Last year saw the introduction of a new open source programming API developed specifically for use in the presentation of audio, image and other media files on the web, giving artists, designers and the like a whole new arena in which to strut their creative stuff. It can also be useful for learning fundamental concepts of programming in general.
Processing Media with Processing (Beta) (Page 1 of 4 )
Processing is an open source programming language that aims to let non-programmers develop and explore creative ideas. It has been described as an electronic scratch pad for electronically sketching images. It's available for Linux, Windows and the Mac. There is even a version of the language that can be used to develop mobile software.
Processing has been around for at least four years in various incarnations and was produced initially by Ben Fry and Casey Reas. The beta software for working with it was officially released about a year ago and this is when it really began to gather more mainstream support. Prior to this it was in registration-only alpha development. It can be downloaded from the main Processing site (http://www.processing.org/). You can also check out examples and look up elements of the API in the reference section. The software environment for developing Processing projects also has many examples built in that you can use for learning the language. It's surprising how little code is needed to bring objects to life; the classic game of Pong for example has been brought to life using just 55 lines of code.
The software used with Processing is a minimal integrated development environment (IDE) that lets you very easily and quickly create visual projects and see the results instantly on screen. You need Java installed to use the IDE, and like many other small toolkits and IDEs for developing Java, it runs from a series of libraries and jar files. It gives you everything you'd expect from what is essentially a text editor including line numbers for easy error correction, code highlighting to easily differentiate functions, variables and statements and element matching where, if an opening bracket is selected, its matching closing bracket is selected. It also features an error output section at the bottom of the application window for debugging. Users visiting a site with elements created with Processing embedded in it may need to accept a security certificate from Sun but won't require the Processing IDE itself.
Once you've created you media masterpiece, you need not worry about how you are going to implement it; you can simply choose the Export command from the interface toolbar and the IDE will kindly generate the Jar and Java files needed and create an HTML page with the applet already embedded for you so you can simply cut and paste this into your own web page.