What Is Visual Programming?

Visual Programming Intro

It wasn’t many years ago that using a computer meant learning a new language. Innovations like the graphical user interface exposed basic elements like the file system to a wider audience. In addition, the Internet has become increasingly democratized as user-friendly tools like WordPress and YouTube allow anyone to create, publish and distribute content without writing a line of code. 


However, even the most user-friendly development boards still need to be programmed, and some coding languages still look complicated and inaccessible. Fortunately, some developers have started to create handy visual programming tools. These platforms provide users with a simple drag-and-drop interface for building apps and widgets that can be applied with customizations tailored to any specific hardware. So, let’s learn more about visual programming and its specifications.


 Visual Programming

Visual Programming definition

What is Visual Programming? Visual programming is a technology that allows you to create program code using graphics or symbols rather than text. Graphic elements are used to describe the logic of the program. They can be manipulated interactively according to some rules, and spatial graphic objects can be used as elements of the syntax of the program. Due to the well-thought-out rules for naming, commenting, and grouping, the visual programming tool has a user-friendly interface without technical skills, which makes the work easier.


Graphical programming software is not a new concept; it dates back to 1975. Sometimes, for various reasons, creating a program using visual coding elements is much easier than using the standard approach of writing source code in the text form.

The development process for most projects involves building visual, systemic, and geometric connections between elements. In the vast majority of cases, these links are created using workflows in which the transition from concept to the final result is achieved through the application of rules. Thus, the process of work is built on an algorithmic principle, which is based on the use of a step-by-step set of actions following standard logic: data input, processing, and, finally, output. Programming tools allow you to formalize these algorithmic processes and increase the efficiency of their use. Googles’ Blocky may serve as a good example of Visual Programming.

Visual programming vs traditional programming

Let's compare text and visual programming and look at the specifics of these development methods.
Visual programmingTraditional programming
Actions are carried out at a higher level of abstractionLow level of abstraction
Allow you to manipulate visual elementsWrite lines and lines of code
Easy to understand and work without basic programming conceptsIt is important to know and understand basic programming concepts

Applications and Use Cases

When working with a text-based programming language, the developer deals with a low level of abstraction: programming is done at the implementation quantity. We get an inaccurate description of the problem area. When working with visual programming software, actions are carried out at a higher level of abstraction: programming occurs at a conceptual level. 


Let's give an example. To produce a to-do list using a visual programming tool, a developer draws an application flow. The resulting block diagram describes the screens, user interactions, and data changes at each stage. The tool then turns it into the software.


Another variant of Visual programming software is a No - code/Low - code platform GudHub that offers built-in Automation. It allows users to automate routine work by dragging functional blocks and connecting them into a single logic flow. Platforms like GudHub let developers create web tools visually by drawing interaction flows, user interfaces, and the connections between objects, but supplementing it with handwritten code where that’s the better thing to do. This combination of graphical programming and text-based programming is well suited to the needs of modern software development. 


Visual programming

What is Visual Programming Language or VPL?

Visual programming language definition. A visual coding language is a language that allows a programmer to create programs by manipulating graphical elements rather than typing text commands. A significant part of visual programming languages ​​is based on the idea of ​​"shapes and lines", where the shapes (rectangles, ovals, etc.) are considered as subjects and are connected by lines (arrows, arcs, etc.) that represent relationships. 


Visual programming languages (VPL) list can be classified according to various criteria:



Alice, Blocky, Unity, Kodu, GameMaker, MIT App Inventor, Scratch - just some visual programming languages examples.


Also, visual programming languages ​​can be further classified, depending on the type and degree of visual expression, into types:




A significant number of modern coding languages have advanced visual tools for the development of a graphical interface, and programming of objects placed on special forms with setting their properties and behavior will be carried out.


A visual programming language should not be confused with programming languages for creating visualizations or programs with user interfaces, for example, Processing or Visual Basic. Unlike Java visual programming, Visual Basic is a visual development environment, not a graphical programming language.


visual programming

What is Visual scripting?

Visual scripting is a great tool for artists and designers looking to validate an idea, make changes, or better control their work in programs like GudHub. They will also be able to take advantage of a graphical representation of the logic created by the technical staff. Visual scripting languages are intended for displaying values in a graph in game mode with highlighting of executable nodes. If errors occur during runtime, their source will be recognized and highlighted in the graph.


The visual scripting system supports the use of any methods, fields, attributes, or events in the schemas, as well as any third-party plugins or even your scripts. With direct system access to your codebase, all code changes are immediately reflected in the interface.

Shortcomings

In the process of working with visual programming, you may encounter the following disadvantages:


What is a standardized visual modeling language for developing computer software?

One of the most demanded methods of visualization and modeling of programs is UML (Unified Modeling Language). UML is a language for a visual description of the principles of operation of software products. UML is a general standardized language that uses a graphical notation to create an abstract model of a system called the UML model. The UML was created to define, visualize, design, and document, mainly software systems. UML is not a programming language, but code generation is possible based on UML models.

Final Thoughts

The power of computers has grown significantly today, and this is certainly on the side of visual programming. But there is a question: Will visual programming ever be the mainstream approach to coding? It is difficult to answer this question. Critics have cited various flaws in this paradigm. One of the problems is the difficulty of creating the program. But visual coding can be useful in teaching.


In this article, we have helped you to understand the concept of Visual Programming, features of visual programming language, shortcomings of this approach, and tried to give you all the answers that you're interested in this theme.


Ira Maksymova
Author of articles for GudHub Low-code platform. Focuses on creating quality and interesting content for the site. I like to research various technical innovations, look for answers to difficult questions and accept challenges.
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