MakeCode for the micro:bit – 2020 Beta Release

Posted on April 28th, 2020 by Jaqster

It’s springtime, and even though all of us are working from home these days, the release cycle doesn’t stop! We are happy to announce the Beta for our 2020 MakeCode for the micro:bit release which is still scheduled to ship for general availability in June.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us identify bugs and suggested new features throughout the year. And a special “Thank You” to our translators and proofreaders who have helped us localize in 28 different languages!

Try the Beta!

This year’s update has a lot of juicy new features and improvements, which are listed below. Please try out the Beta and let us know what you think!

Any bugs you find, please log them in GitHub: https://github.com/Microsoft/pxt-microbit/issues

Any other comments, suggestions, and feedback, please create a support ticket at https://support.microbit.org/en/support/tickets/new.

New features for this release

Here’s a run-down of the new features in the 2020 release:

Functions with return values

Can’t get enough of Functions! Last year we added functions with parameters. You loved it and asked for more. So, this year, we’re adding Functions with return values. Better yet, you can even navigate to a function at anyplace in the code it’s called from. Here’s a little explanation of functions:

Expand/Collapse blocks

We know that some power-users out there have been writing very large Block programs which can be hard to navigate. We’ve added the ability to collapse and expand clusters of blocks and Functions to help tidy the Workspace and make large programs more readable.

Expanding and collapsing blocks

Python language support

Some of you may know that we’ve had support for the Python programming language as well as JavaScript in MakeCode for Minecraft for a few months now (https://makecode.com/blog/minecraft/python-release). We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from Educators about this, so we’re excited to bring it to micro:bit in this release!

In-context translation

Remember, we have support for in-context translations, so it’s easier than ever to localize MakeCode for your language.

In-context translation

Debugger

Many Computing Education Researchers define knowledge of a programming language to be the mapping between syntax, semantics, and state. All too often we focus on syntax and semantics in our educational tools. No more! Debuggers are critical tools to help students understand the state of their program execution flow. We’ve worked hard to add debug capabilities to both Block and Text editors.

Also, the slow motion (Slo-Mo) feature in previous releases was the only way help the user watch the execution flow of programs. The debugger replaces Slo-Mo with its own extended slow motion mode.

Debugger

GitHub projects

We’ve been working with our friends at GitHub over the past several months to provide a way to store MakeCode projects in a GitHub repository. This is great for group projects, version control, and teaching students about open source software development. Learn more about this feature at https://makecode.com/blog/makecode-with-github.

GitHub

Web USB

Could it be? A bird, a plane…? Better than superman, it’s Web USB to the rescue! No more dragging-and-dropping program files!! Web USB technology, allows you to ‘pair’ USB devices to your web browser, so when you click that Download button, it really does download directly to the micro:bit! You will need the latest firmware on your micro:bit device, and you’ll need to be using either the new Edge or Chrome browser.

WebUSB

More music!

We’ve added a couple new blocks to the Music category. Set Volume was very frequently requested by Teachers in classrooms full of micro:bits and speakers! The Play Melody block was created by our amazing intern Kim and we’re excited to bring it to the micro:bit. We want to hear the lovely melodies you all create with it!

Music

Break and Continue

These blocks can be found in the Loops category and allow you to exit out of long-running loops, or continue processing after a check or pause.

Break and continue blocks

Dot-to-dot connectors

That’s what we call these indicators we’ve added to help dragging and dropping embedded blocks to the right place.

Rudolph connectors on blocks

Prompt for project name

A last little feature we’ve added to help alleviate the hundreds of “Untitled” projects floating around, is a prompt to name projects as soon as a student clicks the New Project button.

Project name prompting

Multi-Edit

So, you’re creating radio programs for two micro:bits. One to send a message and another to receive a message. You have to make two projects seperately for both programs. Well, not anymore, now there’s Multi-edit! Create, modify, and test out two programs at the same time. So awesome! Use the Multi-edit version of the editor at: https://makecode.com/multi.

Multiple program editing

QR Code sharing

Share your projects using a QR code. Anyone can just scan the code to open a shared project!

QR code project sharing

Writing your own tutorials

There are new tools and helpful features for creating your own tutorials. As one method, you can use the MakeCode Tutorial Tool to write and test your tutorial. You can also make a tutorial in the MakeCode for the micro:bit editor itself. Take a look at this demonstration of writing and sharing a tutorial using the editor.


We hope these new features and improvements are helpful. Please let us know what you think.

Happy Making and Coding!


The MakeCode Team