Sunday, September 21, 2008

Notes on the new Etoys

I've been using Etoys with my year 10 class at school and they are very much enjoying the beginners car tutorials.

Kim Rose has announced the release of a new version (download release notes). Since Etoys is on the OLPC there have been some systematic improvements happening.

I have found the whole Etoys experience a bit confusing because it has been described as "an experiment that never died". It has always had an unfinished feel to it, from my perspective. When Scratch came along it seemed better organised, polished and easier to use out of the box so I jumped ship to Scratch for my visual programming requirements

However, Etoys is more powerful in some respects. I refer mainly here to the particle system, Kedama: A massively-parallel tile-scriptable particle system, programmed by Yoshiki Ohshima

At any rate, here are some preliminary notes I have made about the new version of Etoys:

  • Default saving goes to a non existent folder C:\My Pictures\My Squeak and so saving fails. Solve this problem by holding down the mouse button on the Keep icon and then an option to navigate to a desired folder becomes available. This is not explained on the balloon help of the Keep icon, although it is explained on the balloon help of the Find icon.
  • Help: When you load the paint tools the Help fades out. You can click the arrow to the next page but can't Jump to a different Help sequence for the Paint tools. You have to close the Paint tools then Jump to a different Help page and then reopen the Paint tools
  • Can't find a timer? The clock on a script has a tick rate, the default is 8 ticks per second, but how can I program that to display a timer?
  • Show code textually is a nice feature - would be even better if you could open the code window to reveal all the code at once - good for learning by copying and pasting to other media
  • How do you set the "preserve trash" preference mentioned in the trash can help balloon?
  • There doesn't appear to be a version number?

REALLY USEFUL (more detail in release notes)
  • Display Scaling
  • The Online Help System ("Quick Guides")
  • Right Click for Halo

VERY INTERESTING (more detail in release notes)
  • World Stethoscope
  • Event Theatre
  • A New Generation of the Particle System (aka "Kedama")
  • All Players Tool


Yoshiki said...

> Default saving goes to a non existent folder

That is really strange. Have you set some environment variables differently from the default? What version of Windows are you on?

Paint and other widget are the problem. Painting in the same "world" is a bad idea after all.

To set the prefences, you can get to the menu handle of the halo for the World and get choose the menu item. (But it is not clear, thank you for pointing it out!)

Setting the tick rate can be done by hold the mouse button on the clock icon in the script editor. However, it is not tile scriptable, unfortunately.

For viewing all scripts textually, you can "turn off" the eToyFriendly preference, and then go to the "authoring tools..." menu in the World menu and choose "summary of scripts" or "browser for scripts."

Thank you again for all these comments and suggestions!

Bill Kerr said...

hi Yoshiki,

Sorry, I made a mistake about the non existent folder, but it was a difficult one to track because it's five layers deep:
\Documents and Settings
\My Documents
\ My Squeak
\ Squeaklets

Yoshiki said...

the "Squeaklet" directory is the location that Etoys uses to keep some temporary file for creating the .pr file. (We don't have to keep the temporary files, actually.)

It goes under My Document\My Squeak, so it is at least doing how it is supposed to do.