Swift Playgrounds: Teaching Swift development to everybody

One of the lessons in Swift Playgrounds

One of the lessons in Swift Playgrounds

Swift has been widely adopted by developers in the two years since it was introduced, and since it was made an open source project by Apple, the language knows no bounds -- it can be used on a number of platforms, not just those made by Apple. Today, Apple announced Swift Playgrounds, a free iPad app to teach kids of any age basic coding skills in Swift.

Playgrounds teaches basic programming concepts like loops and conditionals using an animated character that the budding programmers direct by...what else...writing code. The app offers suggestions for code to be used, and Swift Playgrounds also has a special iOS coding keyboard to ease entry of all of those pesky brackets.

The Swift Playgrounds coding keyboard

The Swift Playgrounds coding keyboard

There's a "Fundamentals of Swift" lesson that teaches the basics, but then more advanced concepts can be explored in further lessons. Code is created on the left side of the iPad screen, and then results are immediately viewable on the right side of the screen with the tap of a "Run My Code" button. Should developers want to see a full-screen view of their handiwork, it's easy to just swipe the window to take advantage of the complete screen size and resolution. 

Once the lessons are over, Swift Playgrounds has a collection of challenges that can be undertaken, and Apple plans to add new ones over time. In addition to the coding keyboard, there is also a Snippets Library to hold commonly-used pieces of code, a keypad that automatically pops up when typing numbers, and a feature called Touch to Edit that developers drag the boundaries of a statement around existing code.

Finally, if developers wish to move their projects to Xcode to try their hand at developing "real" apps for iOS and Mac, it's possible to export code to Xcode from Swift Playgrounds. Code can also be shared with other Playgrounds users through Mail, Messages, or AirDrop.

Sharing Swift Playgrounds code with another user through Messages

Sharing Swift Playgrounds code with another user through Messages

Craig "Hair Force One" Federighi, Apple's SVP of Software Engineering, was quoted as saying "I wish Swift Playgrounds was around when I was first learning to code. Swift Playgrounds is the only app of its kind that is both easy enough for students and beginners, yet powerful enough to write real code. It’s an innovative way to bring real coding concepts to life and empower the next generation with the skills they need to express their creativity."

The app will be available in the App Store this fall, probably about the same time that iOS 10 is released.