Last semester, I needed to find a large print IDE that I could use for my Python programming class, and one of my friends recommended that I try Repl.it. At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect from an online IDE, but it quickly became one of my favorite softwares and it has helped me tremendously in my programming classes as an IT major. Today, I will be sharing why I use Repl.it for all of my coding and programming assignments, in honor of Computer Science Education Week- read more about Computer Science Education Week and Hour of Code here.
WHAT IS REPL.IT?
Repl.it is a free IDE (integrated development environment) that allows users to write their own programs and code in dozens of different languages. While traditional IDEs are software programs downloaded to a computer, Repl.it is completely web browser-based and can be accessed from any internet-enabled device such as a phone, tablet, or computer. Users can access the software by typing the name directly into their browser, www.repl.it.
CREATING A FREE ACCOUNT
Users are required to create an account in order to use the Repl.it IDE. It is free to create an account, and users are required to provide the following information:
Some users may want to provide more information such as their name and a bio, but I chose to leave this blank.
Repl.it is free to use, though there are some limitations. Programs can only be 2 MB in size, and you can only store 1 GB of files on your Repl.it account. Public schools and nonprofits can also apply for a free Repl.it account that allows users to have 100 MB programs and 10 GB of file storage. Read more about this account type on the public school application page here.
After making a free Repl.it account and logging in, users are prompted to type in the name of the language they want to use. Some common examples are Python, Java, HTML, Ruby, and C. After typing in their desired language, users are taken to the development environment where they can type out lines of code and see how they look when run. The exact display of how the code will look will vary depending on the language and the program that’s being written. Projects are stored on the user’s profile and are public by default, though accounts associated with public schools have the option to set files to private.
In order to use Repl.it with low vision, I enable the following display settings in the “settings” menu:
- Layout- stacked
- Theme- dark
- Font size- huge
- Indent type- tabs
I have found that the huge text is perfect for my needs when paired with a large scaled display- read more about my computer lab accommodations here. Repl.it also works great with VoiceOver and other screen readers- read more about VoiceOver here.
CREATING A REPL
To create a file, also known as a Repl, simply select the “start coding now” button on the homepage, or the plus icon in the bottom right corner. Then, select a language and start typing. It’s really that simple!
LOCATING ERRORS AND BUGS IN CODE
No one will ever write perfect, bug-free code on the first try, so it’s important to know how to locate errors and fix them. In my experience, Repl.it is fairly specific about where errors are located and the type of error, but does not tell users how to fix it. I consider this to be a good thing, because the IDE isn’t doing all the work for me and I am able to learn for myself.
HOW TO SAVE FILES
Repl.it files are saved automatically in the user’s profile and can be accessed at anytime by clicking “my repls.” After opening a file, users can share a link or embed their program with a provided link. My professors require students to take screenshots of their code, so that is how I document my assignments. Some other professors may require that students submit hard copies of their code, so users can also download files as needed by clicking the “download” button.
WHAT I USE IT FOR
I primarily use Repl.it for my Java and Python 3 classes for completing homework and practice assignments. I have also used it as a way to practice coding in my SoloLearn lessons- read more about SoloLearn’s free programming lessons here.
HOW MY PROFESSORS HAVE REACTED
Students who are taking an IT class as part of the requirements for their major will not likely run into any issues with professors while using this software. Because I am an IT major, I had to get permission from my professors to use Repl.it because the IT department requires that all students use a different IDE to complete assignments. After I explained the accessibility settings in Repl.it and how much easier it is for me to track single lines, my professors approved it for use in my classes. It helped that I have a Disability Services file that documents my vision impairment- read more about setting up a Disability Services file here.
I love using the Repl.it IDE for my coding assignments, and it has helped me tremendously as an accommodation in my programming classes. I highly recommend that students in IT classes or students with an interest in programming try out the Repl.it IDE so they can better understand their writing and can practice important skills.