Created by engineer Chris Granger, the Light Table integrated developing environment shows a real-time preview of data flowing through written code, and uses documentation to make the task of reading it easier.
Even for those who know a coding language, sitting down to write a program at a blank screen can be a daunting and difficult task. Light Table may help to solve this problem with a simple premise: display a real-time working example of your code while you write it.
Designed by seasoned engineer Chris Granger, the new Light Table interactive IDE joins a recent tide of tools that aim to simplify the task of programming. “When a chef adds an ingredient, he can smell it, he can taste it,” Granger lamented to Wired. “When an artist makes a stroke on a canvas, he can see it. But programming isn’t that way.”
The idea was inspired by an abandoned medical project which Granger had been working on, and funded by a Kickstarter project, which exceeded its goal of $200,000 by $116,000.
While it’s not the first time in the world anybody has thought of a real-time code displayer, Light Table is significant for the fact that it is open source, and offers a number of ways to understand the code somebody is looking at.
The program features a simple development environment, with a blank working space on one side, and a real-time translated version on the next. As code is written on one side, the real-time side shows in detail how information will flow through the project, replacing variable names with their given values at any given point, and printing whatever information the code outputs.
The IDE can call information from pieces of code outside the current project, and drawing from a massive searchable library of documentation, offers a simple explanation for the function of any given part of the code.
In recent times there has been a rising trend in services and resources which aim to make computer code a more accessible and easy to understand art. Sites and projects such as code.org, ‘an hour of code’, Codecademy, and Khan Academy all aim to provide a simple way to understand and use code.
What is unique about Light Table is that it manages to tremendously simplify the task of coding for amateurs, and at the same time provide a very useful tool for even seasoned veterans. Granger, an experienced Coder, refused to dumb down the task of coding in order to simplify it, and indicates that Light Table is already being used by thousands of developers on a daily basis.
Given its broad and uncomplicated nature, Light Table may be the best balance yet between supplementary assistance to make the task of coding easier, and the freedom to write and design unique and complicated programs.
True to the spirit of its nature, Light Table remains free and open source, and can be downloaded at the Light Table website.