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What is visual programming?

2018-11-14
An image showing code written in a visual programming language

Visual programming has been around since the ‘70s. It uses blocks and arrows to direct the flow of the program you want to execute. It has been generalized so that programming becomes similar to the concept of a flowchart.


Flowcharts can explain the flow of a program in sequential blocks. They can represent conditions that have different outcomes and loops that reuse the same recurring contents.


Why were they built?

Visual programming languages act the same way as a flowchart. They were built to make programming easy and accessible for everyone. Visual programming languages provide the user with many icon-based elements that are dragged and dropped onto a canvas. The elements are connected using arrows too.


Textual vs. Visual programming

Any programming language consists of elements called syntax and semantics. The syntax is the way the commands are written for a programming language. As we newer programming languages get more advanced, they typically have syntaxes that are nearer to natural language than unexplainable computer commands.


In other words, semantics are the language the programmer uses to write the commands.

Semantics describe how the code makes sense. The code can be written with no syntax errors, but semantics errors could mean that it doesn’t work. It may not make sense to put certain lines of code after each other.


Visual programming lets you stop worrying about syntax errors since there is no syntax or written words, just blocks. Most visual programming languages provide well-documented sources to help you understand the blocks and the code that can be substituted for each block. This can help you gain a good understanding of coding semantics as you implement the code for your projects.


Great contribution:

Visual programming may have started as a project, but now it directly contributes to not only education but also development. Platforms like MIT APP inventor can help you use visual programming to develop your own mobile applications until you publish them in a store and start making money.


More than two million apps have already been developed using this platform. Other platforms like RoboGarden can also be beneficial to simulation, education, or robotics.


Misunderstanding

It is important to never mix languages like Visual Basic and Visual C++/C#. In this sense, visual programming with these languages is just like normal textual languages that help the user build visual applications.


If you’re ready to be introduced to visual programming and some of its applications, RoboGarden can help you get started! The platform uses the Blockly visual programming language to progress through levels. You will keep practicing until you master Blockly and eventually transition to textual programming.


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