Tutorial basics

Tutorials are simply markdown documents with a series of steps to complete a coding activity. The document uses a simple two-level structure where each level 2 heading (##) is a new step.

When a tutorial is chosen in the editor, the tutorial runner converts the content of the tutorial markdown into user interactions. If selected from the external documentation navigation, the tutorial is viewed the same as any other help document which allows it to be printed.

A real example

See the micro:bit tutorials flashing-heart.md and rock-paper-scissors.md.

Tutorial format

The tutorial markdown has a format that the guides the tutorial runner in making a sequence of interactions. A tutorial has a flow model that is either a simple set of steps or groups of steps placed into activity sections. The tutorial author chooses which type of flow to use by setting a metadata option.

Title

The title is on the first line and uses a level 1 heading.

# Light blaster

Steps

A step is where the user views and interacts with the instructions and hints for a tutorial action. The runner builds interactions from each step section.

The step can have any name, but it’s common to use the Step 1, Step 2,…Step n sequence for each heading.

## Step 1

Instructions for step 1 here...

## Step 2

Instructions for step 2 here...

Step syntax

The text in the heading is shown only when the tutorial is viewed as a help page. It’s ok to have additional text in the heading. The word ‘Step’ can even be left out since the tutorial runner will build the list of steps only from the content under the heading tag, ##. These are valid headings:

## Step 3: Make a new variable

–or–

## Flash all the LEDs on and off twice

The editor automatically parses the markdown and populates the user interface from each step section.

Simple, short descriptions

During an interaction, the step description (all text before the first code block or image) is shown in the caption. If the paragraph length goes beyond the display length of caption, a “More” button appears in order to view the rest of the paragraph. It’s best to keep the paragraph short enough to so all of it appears in the caption without requiring the user to click to see it all. If your instructions need more text, you can just create an additional step to split up the activity.

Hints

Hints provide additional information and code suggestions to help the user complete the step. In each step, any text before the first code snippet or image is automatically displayed to the user in the tutorial caption. The remaining text, block examples, etc. are displayed in the hint dialog when the user clicks the caption or hint button.

Images

Using images in steps is a simple and powerful way to reinforce concepts and convey ideas. Images can be included as part of step descriptions. You specify an image using the standard markdown format.

![Agent building a tower](/static/tutorials/agent-tower.png)

A step with and image might have text like this:

## Introduction @unplugged

Have the agent build a tower! Make a command to tell it how many levels to build.

![Agent building a tower](/static/tutorials/agent-tower.png)

Images appear in steps that have either the fullscreen or unplugged modifiers present, or when a step hint is viewed.

Images should be hosted under the ./docs/static/ folder path of the editor project’s repository files. The relative URL in markdown begins with just /static/ though.

Image formats typically used are PNG, JPEG, and GIF.

Image size considerations

It’s important to consider that image size can affect the load time and therefore impact the experience of the user during a tutorial. Also, images that are too large can consume the viewing area where the tutorial is displayed. Try to economize tutorial images both in file size and dimensionally. Recommendations for images are:

  • File size: 1 MB or less
  • Dimensions: 800 pixels wide or less

Step modifiers

To add a special behavior to a step, use a step modifier:

fullscreen

The @fullscreen modifier is deprecated, use @showhint instead.

showhint

If you want to include a dramatic introduction or make certain that a special message is seen, you can use the @showhint tag. The section is displayed in an overlay window on top of the tutorial screen and isn’t shown in the caption as part of the tutorial flow. You include it in your tutorial like this:

# Flash-a-rama

## It's time to code! @showhint

Let's get real bright. We're going to make all the lights flash on your board!

![Flash lights](/static/tutorials/lights-flashing.gif)

## Step 1: Make a new variable

...

unplugged

The @unplugged modifier is deprecated, use @showdialog instead.

showdialog

If you want to display your tutorial step in a dialog and then have it skip to the next step automatically, use @showdialog. This feature is typically used for introductory steps.

# Flash-a-rama

## It's time to code! @showdialog

Using blocks

Hint blocks

If you include blocks in a step, they are shown when the user displays the hint for the step. The blocks are specified the same as in any other markdown document. During the step interaction, only the blocks inside the ```blocks section are available in the categories (drawers) of the Toolbox.

## Step 3 - Show the temperature

Get a ``||input:temperature||`` block and place it in the value slot of ``||basic:show number||``.

```blocks
forever(function() {
    basic.showNumber(input.temperature())
    basic.pause(1000)
})
```

Testing

If you are writing a third-party tutorial, please see the User Tutorials documentation for information on how to preview and share your tutorials.

When developing your new tutorials, it is easiest to first render and view them as a markdown documentation page until all steps look OK to you. Going through all the steps several times using the tutorial runner might become quite tedious while developing the tutorial.

If you are running the local server, go to http://localhost:3232/tutorials to render the /docs/tutorials.md gallery page.

The pxt checkdocs command will compile all the tutorial snippets automatically.

pxt checkdocs

Examples

Here are some examples of the tutorial format.

GitHub Sample

https://github.com/microsoft/pxt-tutorial-sample

The pxt-tutorial-sample repository contains a fully-functional tutorial for MakeCode Arcade, with multiple files, localization, and custom blocks in the tutorial repository.

Markdown Sample

The following sample shows a simple 2 step tutorial.

# Getting started

## Introduction @unplugged

Let's get started!

## Step 1 @fullscreen

Welcome! Place the ``||basic:show string||`` block in the ``||basic:on start||`` slot to scroll your name.

```blocks
basic.showString("Micro!")
```

## Step 2

Click ``|Download|`` to transfer your code in your unknown macro!

Dependencies

If your tutorial requires the use of an extension, you can add it using the package macro.