The growth of the Processing project

Number of Processing users, every four weeks, since 2005:

humbling and terrifying

Long version: this is a tally of the number of unique users who run the Processing environment every four weeks, as measured by the number of machines checking for updates.

Of note:

  • In spite of the frequently proclaimed “death of Java” or “death of Java on the desktop,” we’re continuing to grow. This isn’t to say that Java on the desktop is undead, but this frustrating contradiction presents a considerable challenge for us… I’ll write more about that soon.
  • There’s a considerable (even comical) dip each January, when people decide that the holidays and drinking with their family is more fun than coding (or maybe that’s only my household). Things also tail off during the summer into August. These two trends are amplified due to the number of academic users, however other data I’ve seen (web traffic, etc) suggests that the rest of the world actually operates on something like the academic calendar as well.

About the data:

  • This is a very conservative estimate of the number of Processing users out there. Our software is free — we don’t have a lot to gain by inflating the numbers.
  • This covers only unique users — we don’t double count the same person in each 4-week period. Otherwise our numbers would be much higher.
  • This is not downloads, which are also significantly higher.
  • This is every four weeks, not every month. Unless there are 13 months in a year. Wait, how many months are in a year?
  • This only covers people who are using the actual Processing Development Environment — no Eclipse users, etc.
  • Use of processing.js or spinoff projects are not included.
  • This doesn’t include anyone who has disabled checking for updates.
  • This doesn’t include anyone not connected to the net.
  • The unique ID is stored in the preferences.txt file, so if a single login is used on a machine, that’s counting multiple people. Conversely, if you have multiple machines, you’ll be counted more than once.
  • Showing the data by day, week, or year all show the same overall trend.

This is a pretty lame visualization of the numbers, and I’m not even showing other interesting tidbits like what OS, version, and so on are in use. Maybe we can release the data if we can figure out an appropriate way to do so.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010 | processing  

Processing + Eclipse

Exciting news! The short story is that there’s a new Processing Plug-in for Eclipse, and you can learn about it here.


The long story is that Chris Lonnen contacted me in the spring about applying for the Google Summer of Code (SoC) program, which I promptly missed the deadline for. But we eventually managed to put him to work anyway, via Fathom (our own SoC army of one, with Chris working from afar in western New York) with the task of working on a new editor that we can use to replace the current Processing Development Environment (the PDE).

After some initial work and scoping things out, we settled on the Eclipse RCP as the platform, with the task of first making a plug-in that works in the Eclipse environment (everything in Eclipse is a plug-in), which could then eventually become its own standalone editor to replace the current PDE.

Things are currently incomplete (again, see the Wiki page for more details), but give it a shot, file bugs (tag with Component-Eclipse when filing), and help lend Chris a hand in developing it further. Or if you have questions, be sure to use the forum. Come to think of it, might be time for a new forum section…

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 | processing  

Ever feel like there’s just a tiny curtain protecting your privacy online?

This piece from Niklas Roy made me laugh out loud:

Built with Processing and AVR-GCC.

(Thanks to Golan, who pointed out this link.)

Monday, October 18, 2010 | laughinglikeanidiotatyourcomputer, processing  

Processing 0191 for Android

Casey and I are in Chicago this weekend for the Processing+Android conference at UIC, organized by Daniel Sauter. In our excitement over the event, we posted revision 0191 last night (we tried to post from the back of Daniel’s old red Volvo, but Sprint’s network took exception). The release includes several Android-related updates, mostly fixed from Andres Colubri to improve how 3D works. Get the download here:

http://processing.org/download/ (under pre-releases)

Also be sure to keep an eye on the Wiki for Android updates:

(By the time you read this, there may be newer pre-releases like 0192, or 0193, and so on. Use those instead.)

Release notes for the 0191 update follow. And we’ll be doing a more final release (1.3 or 2.0, depending) once things settle a bit.

Processing Revision 0191 – 30 September 2010

Bug fix release. Contains major fixes to 3D for Android.

[ changes ]

+ Added option to preferences panel to enable/disable smoothing of text inside the editor.

+ Added more anti-aliasing to the Linux interface. Things were downright ugly in places where defaults different from Windows and Mac OS X.

[ bug fixes ]

+ Fix a problem with Linux permissions in the download.

+ Fix ‘redo’ command to follow various OS conventions.
Linux: ctrl-shift-z, macosx cmd-shift-z, windows ctrl-y

+ Remove extraneous console messages on export.

+ When exporting, don’t include a library multiple times.

+ Fixed a problem where no spaces in the size() command caused an error.

[ andres 1, android 0 ]

+ Implemented offscreen operations in A3D when FBO extension is not available

+ Get OpenGL matrices in A3D when GL_OES_matrix_get extension is not available

+ Implemented calculateModelviewInverse() in A3D

+ Automatic clear/noClear() switch in A3D

+ Fix camera issues in A3D

+ Major fixes for type to work properly in 3D (fixes KineticType)

+ Lighting and materials testing in A3D

+ Generate mipmaps when the GL_OES_generate_mipmaps extension is not available.

+ Finish screen pixels/texture operations in A3D

+ Fixed a bug in the camera handling. This was a quite urgent issue, since affected pretty much everything. It went unnoticed until now because the math error canceled out with the default camera settings.

+ Also finished the implementation of the getImpl() method in PImage,  so it initializes the texture of the new image in A3D mode. This makes the CubicVR example to work fine.

[ core ]

+ Fix background(PImage) for OpenGL

+ Skip null entries with trim(String[])

+ Fix NaN with PVector.angleBetween

+ Fix missing getFloat() method in XML library

+ Make sure that paths are created with saveStream(). (saveStream() wasn’t working when intermediate directories didn’t exist)

+ Make createWriter() use an 8k buffer by default.

Friday, October 1, 2010 | processing  

Processing 0187

New release available shortly in the pre-releases section of processing.org/download.

More bug fixes, and one new treat for OS X users. Hopefully we’re about set
to call this one 1.2. Please test and report any issues you find.

[ additions ]

+ On Mac OS X, you’re no longer required to have a sketch window open at
all times. This will make the application feel more Mac-like–a little
more elegant and trendy and smug with superiority.

+ Added a warning to the Linux version to tell users that they should be
using the official version of Java from Sun if they’re not.
There isn’t a perfect way to detect whether Sun Java is in use,
so please let us know how it works or if you have a better idea.

[ fixes ]

+ “Unexpected token” error when creating classes with recent pre-releases.

+ Prevent horizontal scroll offset from disappearing.
Thanks to Christian Thiemann for the fix.

+ Fix NullPointerException when making a new sketch on non-English systems.

+ Fixed a problem when using command-line arguments with exported sketches
on Windows. Thanks to davbol for the fix.

+ Added requestFocusInWindow() call to replace Apple’s broken requestFocus(),
which should return the previous behavior of sketches getting focus
immediately when loaded in a web browser.

+ Add getDocumentBase() version of createInput() for Internet Explorer.
Without this, sketches will crash when trying to find files on a web server
that are not in the exported .jar file. This fix is only for IE. Yay IE!

Monday, July 12, 2010 | processing  

Processing 0186

Mixed bag of updates as a follow-on to release 0185.

[ mixed bag ]

Android SDK requirement is now API 7 (Android 2.1), because Google has deprecated API 6 (2.0.1).

More Linux PDF fixes from Matthias Breuer. Thanks!

PDF library matrix not reset between frames. (Fixed in 0185.)

Updated the URLs opened by the software to reflect the new site layout.

Updated the included examples with recent changes.

Friday, June 25, 2010 | processing  

Processing 0185

Just posted release 0185 of Processing on the download page. It’s a pre-release for what will eventually become 1.2 or 1.5. Please test and file bugs if you find problems. The list revisions are below:

PROCESSING 0185 – 20 June 2010

Primarily a bug fix release. The biggest change are a couple tweaks for problems caused by Apple’s Update 2 for Java on OS X, so this should make Processing usable on Macs again.

[ bug fixes ]

+ Fix for Apple bug that caused an assertion failure when requestFocus() was called in some situations. This was causing the PDE to become unusable for opening sketches, and focus highlighting was no longer happening.

+ Fixed two bugs with fonts created with specific charsets.

+ Fix from jdf for PImage(java.awt.Image img) and ARGB images. The method “public PImage(java.awt.Image)” was setting the format to RGB (even if ARGB)

+ Large number of beginShape(POINTS) not rendering correctly on first frame

+ Fix for PDF library and createFont() on Linux, thanks to Matthias Breuer.

+ Fix from takachin for a problem with full-width space with Japanese IME.

+ Reset matrix for the PDF library in-between frames also added begin/endDraw between frames

[ additions ]

+ Add the changes for “Copy as HTML” to replace the “Copy for Discourse” function, now that we’ve shut down the old YaBB discourse board.

+ Option to disable re-opening sketches when you start Processing. The default will stay the same, but if you don’t like the feature, alter your preferences.txt file to change:
to the following:
The issue was originally filed here:
However the main problem with this is that due to other errors, the wrong sketches are being opened, sketches are sometimes forgotten, or windows are opened concurrently on top of one another, creating a bad situation:
Those bugs are not yet fixed, but will be addressed in future releases.

+ Option to change the default naming of sketches via preferences.txt.
First, you can change the prefix, which defaults to:
And the suffix is handled using dates. The current default (since 1.0) is:
Or if you want to switch back to the old (six digit) style, you could use:

+ Updated bundled JRE/tools to 6u20 for Windows and Linux

+ Several SVG fixes and additions, including some tweaks from PhiLho. These changes will be documented in a future release once the API changes are complete.

+ Added option to launch a sketch directly w/ linux. Thanks to Larry Kyrala.

+ Pass actual exceptions from InvocationTargetException in registered methods, which improves how exceptions are reported with libraries.

+ Added loading.gif to the js version of the applet loader. Not sure if this is actually working or not, but it’s there.

[ android ]

+ Added permissions for INTERNET and WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE to the default AndroidManifest.xml file. This will be addressed in greater detail here:
And with the implementation of code signing here:

+ Lots of work happening underneath with regards to Android, more updates soon as things start evening out a bit.

+ Defaulting to a WVGA screen for the default Processing AVD.

Monday, June 21, 2010 | processing  

The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook

Inspired by this post by Kurt Opsahl of the EFF, Matt McKeon of IBM’s Visual Communication Lab created the following visualization depicting the evolution of the default privacy settings on Facebook:

sorry, still don't have an account on fb

Has a couple nice visual touches that prevent it from looking like YAHSVPOQUFOTI (yet another highly-stylized visualization piece of questionable utility found on the internet). Also cool to see it was built with Processing.js.

Friday, May 7, 2010 | javascript, privacy, processing, refine, social  

JavaScript: The Good Parts

Watched Douglas Crockford’s “JavaScript: The Good Parts” talk, based on his book of the same name. I like Crockford’s work on JSON—or rather, the idea of simple file formats that need simple APIs to work with them. More important, with the continued evolution of processing.js, I’m really optimistic about where things are headed with JavaScript. (You might say I’m feeling a bit hopey changey about it.) I’ve had Crockford’s book in my reading pile for a while and finally got around to watching the talk last week.

I was at Netscape (or maybe at Sun?) when they renamed their “LiveScript” language to “JavaScript” (because Java was the it-language at the time) and I’d avoided it for a long time. His talk points out a series of things to avoid from the JavaScript syntax, in fact I think I enjoyed the explanation of the “Bad Parts” a bit more. By clearing out a few things, the whole starts making more sense. But it’s an interesting discussion for people scratching their head about this incredibly pervasive language found in web browsers, and rapidly becoming more exciting as support for Canvas and WebGL evolve.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 | cs, languages, processing, speaky  

Processing 0176 (pre-release)

PooI’ve just posted revision 0176 of Processing, a pre-release of what will become version 1.1 or maybe 1.5, depending on how long we bake this one before releasing the final. A list of changes can be found here.

You can download the release at android.processing.org, which (as you might guess) is the eventual home of the Android version of Processing. The Android support is very incomplete, as you can see from the warnings on the page.

But ignore for a moment that it says “Android”, the download is hosted there because at the moment, most of my energy is focused on the Android extensions. While the build also includes the incomplete Android tools (just pretend they aren’t there, unless you’re willing to read all the caveats on that page), there are many bug fixes for the regular Java version of Processing in the download too. It’s been a couple months since I’ve done a proper release, so there’s a backlog of fixed bugs and things I’ve been adding.

I’m posting the pre-release because so many things have changed, and I don’t want to do a 1.1 release, followed by an immediate 1.1.1. So please test! Then again, it’s taken me so long to explain the situation that I should have just posted it as 1.1.

And by the time you read this, it’ll probably be release 0177, or 0178, or…

Saturday, February 20, 2010 | processing  

toxiclibs showreel

One of the earliest fixtures in the Processing community is toxi (or Karsten Schmidt, if you must) who has been doing wonderful things using the language/environment/core for many years. A couple months ago he posted a beautiful reel of work done by the many users of his toxiclibs library. Just beautiful:

A more complete description can be found on the video page over at Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009 | processing  

Health Numbers in Context

As a continuation of this project, we’ve just finished a second health visualization (also built with Processing) using GE’s data. Like the first round, we started with ~6 million patient records from their “MQIC” database. Using the software, you input gender, age range, height/weight (to calculate BMI), and smoking status. Based on the selections it shows you the number of people in the database that match those settings, and the percentages that have been diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, or have had a stroke:

are you blue? no, dark blue.

For people reading the site because they’re interested in visualization (I guess that’s all of you, except for mom, who is just trying to figure out what I’m up to), some inside baseball:

On the interaction side, the main objective here was to make it easy to move around the interface as quickly as possible. The rows are shown in succession so that the interface can teach itself, but we also provide a reset button so that you can return to the starting point. Once the rows are visible, though, it’s easy to move laterally and make changes to the settings (swapping between age ranges, for instance).

One irony of making the data accessible this way is that most users — after looking up their own numbers — will then try as many different possibilities, in a quick hunt for the extremes. How high do the percentages go? If I select bizarre values, what happens at the edges? Normally, you don’t have to spend as much time on these 1% cases, and it would be alright for things to be a little weird when truly odd values are entered (300 lb. people who are 4′ tall, smokers, and age 75 and over). But in this case, a lot more time has to be spent making sure things work. So while most of the time the percentages at the top are in the 5-15% range, I had to write code so that when one category shoots up to 50%, the other bars in the chart scale down in proportion.

Another aspect of the interface is the body mass index calculator. Normally a BMI chart looks something like this, a large two-dimensional plot that would otherwise use up half of the interface. By using a little interaction, we can make a simpler chart that dynamically updates itself based on the current height or weight settings. Also, because the ranges have (mathematically) hard edges, we’re showing that upper and lower bound of the range so that it’s more apparent. Otherwise, a 5’8″ person steps from 164 to 165 lbs to find themselves suddenly overweight. In reality, the boundaries are more fuzzy, which would be taken into account by a doctor. But with the software, we instead have to be clear about the way the logic is working.

(Note that the height and weight are only used to calculate a BMI range — it’s not pulling individuals from the database who are 5’8″ and 160 lbs, it’s pulling people from the “normal” BMI range.)

For the statistically (or at least numerically) inclined, there are also some interesting quirks that can be found, like a situation or two where health risk would be expected to go up, but in fact they go down (I’ll leave you to find them yourself). This is not a bug. We’re not doing any sort of complex math here to evaluate actual risk, the software is just a matching game with individuals in the database. These cases in particular show up when there are only a few thousand individuals, say 2,000 out of the full 6 million records. The number of people in these edge cases is practically a rounding error, which means that we can’t make sound conclusions with them. As armchair doctor-scientist, it’s also interesting to speculate as to what might be happening in such cases, and how other factors may come into play.

Have fun!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009 | interact, mine, probability, processing, seed  

History of Processing, as told by John Maeda

kicking it color mac classic styleJohn Maeda (Casey and I’s former advisor) has written a very gracious, and very generous article about the origins of the Processing project for Technology Review. An excerpt:

In 2001, when I was a young MIT faculty member overseeing the Media Lab Aesthetics and Computation Group, two students came up with an idea that would become an award-winning piece of software called Processing—which I am often credited with having a hand in conceiving. Processing, a programming language and development environment that makes sophisticated animations and other graphical effects accessible to people with relatively little programming experience, is today one of the few open-source challengers to Flash graphics on the Web. The truth is that I almost stifled the nascent project’s development, because I couldn’t see the need it would fill. Luckily, Ben Fry and Casey Reas absolutely ignored my opinion. And good for them: the teacher, after all, isn’t always right.

To give him more credit (not that he needs it, but maybe because I’m bad with compliments), John’s objection had much to do with the fact that Processing was explicitly an evolutionary, as opposed to revolutionary, step in how coding was done. That’s why it was never the focus of my Masters or Ph.D. work, and instead has nearly always been a side project. And more importantly, for students in his research group, he usually forced us away from whatever came naturally for us. Those of us for whom creating tools was “easy,” he forced us to make less practical things. For those who were comfortable making art, he steered them toward creating tools. In the end, we all learned more that way.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 | processing  

Tiny Sketch, Big Funny

not all sketches are 6x6 pixels in sizeJust heard about this from Casey yesterday:

Tiny Sketch is an open challenge to artists and programmers to create the most compelling creative work possible with the programming language Processing using 200 characters or less.

…building on the proud traditions of obfuscated code contests and the demo scene. The contest runs through September 13 and is sponsored by Rhizome and OpenProcessing.

Having designed Processing to do one thing or another, several of the submissions made me laugh out loud for ways their authors managed to introduce new quirks. For instance, consider the createFont() function. Usually it looks something like this:

PFont f = createFont("Helvetica", 12);

If the “Helvetica” font is not installed, it silently winds up using a default font. So somebody clever figured out that if you just leave the font name blank, it’s an easy way to get a default font, and not burn several characters of the limit:

PFont f = createFont("", 12);

Another, by Kyle McDonald, throws an exception as a way to produce text to plot on screen. (It’s also a bit of an inside joke—on us, perhaps—because it’s a ubiquitous error message resulting from a change that was made since earlier releases of Processing.)

One of the most interesting bits is seeing how these ideas propagate into later sketches that are produced. Since the font hack appeared (not sure who did it first, let me know if you do), everyone else is now using that method for producing text. Obviously art/design/coding projects are always the result of other influences, but it’s rare that you get to see ideas exchanged in such a direct fashion.

And judging from some of the jagged edges in the submissions, I’m gonna change the smooth() to just s() for the next release of Processing, so that more people will use it in the next competition.

Friday, August 14, 2009 | code, opportunities, processing  

Processing Time

processing-time-200pxSpend your Saturday making clocks with code:

Processing Time

A code jam / party and programming competition
Part of the Boston Cyberarts Festival

Saturday, May 2, 2009 – MIT N52–390
265 Massachusetts Ave, 3rd Floor

  • Compete individually or in pairs to design and develop beautiful programs in Processing
  • Snack and refresh yourself
  • Present completed projects to other participants and visitors at the end of the day
  • Anyone (not just MIT students or community members) can compete, anyone can stop by to see presentations
  • Meet the creators of Processing, Ben Fry (in person) and Casey Reas (via video), who will award prizes


  • 12:30-01:00 pm: Check in
  • 01:00-01:15 pm: Welcome
  • 01:15-05:15 pm: Coding Session
  • 05:15-06:45 pm: Presentations and Awards – Public welcome!


Register in advance, individually or in two-person teams, by emailing processing-time@mit.edu with one or two participant names and a team name.


Processing Time is sponsored by MIT (Arts Initiatives at MIT, Center for Advanced Visual Studies, Program in Writing & Humanistic Studies) and is part of the Boston Cyberarts Festival.

The Processing Time page, linked to a nifty poster, is at: burgess.mit.edu/pt

Monday, April 6, 2009 | opportunities, processing  

Goodbye, Desktop

Casey sent over a video from someone who has an Arduino (outfitted with a display) running examples from our Processing book:

A little surreal and a lot exciting.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 | physical, processing  

Visualization + Processing in Today’s IHT

Alice Rawsthorn writes about visualization in today’s International Herald Tribune, which also includes a mention of Processing:

Producing visualization required the development of new tools capable of analyzing huge quantities of complex data, and interpreting it visually. In the forefront is Processing, a software system devised by the American designers, Ben Fry and Casey Reas, to enable computer programmers to create visual images, and designers to get to grips with programming. “Processing is a bridge between those fields,” said Reas. “Designers feel comfortable with it because it enables them to work visually, yet it also feels familiar to programmers.”

Paola Antonelli on visualization:

“Visualization is not simply an evolution of graphic design, but a complete and complex design form that requires spatial, narrative, synthetic and graphic sensitivity and expertise,” explained Antonelli. “That’s why we see so many practitioners – architects, product designers, filmmakers, statisticians and graphic designers – flocking to it.”

The Humans vs. Chimps illustration even gets a mention:

Take a scientific question like the genetic difference between humans and chimpanzees. Would you prefer to plough through an essay on the subject, or to glance at the visualization created by Fry in which the 75,000 letters of coding in the human genome form a photographic image of a chimp’s head? Virtually all of our genetic information is identical, and Fry highlights the discrepancies by depicting nine of the letters as red dots. No contest again.

The full article is here, and also includes a slide show of other works.

Monday, December 8, 2008 | iloveme, processing, reviews  

The Owl Learns Japanese

1378_visualdata_h1.jpgI’m incredibly pleased to write that O’Reilly Japan has just completed a Japanese translation of Visualizing Data. The book is available for pre-order on Amazon, and has also been announced on O’Reilly’s Japanese site.

Having the book published in Japanese is incredibly gratifying. Two of my greatest mentors (Suguru Ishizaki at CMU, and later John Maeda at MIT) were Japanese Americans who trained at Tsukuba University, training that informed both their own work and their teaching style.

I first unveiled Processing during a two week workshop course at Musashino Art University in Japan in August 2001, working with a group of about 40 students. And in 2005, we won the Interactive Design Prize from the Tokyo Type Director’s Club.

At any rate, I can’t wait to see the book in person, this is just too cool.

Monday, December 1, 2008 | processing, translation  

It only took 162 attempts, but Processing 1.0 is here!

We’ve just posted Processing 1.0 at http://processing.org/download. We’re so excited about it, we even took time to write a press release:

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. and LOS ANGELES, Calif. – November 24, 2008 – The Processing project today announced the immediate availability of the Processing 1.0 product family, the highly anticipated release of industry-leading design and development software for virtually every creative workflow. Delivering radical breakthroughs in workflow efficiency – and packed with hundreds of innovative, time-saving features – the new Processing 1.0 product line advances the creative process across print, Web, interactive, film, video and mobile.

Whups! That’s not the right one. Here we go:

Today, on November 24, 2008, we launch the 1.0 version of the Processing software. Processing is a programming language, development environment, and online community that since 2001 has promoted software literacy within the visual arts. Initially created to serve as a software sketchbook and to teach fundamentals of computer programming within a visual context, Processing quickly developed into a tool for creating finished professional work as well.

Processing is a free, open source alternative to proprietary software tools with expensive licenses, making it accessible to schools and individual students. Its open source status encourages the community participation and collaboration that is vital to Processing’s growth. Contributors share programs, contribute code, answer questions in the discussion forum, and build libraries to extend the possibilities of the software. The Processing community has written over seventy libraries to facilitate computer vision, data visualization, music, networking, and electronics.

Students at hundreds of schools around the world use Processing for classes ranging from middle school math education to undergraduate programming courses to graduate fine arts studios.

  • At New York University’s graduate ITP program, Processing is taught alongside its sister project Arduino and PHP as part of the foundation course for 100 incoming students each year.
  • At UCLA, undergraduates in the Design | Media Arts program use Processing to learn the concepts and skills needed to imagine the next generation of web sites and video games.
  • At Lincoln Public Schools in Nebraska and the Phoenix Country Day School in Arizona, middle school teachers are experimenting with Processing to supplement traditional algebra and geometry classes.

Tens of thousands of companies, artists, designers, architects, and researchers use Processing to create an incredibly diverse range of projects.

  • Design firms such as Motion Theory provide motion graphics created with Processing for the TV commercials of companies like Nike, Budweiser, and Hewlett-Packard.
  • Bands such as R.E.M., Radiohead, and Modest Mouse have featured animation created with Processing in their music videos.
  • Publications such as the journal Nature, the New York Times, Seed, and Communications of the ACM have commissioned information graphics created with Processing.
  • The artist group HeHe used Processing to produce their award-winning Nuage Vert installation, a large-scale public visualization of pollution levels in Helsinki.
  • The University of Washington’s Applied Physics Lab used Processing to create a visualization of a coastal marine ecosystem as a part of the NSF RISE project.
  • The Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies at Miami University uses Processing to build visualization tools and analyze text for digital humanities research.

The Processing software runs on the Mac, Windows, and GNU/Linux platforms. With the click of a button, it exports applets for the Web or standalone applications for Mac, Windows, and GNU/Linux. Graphics from Processing programs may also be exported as PDF, DXF, or TIFF files and many other file formats. Future Processing releases will focus on faster 3D graphics, better video playback and capture, and enhancing the development environment. Some experimental versions of Processing have been adapted to other languages such as JavaScript, ActionScript, Ruby, Python, and Scala; other adaptations bring Processing to platforms like the OpenMoko, iPhone, and OLPC XO-1.

Processing was founded by Ben Fry and Casey Reas in 2001 while both were John Maeda’s students at the MIT Media Lab. Further development has taken place at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, Carnegie Mellon University, and the UCLA, where Reas is chair of the Department of Design | Media Arts. Miami University, Oblong Industries, and the Rockefeller Foundation have generously contributed funding to the project.

The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (a Smithsonian Institution) included Processing in its National Design Triennial. Works created with Processing were featured prominently in the Design and the Elastic Mind show at the Museum of Modern Art. Numerous design magazines, including Print, Eye, and Creativity, have highlighted the software.

For their work on Processing, Fry and Reas received the 2008 Muriel Cooper Prize from the Design Management Institute. The Processing community was awarded the 2005 Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica award and the 2005 Interactive Design Prize from the Tokyo Type Director’s Club.

The Processing website includes tutorials, exhibitions, interviews, a complete reference, and hundreds of software examples. The Discourse forum hosts continuous community discussions and dialog with the developers.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008 | processing  

Visualizing Data with Portuguese and Processing.js

Very cool! Check out these implementations of several Visualizing Data examples that make use of John Resig’s Processing.js, an adaptation of the Processing API with pure JavaScript. This means running in a web browser with no additional plug-ins (no Java Virtual Machine kicking in while you take a sip of coffee—much less drain the whole cup, depending the speed of your computer). Since the first couple chapters cover straightforward, static exercises, I’d been wanting to try this, but it’s more fun when someone beats you to it. (Nothing is better than feeling like a slacker, after all.)

map-example.pngView the introductory Processing sketch from Page 22,  or the map of the United States populated with random data points from Page 35.

Babelfish translation of the page here, with choice quotes like “also the shipment of external filing-cabinets had that to be different of what was in the book.”

And the thing is, when I finished the proof of the book for O’Reilly, I had this uneasy feeling that I was shipping the wrong filing-cabinets. Particularly the external ones.

Monday, November 17, 2008 | examples, processing, translation, vida  

Is Processing a Language?

This question is covered in the FAQ on Processing.org, but still tends to reappear on the board every few months (most recently here). Someone once described Processing syntax as a dialect of Java, which sounds about right to me. It’s syntax that we’ve added on top of Java to make things a little easier for a particular work domain (roughly, making visual things). There’s also a programming environment that significantly simplifies what’s found in traditional IDEs. Plus there’s a core API set (and a handful of core libraries) that we’ve built to support this type of work. If we did these in isolation, none would really stick out:

  • The language changes are pretty minimal. The big difference is probably how they integrate with the IDE that’s built around the idea of sitting down and quickly writing code (what we call sketching). We don’t require users to first learn class definitions or even method declarations before they can show something on the screen, which helps avoid some of the initial head-scratching that comes from trying to explain “public class” or “void” or beginning programmers. For more advanced coders, it helps Java feel a bit more like scripting. I use a lot of Perl for various tasks, and I wanted to replicate the way you can write 5-10 lines of Perl (or Python, or Ruby, or whatever) and get something done. In Java, you often need double that number of lines just to set up your class definitions and a thread.
  • The API set is a Java API. It can be used with traditional Java IDEs (Eclipse, Netbeans, whatever) and a Processing component can be embedded into other applications. But without the rest of it (the syntax and IDE), Processing (API or otherwise) it would not be as widely used as it is today. The API grew out of Casey and I’s work, and our like/dislike of various approaches used by libraries that we’ve used: Postscript, QuickDraw, OpenGL, Java AWT, even Applesoft BASIC. Can we do OpenGL but still have it feel as simple as writing graphics code on the Apple ][? Can we simplify current graphics approaches so that they at least feel simpler like the original QuickDraw on the Mac?
  • The IDE is designed to make Java-style programming less wretched. Check out the Integration discussion board to see just how un-fun it is to figure out how the Java CLASSPATH and java.library.path work, or how to embed AWT and Swing components. These frustrations and complications sometimes are even filed as bugs in the Processing bugs database by users who have apparently become spoiled by not having to worry about such things.

If pressed, perhaps the language itself is probably the easiest to let go of—witness the Python, Ruby and now JavaScript versions of the API, or the C++ version that I use for personal work (when doing increasingly rare C++ projects). And lots of people build Processing projects without the preprocessor and PDE.

In some cases, we’ve even been accused of not being clear that it’s “just Java,” or even that Processing is Java with a trendy name. Complaining is easier than reading, so there’s not much we can do for people who don’t glance at the FAQ before writing their unhappy screeds. And with the stresses of the modern world, people need to relieve themselves of their angst somehow. (On the other hand, if you’ve met either of us, you’ll know that Casey and I are very trendy people, having grown up in the farmlands of Ohio and Michigan.)

However, we don’t print “Java” on every page of Processing.org for a very specific reason: knowing it’s Java behind the scenes doesn’t actually help our audience. In fact, it usually causes more trouble than not because people expect it to behave exactly like Java. We’ve had a number of people who copy and pasted code from the Java Tutorial into the PDE, and are confused when it doesn’t work.

(Edit – In writing this, I don’t want to understate the importance of Java, especially in the early stages of the Processing project. It goes without saying that we owe a great deal to Sun for developing, distributing, and championing Java. It was, and is, the best language/environment on which to base the project. More about the choice of language can be found in the FAQ.)

But for as much trouble as the preprocessor and language component of Processing is for us to develop (or as irrelevant it might seem to programmers who already code in Java), we’re still not willing to give that up—damned if we’re gonna make students learn how to write a method declaration and “public class Blah extends PApplet” before they can get something to show up on the screen.

I think the question is a bit like the general obsession of people trying to define Apple as a hardware or software company. They don’t do either—they do both. They’re one of the few to figure out that the distinction actually gets in the way of delivering good products.

Now, whether we’re delivering a good product is certainly questionable—the analogy with Apple may, uh, end there.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008 | languages, processing, software  

Processing 0143 and a status report

Just posted Processing 0143 to the download page. This is not yet the stable release, so please read revisions.txt, which describes the signficant changes in the releases since 0135 (the last “stable” release, and the current default download).

I’ve also posted a status report:

Some updates from the Processing Corporation’s east coast tower high rise offices in Cambridge, MA.

We’re working to finish Processing 1.0. The target date is this Fall, meaning August or September. We’d like to have it done as early as possible so that Fall classes can make use of it. In addition to the usual channels, we have a dozen or so people who are helping out with getting the release out the door. We’ll unmask these heros at some point in the future.

I’m also pleased to announce that I’m able to focus on Processing full time this Summer with the help of a stipend provided by Oblong Industries. They’re the folks behind the gesture-controlled interface you see in Minority Report. (You can find more about them with a little Google digging.) They’re funding us because of their love of open source and they feel that Processing is an important project. As in, there are no strings attached to the funding, and Processing is not being re-tooled for gesture interfaces. We owe them our enormous gratitude.

The big things for 1.0 include the Tools menu, better compile/run setup (what you see in 0136+), bringing back P2D, perhaps bringing back P3D with anti-aliasing, better OpenGL support, better library support, some major bug fixes (outstanding threading problems and more).

If you have a feature or bug that you want fixed in time for 1.0, now is the time to vote by making sure that it’s listed at http://dev.processing.org/bugs.

I’ll try to post updates more frequently over the next few weeks.

Monday, July 28, 2008 | processing  

Visualizing Data Book CoverVisualizing Data is my book about computational information design. It covers the path from raw data to how we understand it, detailing how to begin with a set of numbers and produce images or software that lets you view and interact with information. Unlike nearly all books in this field, it is a hands-on guide intended for people who want to learn how to actually build a data visualization.

The text was published by O’Reilly in December 2007 and can be found at Amazon and elsewhere. Amazon also has an edition for the Kindle, for people who aren’t into the dead tree thing. (Proceeds from Amazon links found on this page are used to pay my web hosting bill.)

Examples for the book can be found here.

The book covers ideas found in my Ph.D. dissertation, which is basis for Chapter 1. The next chapter is an extremely brief introduction to Processing, which is used for the examples. Next is (chapter 3) is a simple mapping project to place data points on a map of the United States. Of course, the idea is not that lots of people want to visualize data for each of 50 states. Instead, it’s a jumping off point for learning how to lay out data spatially.

The chapters that follow cover six more projects, such as salary vs. performance (Chapter 5), zipdecode (Chapter 6), followed by more advanced topics dealing with trees, treemaps, hierarchies, and recursion (Chapter 7), plus graphs and networks (Chapter 8).

This site is used for follow-up code and writing about related topics.