IT Pro is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Swift Playgrounds: Everything you need to know

Apple wants to help get kids coding with a new, free iPad app. We run down the details...

Apple's WWDC developer conference opened yesterday, and the company was keen to highlight its focus on young programmers, with CEO Tim Cook mentioning that the youngest developer at the conference was a nine-year-old girl.

As part of this emphasis on younger coders, Apple also launched an education tool to help kids get to grips with programming for iOS, called Swift Playgrounds. Here's everything you need to know about it.

What is Swift?

Swift is the programming language that Apple uses for all its software. This includes iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS, allowing developers to easily port their applications between Apple devices. Swift also supports Linux.

As of the latest release, Swift is completely open source, with freely-available source code, developer resources and documentation. This means that anyone can get started developing Swift applications without expense.

What is Swift Playgrounds?

Launched at WWDC 2016, Swift Playgrounds is an iOS app for iPad, designed to teach kids how to use the Swift programming language. It includes a series of step-by-step lessons and challenges to explain the fundamental elements of Swift.

In order to make programming more intuitive and less intimidating, the lessons in Swift Playgrounds are framed as games. Kids use basic commands to guide an animated charater, Byte, around a prebuilt cartoon environment.

Kids can immediately see the effects of their code, which gives their programming a sense of immediacy, as well as letting them easily visualize any errors in their code.

What tools and features does Swift Playgrounds have?

Programming can often be a somewhat fiddly task, especially divorced from the traditional mouse and keyboard interface used by most developers. To combat this, Apple has included some tools and shortcuts to make tasks quicker and easier.

One is the Snippets Library, which allows users to quickly drag and drop commonly-used code elements from a handy repository. Not only does this minimise typing, it also gives kids access to commands they might not otherwise think of.

Elsewhere, there are time-saving editing functions, like the ability to edit in place. Simply tap a number, and a pop-up keypad will let you edit the value. Users can also drag the boundaries of a statement to include or exclude specific code lines.

Swift Playground also has its own dedicated keyboard, designed specifically for programming, which includes commonly-used programming symbols such as parentheses and square brackets. Hold down a key to access multiple characters, then drag to select the desired one.

Another addition is QuickType for code, or in other words: autocorrect for developers. The shortcut bar will display intelligent suggestions as users type, which can be tapped to automatically fill out the desired string.

For those that want to graduate to more advanced projects, Swift Playground also offers templates - premade code that lets users start working with more complex iPad technologies like gyroscopes, accelerometers and multi-touch input.

When you're ready to start developing an app in earnest, you can even export code directly from Swift Playgrounds to professional developer tool Xcode and keep working on it.

When can I get Swift Playgrounds?

Swift Playgrounds will be released on the app store in the Autumn. It will be a completely free download, so you can pick it up and get started right away. The developer preview of the software is available now.

Featured Resources

Accelerating healthcare transformation through patient-centred medtech solutions

Seize the digital transformation opportunities to streamline patient care and optimise patient outcomes

Free Download

Big payoffs from big bets in AI-powered automation

Automation disruptors realise 1.5 x higher revenue growth

Free Download

Hyperscaler cloud service providers top ten

Why it's important for companies to consider hyperscaler cloud service providers, and why they matter

Free Download

Strategic app modernisation drives digital transformation

Address business needs both now and in the future

Free Download

Recommended

Android vs iOS: Which mobile OS is right for you?
Mobile

Android vs iOS: Which mobile OS is right for you?

30 Nov 2022
Best business smartphones 2022: The top handsets from Apple, Samsung, Google and more
Mobile

Best business smartphones 2022: The top handsets from Apple, Samsung, Google and more

11 Nov 2022
New macOS Ventura security features make for a compelling upgrade
operating systems

New macOS Ventura security features make for a compelling upgrade

25 Oct 2022
Apple patches actively exploited iPhone, iPad zero-day and 18 other security flaws
zero-day exploit

Apple patches actively exploited iPhone, iPad zero-day and 18 other security flaws

25 Oct 2022

Most Popular

Empowering employees to truly work anywhere
Sponsored

Empowering employees to truly work anywhere

22 Nov 2022
How to boot Windows 11 in Safe Mode
Microsoft Windows

How to boot Windows 11 in Safe Mode

15 Nov 2022
Why Japan finds it so hard to digitally transform
digital transformation

Why Japan finds it so hard to digitally transform

1 Dec 2022