Alice is a tool to teach programming that thinks it's an animation tool

screenshot of Alice

There's always a need for more computer programmers out there, but unfortunately not everybody's thrilled at the prospect of keeping track of semicolons and curly-braces. With this in mind, the folks at Carnegie Mellon University created Alice.

Alice is a development environment that allows for error-proof programming. Using a drag-and-drop interface, users write code by dragging onscreen tiles that fit together into programs. As the result of fitting these pieces together, students actually create 3D animations. While interesting in their own right, these animations allow immediate feedback to the user, showing how re-ordering a series of tiles (instructions) impacts the behavior of the resulting program.

While users think they're creating animations and games, they are also seeing how languages like Java and C++ work, since the tiles correspond to statements in those types of high level programming languages. They claim that upwards of 10% of all computer science programs in American colleges use Alice in their curriculum.

Alice is a free download, and is available for Windows (Win2k or later), Mac (OS X 10.3+), and Linux.

Download Alice

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