What You Should Know about the Arduino Environment - dummies

What You Should Know about the Arduino Environment

By John Nussey

Before you start in with sketches, it’s a good idea to know your way around the Arduino environment. Programs written for Arduino are known as sketches. This is a naming convention that was passed down from Processing, which allowed users to create programs quickly, in the same way that you would scribble out an idea in your sketchbook.

The Arduino software is an integrated development environment, or IDE, and this environment is presented to you as a graphical user interface, or GUI (pronounced goo-ey).

A GUI provides a visual way of interacting with a computer. Without it, you would need to read and write lines of text, similar to what you may have seen in the DOS prompt in Windows, Terminal in Mac OS X, or that bit about the white rabbit at the start of the Matrix.

The turquoise window is Arduino’s GUI. It’s divided into the following four main areas:

  • Menu bar: Similar to the menu bar in other programs you’re familiar with, the Arduino menu bar contains drop-down menus to all the tools, settings, and information that are relevant to the program. In Mac OS, the menu bar is at the top of your screen; in Windows and Linux, the menu bar is at the top of the active Arduino window.

  • Toolbar: The toolbar contains several buttons that are commonly needed when writing sketches for Arduino. These buttons, which are also available on the menu bar, perform the following functions:

    • Verify: Checks that your code makes sense to the Arduino software. Known as compiling, this process is a bit like a spelling and grammar checker. Be aware, however, that although the compiler checks that your code has no obvious mistakes, it does not guarantee that your sketch works correctly.

    • Upload: Sends your sketch to a connected Arduino board. It automatically compiles your sketch before uploading it.

    • New: Creates a new sketch.

    • Open: Opens an existing sketch.

    • Save: Saves the current sketch.

    • Serial monitor: Allows you to view data that is being sent to or received by your Arduino board.

  • Text editor: This area displays your sketch is displayed as text. It is almost identical to a regular text editor but has a couple of added features. Some text is color coded if it is recognized by the Arduino software. You also have the option to auto format the text so that it is easier to read.

  • Message area: Even after years of using Arduino, you’ll still make mistakes (everybody does), and this message area is one of the first ways for you to find out that something is wrong. (Note: The second way is the smell of burning plastic.)