processing_2b9

There’s a reason for Processing’s popularity. By making code simple, elegant, and direct, and catering directly to the kinds of visual ideas creative people have, the environment has made programming accessible to artists and designers in a way nothing else could.

Coding no longer has to be a source of fear, or a bad word.

But Processing, years into its life, has also badly needed a refresh. 2.0 is more than just a house cleaning. It’s a new direction, with “modes” that mean it’s no longer tied to old desktop Java architectures. (See a tantalizing screenshot below – with the click of a menu, you can make CoffeeScript JavaScript for the Web, or run on Android.)

I still love Processing as a way of sketching out ideas, and with strategic use of the GPU in its now-native OpenGL rendering, it can also be surprisingly high-performance.

Of course, that 2.0 reboot has been a long time coming, enough so that you might have even forgotten it was enroute. That’s why the recent 2.0 beta 9 is big news. It includes some major new features that finally reveal what 2.0 is all about – and bug fixes that have been a long time coming. In fact, it’s that moment when the betas stop looking so much like betas. Here’s what to expect.

New in this version: an all-new interface. Things do look prettier, including a new icon, but it’s under-the-hood changes that matter more. You can install a command-line tool for building Processing sketches easily with any tool you like – such as your favorite text editor. Modes, now as separate projects, hold the promise of getting speedier updates than they would if everything had to be rolled into Processing proper. And a succession of changes make things like finding examples easier — some kindly rolled retroactively into the stable 1.5x sequence, but which, added together, make this a very friendly environment.

Other major changes accompany this release:

  • An official JSON library.
  • MovieMaker finally works again, for recording your work. (Syphon and that library will work, too, of course, but this is nice to have anyway.)
  • Vastly improved and streamlined data classes – good news for data visualization and the like.
  • 2.0b8: Windows 8 and Retina Display fixes.
  • 2.0: Built-in video library that really works (and, again, with the GPU can actually work really well – think HD mixing on lower-end machines).
  • 2.0: Core OpenGL library for all rendering – with super-fast results.
  • 2.0: Table support for easy data processing, plus improved XML support.
  • 2.0: Native 32-bit and 64-bit support.

For more detail, see:

An overview of what’s changed in 2.0

A detailed changelog with every little bug fix and improvement

I think it’s the better integration with the community that may make the biggest different, which we can see visually.

For instance, the update manager now automatically installs supported libraries as they’re improved:

updatemanager

The mode manager supports targeting things other than just desktop Java – addressing one of the biggest complaints about Processing as the years have ticked by (though, I will say, it is useful having Java library support, and that can still deliver searingly-fast performance when you’re doing mostly OpenGL things):

modemdanager

Oh, and there’s a new letter “p.”

letter_p

processing.org/download/

  • http://twitter.com/a_w_young a_w_young

    Do you have any recommended places to start for folks who downloaded Processing about 80 times and never started learning the language? :)

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn
    • DIego

      I found Daniel Shiffman’s book Learning Processing a really good one to get myself started. Also downloaded Processing many times before but my short attention span wouldn’t let me get through all the online help materials. This book is fun, nicely paced for the begginer, and has a few engaging nice little projects to get you up and running on the basic features of the language fast. Very recommended.

    • http://twitter.com/a_w_young a_w_young

      Thanks, sounds like we’re similar :)

    • Max

      “Generative Art” by Matt Pearson worked for me as a basic introduction. Have a look at http://abandonedart.org – he’s reworking his old Java examples into Javascript ones at the moment.

    • Chris

      Have a look at the blue book, Processing by Reas and Fry, its still from 2007 (they working on a 2. edition now) but its an excellent introduction into more general coding concepts (all based on really simply visual examples).
      While the Generative Gestaltung book can give you great ideas what to do with generative art, it does not really explain whats going on in the code, if you dont know the language.

  • NoiseisKing

    try funprogramming.org or search in youtube for jose sanchez processing… greets

  • http://twitter.com/abadona Igor Molochevski

    Generative Gestaltung is one of the best book available. It has compact discussion on process of the code generation. Go to their site, they have demos available for the book.

    Daniel Shifman, who was mentioned before has good books as well. His book The Nature of Code is extremely advanced, while Learning Processing well suited for the beginner.

  • Marko Vierimaa

    This is clearly a sign from the Spaghetti Monster, i have to start going through the sea of tutorials! I have the book “Getting started with Processing”, and i am thinking about working my way up to the “Nature of Code”. Shiffman has done a brilliant job, converting the topics also to a bunch of videos on Vimeo. How cool is that? I’ve also downloaded Processing a bunch of times, without really doing nothing with it, except maybe run a patch or two…

  • Marius

    I’m glad they are near 2.0, but meantime I got impatient and I have set up Processing in Sublime Text 2. Good editor. I think I will keep it like this, as I don’t see PDE nearby too soon.

    While the PDE has some steps to take, I can’t say much about the under the hood. There are other libs, but I remember that i was the PDE and the simplicity of the language got me attracted.

  • Justin

    I got Processing by Reas and Fry ages ago, but every time I went to do some work with it the syntax of the commands had changed so much and some commands became deprecated in newer Processing versions that I got too frustrated and gave up. I definitely would give it another go if a newer version came out with updated command syntaxes.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      There are two Reas/Fry books. The newer one matches the current version of Processing. And the other books I recommend work.

    • Justin

      Ok, thanks Peter! I will look into it. Been trying to get an A/V show happening this year and was hoping to get back into Processing.