Software for home

Many of the projects done by students in our computer department classes use software that is free for download onto home computers (mac, pc, and linux in most cases).
 

Free software:

Here are some of our favorite free and open-source programs, with links to their web pages and download pages. (Our links here will not cause the downloads to actually start.) (The short address to get back to this page is http://tinyurl.com/sacc-software .)
  • Alice [downloads page...] (Grades 3-12. Easily build and animate landscapes with interactive 3D buildings, creatures, and people. Mac & Windows.)
  • Arduino [downloads page...] (Grades 7-12. Download your programs to micro-controllers. Mac & Windows.)
  • Autodesk software for 3D (including 123d design, 123d catch, 123d make, 123d creature.) (Grades 5-12. Also for ipad. Import and design 3D objects. Mac & Windows.)
  • Blender [downloads page...] (Grades 7-12. Build 3D shapes and scenes by combining polygons. Has steeper learning curve than sketchup. Mac & Windows.)
  • BlueJ [downloads page...] (Grades 5-12. Java editing and testing. Mac & Windows.)
  • Brackets (Grades 9-12 and keen middle-schoolers) - open-source IDE for web development in HTML, CSS, and Javascript.  Mac & Windows.
  • Eclipse [downloads page...] (Grades 9-12. Java and C++ Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for power users. Mac & Windows.)
  • Girihdesigner.com [online tool] (design with “girih” Islamic decorative tiles. Works on newer web browsers that understand webgl, such as google chrome 47 and safari 9.)
  • Github [download pages for mac..., for windows..., for linux...] (Grades 9-12. Online storage for collaborative open-source public software projects. Mac & Windows.)
  • Golly - a free program that lets you explore the famous "Game of Life" by mathematician John Conway (available for Mac, PC, Android, and iPad)
  • Inkscape [downloads page...] (Grades 5-12) Powerful free software for making vector-graphic designs. Mac & Windows.
  • Kerbal Space Program (KSP) [downloads page] (Grades 3-12. The demo version is free and awesome. Easily create rockets in 3D; launch them and try to reach the moon. Here's a public wiki, and here's our “how-to-fly” page, a quick intro to using the demo. Mac & Windows.)
  • LiveCode [downloads page...] (Grades 3-12. Learn to program with buttons and text fields and drawings. Mac & Windows & Linux.)
  • MeshMixer [downloads page...] (Middle and High School) Tool for working with 3D models as "meshes" - useful for editing and cleaning-up models, and for playing in an intuitive and sculptural way.  
  • OnShape [online tool] (Middle and High School) Online CAD (computer assisted design) software that runs in the browser.  Good for making 3D models for printing.
  • p5.js [downloads page...] (Grades 5-12) This is a version of Processing (see above) that runs with Javascript in the browser.   Mac & Windows.
  • Processing [downloads page...] (Grades 5-12. Create colorful interactive artistic graphic programs using Java. Here's a colorful sample of swaying branches. Mac & Windows.)
  • Scratch [download page for offline use... (what we do) or use it online (parent info)] (Grades 3-10. Very easy way to program interactive animated characters. Mac & Windows.)
  • Snowflake Maker - website that lets you design intricate and/or unrealistic paper cut-out snowflakes. Surprisingly fun.
  • Stykz [downloads page…] (Grades 3-12. Build silly movies with animated stick figures. Mac & Windows. See our youtube account (tinyurl.com/sacc-movies) for some samples. As of 2011 it wasn't compatible with mac "parental controls" but maybe that is fixed now. (Our computer lab computers have parental controls and stykz runs pretty well there.)
  • Sculptris [has "free download" button in middle of page] (Grades 5-12. Pinch and pull onscreen to build 3D shapes & sculptures.)
  • Sketchup [downloads page...] (Grades 3-12. Easily create buildings and furnishings in 3D; Mac & Windows.)
  • Tinkercad.com [online tool] (Grades 5-12. Design 3D objects for 3D printing.)
  • Typing.com - our new online typing website.  Students of Jascha and Mike have the following log-in:  
    name = sacc-[first name last initial]
    password = smile
    Example: Jane Doe would be "sacc-janed" with password "smile"

    It is highly recommended that with this program—or any other typing program—students use "home row" hand position and use the lessons instead of the games because students so often get excited in the games and forget about their hand position, making their "practice" pretty much useless.
  • Unity3D[downloads page...] (Grades 5-12. Build interactive 3D games with physics and javascript programming.

If you have suggestions for more, please send a note to mroam at saintannsny.org


Not Free Software:


Affinity is a new competitor to the more famous Photoshop, but only costs $50. Available for Mac and PC.
Bbedit is a text-editor that costs around $50.
Photoshop - is the classic and still industry-standard photo editing software. Adobe has recently switched to a cloud-based subscription model - your mileage may vary.


Web Design:


The online tutorial Dash, by General Assembly, is an excellent (and free!) introduction to using HTML, CSS, and Javascript to make modern-feeling web pages.
We use Bbedit text editor and award-winning Affinity Photo graphic editor—both work great but cost money (around $50). (We switched to Affinity Photo in Fall 2016 rather than pay subscription to Photoshop- Affinity is now available for both Mac and PC, and is highly recommended!) Free alternatives are Atom, Brackets (see above) or the sublime text editor (free indefinite-time trial but please buy if you like it) and gimp photo-editor (free, donation requested), respectively.




Mac-only:

  • Quartz Composer (Mac only) TODO: describe how Mac users can get Quartz Composer (downloading from developer.apple.com --looks like you have to have a free apple developer account to get to the download page at https://developer.apple.com/downloads/?name=graphics . Here's Composer's wikipedia article. (Grades 5-12. Allows one to tinker with graphic effects using a system of patches with inputs and outputs. Not exactly a great platform for a beginning programmers but deserves mention here for its beautiful interface and the fact that—like Scratch—it's a visual programming environment.)
  • GarageBand (only available on Mac, iPad, iPhone, not free. Some websites claim to have garageband for pc, but it seems kind of sketchy: using android emulation and special installers. (Super easy system for building sound and music loops.)
  • Pages is Apple's version of Word.
  • Numbers is Apple's version of Excel.
  • Photo Booth lets you take pictures and video with your built-in camera
  • iMovie is Apple's video-editing software - it's quite powerful without being a fully-featured program like Final Cut


Typing practice:


    We are frequently asked which typing practice program our students use. Since fall 2015 we've been using “Typing.com” as well as long-time favorite “Ten Thumbs” ($26). Both gradually introduce keys, while the latter is more consistent about showing a keyboard on the screen, and using real words instead of nonsense syllables. (PS: both programs will run fine on home computers.)
For Typing.com, the online sign-in names start with "sacc-" and then use our classroom names. E.G. Suzy Vytautas would sign in to Typing.com as sacc-suzyv and all students have password "smile".


For beginning programmers:

A list of programming environments (programs for programming) that are the easiest to get started in.
  • code.org has interesting, good-looking, (and free) "hour of code" exercises online, some of which include puzzles from minecraft, star wars, and frozen, accompanied by videos of coders of all colors and ages. We've seen third graders through eleventh graders enjoy them.
  • lightbot.com Wonderful coding exercises in which you direct a cute little robot to hop up and down and through a grid to turn on various lightbulbs. Like code.org, above, the exercises build up to using loops (repeats) and recursion.
  • codecombat.com Nifty "learn to code" puzzles (like code.org and lightbot.com) with mazes and treasures and enemies and helpers. Teacher can set up a "class" that is glued to python or javascript.
  • Scratch (more information above).
  • LiveCode [downloads page...] (Grades 3-12. Learn to program with buttons and text fields and drawings. Mac & Windows & Linux.)
  • Alice [downloads page...] (Grades 3-12. Easily build and animate landscapes with interactive 3D buildings, creatures, and people. Mac & Windows.)
  • Hopscotch (ipad and iphone app, like “Scratch” which is described above).
  • Playgrounds (gorgeous coding intro/game, app for ipads (requires ipad running ios 10+).


For more advanced programmers

  • "http://swifteducation.github.io/" has 100+ lesson plans and projects for programming with the new "Swift" language in Apple's free Xcode (requires an Apple Mac computer that is no more than seven years old).
  • e-book “App Development with Swift.” Apple Inc. - Education, 2016. iBooks. Our iPhone Programming class 2016-7 is using this. Free from the iBooks Store at https://itun.es/us/aVbRcb.l (Excellent engaging step-by-step tutorial includes partly-built examples and thoughtful asides about user-interface design and becoming a better programmer.) Uses Apple's free Xcode (which requires an Apple Mac computer).


Suggestion

If you are letting your children use your personal computer, you probably want to set up a separate (and limited) user account for them on that computer, and don't give them your administrative password or you'll be sorry when they start adjusting screen settings and downloading "malware".


Minecraft

For what it's worth: here are two reasons that Minecraft (a 3D game, wikipedia) is cool:
  1. Its lack of a fixed narrative encourages creativity
  2. It can be used to learn circuitry(!): its world features a sophisticated system of wires and resistors.
That said, minecraft also seems to be a way for people of all age groups to waste a lot of time—we wouldn't want to encourage anyone to think that it represents an ideal point of entry into other fields of creativity on the computer.


PS. Other resources (lists, videos, etc):

The “Computer Science Teacher Association” has put together some STEAM software suggestions organized by grade level. (“STEAM” stands for “Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, & Math.”)

Videos on how stuff works:


3D Printing Links

  • A gallery of work from our 3D printing classes
  • Software listed above (but repeated here for easy finding):
    • MeshMixer [downloads page...] (Middle and High School) Tool for working with 3D models as "meshes" - useful for editing and cleaning-up models, and for playing in an intuitive and sculptural way.  
    • OnShape [online tool] (Middle and High School) Online CAD (computer assisted design) software that runs in the browser.  Good for making 3D models for printing.
    • Tinkercad.com [online tool] (Grades 5-12. Design 3D objects for 3D printing.)
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