Yesterday marked the newest release of EduKits’ drag-and-drop coding software, Code Kit 3. Just a few months ago, the application was given a significant re-design and since then, even more changes have been made to improve usability and functionality. This article will explore some of the biggest changes in this new update and a look into the EduKits’ development map for the future.
In case you’re not familiar, Code Kit is free software which allows users to create their own Arduino programs from scratch without writing a single line of code (C++ code, that is). Functionality is designed and organised using colourful, drag-and-drop blocks which represent different operations and variables. Code Kit makes it easy for anyone to get started with hardware programming, regardless of their age or ability.
An overview and demonstration of the new release is provided by EduKits in a recent upload to their YouTube channel, embedded below.
More blocks than ever before
Ultimately, the freedom to be creative and innovative with code is constrained by the tools and resources available. Code Kit 3 expands the scope for users’ creativity with the addition of a number of new blocks which add even more functionality and possibilities.
More inputs and outputs
Users can now choose from a wider range of inputs and outputs natively. Support for potentiometers, servo motors and gesture sensors, for example, have been added with this release. An especially exciting addition comes in the form of Advanced Mode, a feature which unlocks the ability to set both pin numbers and states from stored variables. However, this is discussed in more depth later in this article.
More control over timing
Although seemingly minor, Code Kit 3 brings three new timing blocks and with them compatibility with microsecond-level timing. These blocks have also been moved to a new Timing category, which can be enabled using the Block Loader (see further below).
More options for serial communication
Basic serial communication functionality has always existed within Code Kit, but it has previously been limited to a bitrate of 9600 baud and transmitting strings only. The new release adds seven more blocks to allow complete control over communication, including adding new functionality for receiving data over serial and changing the serial bitrate.
Take control with new settings
User settings and preferences within Code Kit have been completely overhauled, both in looks and functionality. This makes the software easier to use by consolidating existing options such as dark mode and board selection into a single place, while adding new functionality for stronger user control.
The new preferences modal can be accessed from the cog icon in the top menu bar, previously only available for desktop users selecting upload options. This modal houses both aesthetic and functional preferences for the application which are explained in more detail below.
The Board Selector is not a new feature within Code Kit, but it has moved from the top menu bar and into the new preferences modal. Changing a board selection does not result in any aesthetic changes, but rather updates the default available pin selections in accordance with the board specifications. This makes it easy for new users to select the right pins, especially when it comes to PWM or I2C functionality as this changes board-to-board.
Similarly, Dark Mode is an existing feature that finds a new home in the preferences modal. Both the dark and light themes have received subtle tweaks which should make them even better to look at and leave Code Kit’s eye-sore competition further behind in the dust (but seriously, the interface does look very nice).
If this article wasn’t progressing through the interface in a logical and coherent manner, then the new Advanced Mode would certainly have shot straight to the article’s beginning.
For a long time, the development team has been struggling to balance the needs of beginners and more advanced users who often require very different things when it comes to functionality. Beginners are looking for easy-to-use software which takes away most of the hassle and learning curve that would normally come with learning traditional, text-based code. However, advanced users are looking for greater control and deeper functionality with their blocks.
Advanced mode marks the beginning of a transition to address that need. The advanced mode separates features, such as blocks, categories or functions, into beginner and advanced levels so users can decide what level of control they have over their code. With advanced mode disabled, users can enjoy the safeguards of pre-set pins for their boards and the exclusion of more advanced block categories (future feature) for a simpler, less confusing experience. Advanced users will be able to get the opposite.
With future releases of the software, the functionality associated with this mode will only grow. EduKits is looking to add new block categories for advanced users, add variable control to more blocks and continue to improve the interface for these users.
The Block Loader is a new control which allows users the opportunity to select which block categories are available in their toolbox (workspace sidebar). The system works through a list of checkboxes which can be activated or deactivated based on user preference. Settings are changed when the modal is closed, which forces the app to refresh to update the interface to reflect the new settings.
Enjoy an even more refined user interface
One of Code Kit’s strengths over its competition has always been its interface which always puts users first. Essential functions like opening, saving and clearing documents are, as always, easily accessible from the top menu bar. Getting support is easier and clearer than before with a new item joining that menu.
The new dark mode – which looks so good that it’s turned on by default now – caused a number of glitches for users in light mode in the past release. Dark mode isn’t for everyone, so a large effort has been undertaken to patch those bugs and increase the value of both interface experiences.
Existing users of Code Kit will quickly realise the app has a more refined, consistent feel which better reflects the broader EduKits brand while increasing accessibility to core user functions.
Time to test drive
This article is by no means a comprehensive examination of Code Kit 3. There are many new changes existing users will notice and appreciate when using the app. The best part about Code Kit is that it’s completely free – you don’t even have to sign in to access any of the functionality.
We encourage you to give it a try; you’re fine to use it at home, in the classroom, or for some serious work. It’s up to you. The EduKits team is always ready and happy to help with any issues you experience or to discuss ideas for future features. Coding is extremely important to us, as we discussed in an article just yesterday, so we’d love to know what you think.