a message area and a console. The message area is employed for one line messages, whereas the console provides additional technical details whenever appropriate. The standard Processing environment appears in Figure 1, “The Processing Environment”.
The basic tasks that compose the toolbar are fairly straightforward and quite useful. Again, the toolbar is a testament to the power and functionality of a simple interface, especially in the context of a learning environment. There are a total of six functions in the standard Processing layout; they are listed below.
We note that these actions, including the Shift-key variants, will be indicated next to the toolbar when hovering over the respective buttons. Furthermore, the application menu can also be used to navigate through these various options. Going through an example is a good way to become familiar with this development environment.
The Processing website hosts several tutorials about the language and its default development environment. In fact, our brief introduction to Processing is a distilled version of the most basic tutorials. Another essential tool is the reference guide for Processing. Together, these two resources form an excellent starting point to begin your programming journey. It is worth noting that Processing was designed, partly, as a point of transition to more advanced programming languages like Java or C++. As such, its syntax is a simplified version of Java and, consequently, it should be somewhat familiar to people who already have experience with either of these two languages.