App Review: Swift Playgrounds

swift playgrounds

With the ever expanding world of Swift and the fact that I recently purchased a new iPad. I have gone full steam ahead with learning Swift since iOS has fully shifted over into Swift, well maybe shifting. Swift is becoming more and more of a focal point for Apple and with their learning app Swift Playgrounds. I have decided that a review of it is needed.

Not Just For Children

Swift playgrounds to some might seem like something that is marketed towards children and teens who are getting into coding. Truth be told, its not just for children. Even though it contains some cute characters and is very colorful, it is far from a children’s app. It is more of a everybody can learn and code app. The way the app breaks down lessons and focuses on teaching you the lingo. Also it crafts someone into a coder by not handing you the solutions but making references to the solution in such a way you can pick up on it.

swift playgrounds graph

The Valve Approach

What is the Valve approach? Well to put it simply, its reusing the ideas you gain and adding them to the puzzles. If you have ever played Portal, or Half Life, Valves approach to puzzle solving is presenting you with the base solutions, then a new variable to this puzzle. They will introduce you a few puzzles that are similar, then come next puzzle they will introduce a new variable. Then they repeat the cycle.

I noticed this approach from coding up the loops: for, while, and if and else if. It will combine them, and will introduce something new each time. Ok you know how to make the character go straight…now make that character pick up an object…now make that character going straight and pick up objects along the way. Also what separates this from other apps and learning tools I have used, is it doesn’t penalize you for trying a different solution. It will tell you “there are many solutions to this”. Which helps build that developer mentality of approaching a solution in many different ways, and not the approach with the school mentality of “code this way, develop this way.”

When you do approach some of the puzzles in the game that do require a bit of thinking. The hints the app gives you are bite sized approaches. I can tell the app is trying to break apart bad habits that a lot of developers will have. Where they will code up a bunch without testing it and having to go back and find the errors. The app tells you “first…have the character move all around the board…second…now have the character pick up the objects”. It will tell you to test, retest and take it one step at a time instead of all at once.

In Closing…

If you are one of those people that has trouble learning to code from a book or if you have trouble learning in a classroom, this is very much a good supplement to learning if you have trouble retaining knowledge that is told to you. This isn’t a straight learning course, you will need to also practice practice practice. Just using this app to learn Swift isn’t enough, you have to apply what you learn to building something in order for yourself to see everything work in the real world. I really do hope apple continues to apply more lessons to this, and add more lessons that jump more into different ways you could use Swift. Also if you have an iPad, this is TOTALLY FREE, so why wouldn’t you download it.

see you space cowboy…