Swift Playgrounds puts the cool back in coding

S Muralidhar | Updated on January 20, 2018

Apple hopes that its new iPad app will act as an immersive gateway to code for kids

There are very opposing views amongst industry observers about the future of coding. There are those who claim that automatons will replace humans and write code that will power their digital brethren. And then there are those who claim humans will continue to write code, only it will be so woven into our lives that everybody will need to learn coding to survive.

At WWDC 2016, Apple effectively took sides with the latter camp by launching Swift Playgrounds, a new app that lets anyone who is new to coding learn how to do it. Only, the app teaches how to code in Swift, which is Apple's programming language. But, to make it clear that Apple is genuinely interested in enabling people, especially kids, to learn coding, Swift has been made open source. So, in the future, we might see adoption by other OSes like Linux or even Android.

The next generation

Swift Playgrounds is targeted primarily at kids, with its simple menu and animated presentation, the app will attempt to educate young, aspiring programmers to create Swift code on their iPads. The app includes Apple-developed programming lessons where students will write code to guide a bunch of on-screen characters through a graphical world. The lessons are quintessentially Apple in that they are intuitive and based on logical reasoning, and students are prompted to solve puzzles and master challenges even as they learn core coding concepts.

Apple says that the app also features built-in templates to encourage users to express their creativity and create real programs that can be shared with their friends using Mail or Messages or even be posted on the web. Coding concepts like issuing commands, creating functions, performing loops and using conditional code and variables can be learnt. Apple is also expected to regularly release new challenges, so that students can fine tune their coding skills.

An important point to note here is that since Swift Playgrounds uses real Swift code, projects can be exported directly to Xcode to create programs for iOS and macOS which can then be turned into full-fledged apps. Later this year, the final version of Swift Playgrounds will be available as a free download on iPad models running iOS 10.

The writer is in San Francisco at the invitation of Apple

Published on June 15, 2016

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