Alice teaches programming concepts as kids create animated movies with its friendly interface and storytelling.

This issue is all about projects kids (and anyone with time on their hands) can work through to have fun and learn basic computer programming and computer science. Alice is an education programming language which makes it easy for people to create 3D animations and videos as they learn fundamental programming concepts. Alice 3.0 also helps people learn Java, a common programming language. There are lots of Alice tutorials online and video examples and lessons on YouTube.

What is Alice?

This short Oracle Academy lesson overview video shows the basics about how to create animations with Alice:

The full lesson is linked below and worth time to work through. You can see in this simple Alice tutorial there are no syntax and punctuation rules to hassle with as you create an animation. Yet Alice makes it easy to define all the parameters you would normally define with code. In this way, you get the best of both worlds as you start to learn programming.

Alice also makes an interesting contrast with Codea, the iPad application where you create video games through a mix of a professional language (Lua), an intuitive code editor, instant feedback to test your code, and lots of tutorials and reference guides to learn more. Alice provides similar capabilities except through a block programming interface where you drag blocks, configure them, then reorder blocks as needed to get your animation to do what you want done.

Unlike Codea, however, the Alice interface (and Scratch, another block programming language) makes it difficult to make mistakes. So Alice is a great stepping stone to Codea which is geared towards people interested in programming, video games, and tinkering with actual code.

Alice also has proven to be interesting to young women and under-represented groups in computer science. The focus on storytelling, on a visual interface, on a fairly simple way to set parameters and make Alice work, all of it appeals to people who are shy about using technology. Alice helps people realize computing is more about human creativity and how we interact with people than machine-coding. Alice lets people do what they’re good at while the software does what it does well.

How to Get Started with Alice

The first step is to go to online and click around to learn about the project, download the free software (Windows, Mac, Linux), and try to do a few things. Then look at tutorials and the user guide on the site. Then look at the Oracle Academy course and other tutorials, many linked at the end of this article.

Alice is free to download and use. The interface is fairly easy to figure out, especially if you watch introductory videos.

Alice Tutorials

There are dozens of Alice tutorials online, from university courses to YouTube videos. Here is one excellent example, from mwisan1, to describe how to install Alice. The YouTube page also lists other tutorials in his series, including a video about how to upgrade from Alice 2.x to 3.x.

Oddly enough, the Alice team at Carnegie Mellon doesn’t appear to have a YouTube home page with their videos. If I missed the page, let me know. If you search for Alice tutorials on YouTube and any search engine online, you should find lots of good tutorials.

There also is an odd but interesting video tutorial on YouTube demonstrating how to create a flight simulator in Alice. However, there is no audio so you will have to enlarge the video then stop/start the video to repeat the steps. But the tutorial is a good example of the range of what is posted online for you to browse through and use to play with Alice and learn programming fundamentals.

Learn More


Alice Tutorials

Getting Started with Java Using Alice 3 (Oracle Academy)

Alice Resources

Alice 3.1 (YouTube)(mwisan1)

A YouTube channel with a number of good tutorial videos for Alice 3.1.

Alice 3D Flight Simulator (YouTube)

No audio track (!) but if you expand the video large or full screen you can see how it is done.


  • Tim Slavin

    Tim is an award-winning writer and technologist who enjoys teaching tech to non-technical people. He has many years experience with web sites and applications in business, technical, and creative roles. He and his wife have two kids, now teenagers, who are mad about video games.

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