I heart Processing. Image (made with Processing, of course): (CC) Nik Rowell.

The creative, visual development platform Processing has undergone what may be one of the longest, strangest betas ever – in a good way. What other “beta” has had tomes written about it, tens of thousands of students studying it (in some large programs, as the basis of their work), rockstar music videos made with it, museum exhibitions, major ads, print graphics, motion graphics – all over the course of a number of years.


Download Processing, and you might be forgiven for thinking this “beta” thing would last forever. Insanely frequent updates only reinforce that idea, as though “beta” really meant “ongoing development.” And after all, the software isn’t like other apps. It’s entirely open source and free. First download it, and you’re presented with what seems like a stripped-down text editor. There’s no real manual, as such: instead, you delve into an elegantly-composed reference to commands, and the real “help” is in the form of folders of example code. Yet this environment is capable of visualizing data, crunching 2D and 3D imagery, video, sound, and via external libraries, anything that you can do with Java – opening it to one of the most-extended platforms around.

But believe it: the beta really has ended. As of Monday, Processing the “beta” is now just Processing. The number scheme has changed, too: it’s just 1.0 now (0162, if you’re still counting, though it will no longer officially be called that).

We’re really pleased on this site that Processing has hit 1.0, not just because of what this tool itself means, but because of the bright future we see for expressive visuals, live visual performance and visual interaction, and the DIY creative movement. Over the coming days and weeks, we’ll have everything from learning materials to interviews to celebrate the launch. Someone somewhere ought to really get some champagne (or considering it’s based on Java, maybe some Irish Coffee). And after years of waiting, coding, learning, artmaking, and an epic development effort by co-creators Ben Fry and Casey Reas, the core developer team, and the wider community, I think this deserves more than just a few hours of attention. Given what Processing has done in beta, it’s almost (wonderfully) terrifying to think what it could do after 1.0.

What’s changed, current users?

If you’re a current user, you’ll want to take a real look at the change log, because the last few weeks of coding have brought more rapid change and bug stomping than any time in recent Processing history. Some highlights:

  • Full-screen present mode improvements across platforms (in case you, like me, were experiencing some difficulty)
  • OpenGL works really well with the GLGraphics library – I consider that a must-download for anyone reading this site
  • OpenGL anti-aliasing (that deserves a w00t!)
  • P2D renderer is back
  • Standard Minim audio library for sound (which works quite nicely, by the way)
  • Libraries are now stored with sketches, which improves portability – and on Mac OS, the app is now a bundle (following platform conventions)
  • loadShape() replaces Candy for vector data import
  • The Tools menu is now extensible

There are lots of bugfixes, as well, particularly for Windows, Leopard, and recent Java releases – as well as many items on the long backlist of features.

See also the official changes overview for 1.0 (and other milestones), which I accidentally neglected to look at before composing the above list. (Well, now you know what matters to me.)

1.0 doesn’t mean perfect. Some ongoing issues: odd OpenGL flickering issues (see the changelog for workarounds and suggestions), weird Mac Java bugs, and other issues that tend not to be the Processing developers’ fault. In particular, video support really isn’t ready for primetime, though I’d strongly endorse Andres Colubri’s GSVideo library. My guess is with some work, that library will be able to replace the current QuickTime Java-based library, which has some major holes and doesn’t work consistently (if at all) across platforms.

But make no mistake. This is a huge milestone.

See also:

Processing 1.0 launch @ shiffman.net

Processing Press Release

CDM makes it policy not to do press releases, but this is a special occasion.

People are out right now, screaming and embracing in the streets of Times Square.

Okay, Washington Square.

Okay, the NYU ITP lab.

Okay, only in my head. But Ben and Casey, I hope you’re toasting somewhere… well-deserved.

It only took 162 attempts, but Processing 1.0 is here!

We’ve just posted Processing 1.0 at http://processing.org/download. We’re so excited about it, we even took time to write a press release.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. and LOS ANGELES, Calif. – November 24, 2008 – The Processing project today announced the immediate availability of the Processing 1.0 product family, the highly anticipated release of industry-leading design and development software for virtually every creative workflow. Delivering radical breakthroughs in workflow efficiency – and packed with hundreds of innovative, time-saving features – the new Processing 1.0 product line advances the creative process across print, Web, interactive, film, video and mobile.

Whups! That’s not the right one. Here we go:

Today, on November 24, 2008, we launch the 1.0 version of the Processing software. Processing is a programming language, development environment, and online community that since 2001 has promoted software literacy within the visual arts. Initially created to serve as a software sketchbook and to teach fundamentals of computer programming within a visual context, Processing quickly developed into a tool for creating finished professional work as well.

Processing is a free, open source alternative to proprietary software tools with expensive licenses, making it accessible to schools and individual students. Its open source status encourages the community participation and collaboration that is vital to Processing’s growth. Contributors share programs, contribute code, answer questions in the discussion forum, and build libraries to extend the possibilities of the software. The Processing community has written over seventy libraries to facilitate computer vision, data visualization, music, networking, and electronics.

Students at hundreds of schools around the world use Processing for classes ranging from middle school math education to undergraduate programming courses to graduate fine arts studios.

+ At New York University’s graduate ITP program, Processing is taught alongside its sister project Arduino and PHP as part of the foundation course for 100 incoming students each year.
+ At UCLA, undergraduates in the Design | Media Arts program use Processing to learn the concepts and skills needed to imagine the next generation of web sites and video games.
+ At Lincoln Public Schools in Nebraska and the Phoenix Country Day School in Arizona, middle school teachers are experimenting with Processing to supplement traditional algebra and geometry classes.

Tens of thousands of companies, artists, designers, architects, and researchers use Processing to create an incredibly diverse range of projects.

+ Design firms such as Motion Theory provide motion graphics created with Processing for the TV commercials of companies like Nike, Budweiser, and Hewlett-Packard.
+ Bands such as R.E.M., Radiohead, and Modest Mouse have featured animation created with Processing in their music videos.
+ Publications such as the journal Nature, the New York Times, Seed, and Communications of the ACM have commissioned information graphics created with Processing.
+ The artist group HeHe used Processing to produce their award-winning Nuage Vert installation, a large-scale public visualization of pollution levels in Helsinki.
+ The University of Washington’s Applied Physics Lab used Processing to create a visualization of a coastal marine ecosystem as a part of the NSF RISE project.
+ The Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies at Miami University uses Processing to build visualization tools and analyze text for digital humanities research.

The Processing software runs on the Mac, Windows, and GNU/Linux platforms. With the click of a button, it exports applets for the Web or standalone applications for Mac, Windows, and GNU/Linux. Graphics from Processing programs may also be exported as PDF, DXF, or TIFF files and many other file formats. Future Processing releases will focus on faster 3D graphics, better video playback and capture, and enhancing the development environment. Some experimental versions of Processing have been adapted to other languages such as JavaScript, ActionScript, Ruby, Python, and Scala; other adaptations bring Processing to platforms like the OpenMoko, iPhone, and OLPC XO-1.

Processing was founded by Ben Fry and Casey Reas in 2001 while both were John Maeda’s students at the MIT Media Lab. Further development has taken place at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, Carnegie Mellon University, and the UCLA, where Reas is chair of the Department of Design | Media Arts. Miami University, Oblong Industries, and the Rockefeller Foundation have generously contributed funding to the project.

The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (a Smithsonian Institution) included Processing in its National Design Triennial. Works created with Processing were featured prominently in the Design and the Elastic Mind show at the Museum of Modern Art. Numerous design magazines, including Print, Eye, and Creativity, have highlighted the software.

For their work on Processing, Fry and Reas received the 2008 Muriel Cooper Prize from the Design Management Institute. The Processing community was awarded the 2005 Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica award and the 2005 Interactive Design Prize from the Tokyo Type Director’s Club.

The Processing website (www.processing.org) includes tutorials, exhibitions, interviews, a complete reference, and hundreds of software examples. The Discourse forum hosts continuous community discussions and dialog with the developers.

Stay tuned.