Screenshot of Processing programming language interface
Screenshot of Processing programming language interface

Processing is a Java-built language that offers artistic expression and playful projects through coding. It is primarily used for “sketching” image ideas, prototyping designs in 2-D and 3-D form, and activating animations.

The Processing language offers artistic expression and playful projects through coding. This integrated development environment, built in Java by Ben Fry and Casey Reas, is essentially a program that provides the building blocks to create other programs. It is an open-source language with software available for download in just about any platform or operating system including Mac, Windows, Linux, and now Android for mobile devices.

Processing is primarily used for “sketching” image ideas, prototyping designs in 2-D and 3-D form, and activating animations, but has evolved into a tool for producing finished work. In an expert-led environment, students who learn Processing will discover the fundamentals of computer programming in a visual context.

Keywords / Definitions


  • Software Development Kit (SDK) or “devkit”: Set of development tools that allows for the creation of applications

  • Android: Google’s operating system for smart phones, tablets, and other electronic devices

  • Emulator: A hardware or software or both that mimics the behavior closely resembling the behavior of the real system


Watching my program run the way I wanted it to run.

I enjoyed working with the other students to share ideas for our programs.

During the lab, I could experiment with my code and not be concerned that it was being graded.

HIGHLIGHTS of the course from Mobile App Lab participants

Processing should be taught by a computer science professional who has experience with the language. Students can learn the basics in just a day or two, but could easily spend a semester producing a more finished project. The Processing software is available as a free download with more than 100 libraries available that extend the capabilities of audio, video, computer vision, and more. Using “functions” that act as the building blocks for programs, students can create a limitless array of applications.

To develop and test an app for Android devices, the SDK or emulator is required and it’s available as a free download. What makes Processing so appealing to teachers and students is that it allows users to seamlessly move from one platform to another using virtually the same code. Although Processing workshops should be led by an educator with experience, students can be beginners as they will acquire fundamental skills as they learn the Processing language. Whether in-school or in an after-school environment, Processing can enable students to tap into creative side and while gaining real-world coding experience.

Processing was last modified: April 1st, 2014 by Matt Hannigan