More creative features and real-world connections in updated App Lab

Originally designed to support our popular Computer Science Principles course, our App Lab programming environment has rapidly grown to be one of the most popular programming environments for learners of all ages. If you have an idea for an app, App Lab is an amazing tool for bringing that idea to life!

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The field of computer science evolves rapidly, and our curriculum and product teams work hard to ensure our courses and tools stay up to speed with major changes and trends. Over the last two years we have been working on an update to our CS Principles course and we’ve taken that opportunity to make App Lab an even better tool for students to create, collaborate, and learn.

Today we’re excited to give you a preview of some of the improvements and new features you can look forward to finding in App Lab. We hope you’ll try them out!

Working with Data

Some of the biggest technology shifts in the past decade have been about data. Data and data analytics have impacted every part of our lives, including how we find information, track our health, explore interstellar space, and learn about how to keep our communities safe as we battle COVID-19.

App Lab allows students to build apps that store and work with data without having to figure out how to set up and manage database connections. To open up more possibilities and inspire more creativity, we’ve added an entirely new Data Library in this update with datasets on a wide range of subjects, including weather, sports, music, and movies.

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These datasets can be quickly imported into apps to make all kinds of apps, like quiz games, daily weather apps, data analysis tools, and more.

To help get the big picture on data, we’ve also added a Data Visualizer that enables the creation of charts and graphs to help understand what’s going on in a dataset. Using datasets from the new Data Library or custom data, students can generate bar charts, histograms, scatter plots, and crosstab tables to see trends and answer questions about the data.

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Student-Created Libraries

As the world of Open Source software has shown us, incredible achievements can be made when we work together and share our successes with others. Computer science is built on the sharing of code, and some of the most popular software in the world is built using free, publicly available code libraries.

App Lab now lets students more easily share code using the new Libraries feature. You can now create a library of code functions from any project and share them with others to make powerful and expressive apps, together. The imported functions even show up as blocks in the Toolbox which you can drag and drop just like any other block in App Lab.

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Themes

We’ve seen tremendous creativity in the different kinds of apps students are creating using App Lab, with a wide range of styles, graphics, and layouts. To help students make apps that reflect their creative ideas, App Lab now offers dozens of Themes that provide a quick and easy way to add color and style to an entire app without needing to laboriously change the settings for every element.

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We’ve spent years researching, testing and piloting these new App Lab features in classrooms, and we look forward to seeing the amazing new apps students create with these updates!

-Michael Oneppo, Code.org product manager

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