Alice (software)

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This article is about the educational programming environment. For the multi-paradigm language based on ML, see Alice ML. For other uses, see Alice (disambiguation).
Basic animation of an ice skater
Developer(s) Carnegie Mellon University
Initial release 1998
Stable release
3.3 / August 23, 2016; 5 months ago (2016-08-23)
Written in Java
Platform Java platform
Type Educational
License Only non-commercial[1]

Alice is a freeware (for non-commercial purposes) object-based educational programming language with an integrated development environment (IDE). Alice uses a drag and drop environment to create computer animations using 3D models. The software was developed first at University of Virginia in 1994, then Carnegie Mellon (from 1997), by a research group led by Randy Pausch.


Alice was developed to address five core problems in educational programming:[2]

  1. Alice is designed solely to teach programming theory without the complex semantics of production languages such as C++. Users can place objects from Alice's gallery into the virtual world that they have imagined, and then they can program by dragging and dropping tiles that represent logical structures. Additionally, the user can manipulate Alice's camera and lighting to make further enhancements. Alice can be used for 3D user interfaces.
  2. Alice is conjoined with its IDE. There is no syntax to remember. However, it supports the full object-based programming, event driven model of programming.
  3. Alice is designed to appeal to specific subpopulations not normally exposed to computer programming, such as students of middle school age, by encouraging storytelling. Alice is also used at many colleges and universities in Introduction to Programming courses.

In controlled studies at Ithaca College and Saint Joseph's University looking at students with no prior programming experience taking their first computer science course, the average grade rose from C to B, and retention rose from 47% to 88%.[3]

Alice 3 is released under an open-source license allowing redistribution of the source code, with or without modification.[4]


A variant of Alice 2.0 called Storytelling Alice[5] was created by Caitlin Kelleher for her PhD dissertation.[6] It includes three main differences:

  1. High-level animations that enable users to program social interactions between characters.
  2. A story-based tutorial that introduces users to programming through building a story.
  3. A gallery of 3D characters and scenery with custom animations designed to spark story ideas.

The next version of Storytelling Alice is known as Looking Glass, and is being developed at Washington University in St. Louis.[7]

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Learning to Program with Alice, Wanda P. Dann, Stephen Cooper, Randy Pausch; ISBN 0-13-187289-3
  • An Introduction to Programming Using Alice, Charles W. Herbert; ISBN 1-4188-3625-7
  • Alice 2.0: Introductory Concepts and Techniques; Gary B. Shelly, Thomas J. Cashman, Charles W. Herbert; ISBN 1-4188-5934-6
  • Starting Out with Alice: A Visual Introduction to Programming; Tony Gaddis; Pearson Addison Wesley, 2007; ISBN 978-0-321-47515-2
  • Virtual World Design and Creation for Teens; Charles R. Hardnett; Course Technologies PTR, 2009; ISBN 1-59863-850-5, ISBN 978-1-59863-850-9
  • Pausch, Randy; Forlines, Clifton (2000). "Alice: model, paint & animate — easy-to-use interactive graphics for the web". SIGGRAPH Comput. Graph. 34 (2): 42–43. doi:10.1145/351440.351452. 

External links[edit]