Visual programming language

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An implementation of a "Hello, world!" program in the Scratch programming language

In computing, a visual programming language (VPL) is any programming language that lets users create programs by manipulating program elements graphically rather than by specifying them textually.[1][2] A VPL allows programming with visual expressions, spatial arrangements of text and graphic symbols, used either as elements of syntax or secondary notation. For example, many VPLs (known as dataflow or diagrammatic programming)[3] are based on the idea of "boxes and arrows", where boxes or other screen objects are treated as entities, connected by arrows, lines or arcs which represent relations.


VPLs may be further classified, according to the type and extent of visual expression used, into icon-based languages, form-based languages, and diagram languages. Visual programming environments provide graphical or iconic elements which can be manipulated by users in an interactive way according to some specific spatial grammar for program construction.

A visually transformed language is a non-visual language with a superimposed visual representation. Naturally visual languages have an inherent visual expression for which there is no obvious textual equivalent.[citation needed]

Current developments try to integrate the visual programming approach with dataflow programming languages to either have immediate access to the program state, resulting in online debugging, or automatic program generation and documentation. Dataflow languages also allow automatic parallelization, which is likely to become one of the greatest programming challenges of the future.[4]

An instructive counterexample for visual programming languages is Microsoft Visual Studio. The languages it encompasses (Visual Basic, Visual C#, Visual J#, etc.) are commonly confused with, but are not visual programming languages. All of these languages are textual and not graphical. MS Visual Studio is a visual programming environment, but not a visual programming language, hence the confusion.

Visual languages[edit]

The following contains a list of visual programming languages.



  • AudioMulch, an audio signal flow based sound and music creation environment
  • Blender (software), the open source 3D graphics package, includes a "node editor" to create shading programs as graphs. Also, custom nodes allows create systems as sverchok, blendgraph or other.
  • Cameleon, graphical functional language
  • Clickteam's The games factory/Multimedia fusion series, environments made for visually developing games
  • Filter Forge Node based filter generation for image processing.
  • Grasshopper 3d, a generative modeling interface for Rhinoceros 3D
  • Kyma (sound design language), a visual programming language for sound design used by musicians, researchers, and sound designers.
  • Mama (software) - a programming language and IDE for building 3D animations and games
  • Max (software), visual programming environment for building interactive, real-time music and multimedia applications
  • Nuke, a Python-based visual programming language for visual effects compositing by The Foundry
  • OpenMusic, a visual programming language for music composition (based on Common Lisp Object System (CLOS)) applications, and mobile applications
  • Pure Data (Pd) is a visual programming language developed for creating interactive computer music and multimedia works.
  • Quartz Composer, a language for processing and rendering graphical data (Mac OS X)
  • Reaktor, a DSP and MIDI-processing language by Native Instruments
  • Scala Multimedia Authoring suite and complete multimedia system for AmigaOS and Windows
  • Softimage,with ICE Interactive Creative Environment.
  • SynthEdit, a Synthesizer construction tool using a VPL.
  • Virtools, a middleware used to create interactive 3D experiences
  • WireFusion, visual programming environment for creating interactive 3D web presentations
  • Vsxu, music visual / real time 3D graphics generation (Windows, GNU/Linux, and Mac OS X)
  • vvvv, real-time video synthesis

Video games[edit]

  • GDevelop is an cross-platform open source event-driven game creator, able to compile games to Windows, Linux and HTML5.
  • Unreal Engine 4 has a node-based visual programming language called Blueprints
  • Godot, in-house open source MIT Licensed game development software made by OKAM Studio
  • GameSalad is a visual game creation tool developed by GameSalad, Inc.
  • Kodu, a software designed to program games with a 3D Interface developed by Microsoft Research
  • Stencyl, a video game creation tool
  • GameMaker: Studio, has a drag and drop game creation system developed by YoYo Games.
  • RedWire uses an electronics metaphor of chips being wired together to execute game code. It is open source and cross-platform using HTML5 with a web browser.

Besides, many modern video games make use of behavior trees, which are in principle a family of simple programming languages designed to model behaviors for non-player characters. The behaviors are modeled as trees, and are often edited in graphical editors.

Systems / simulation[edit]


  • Automator
  • CiMPLE, Visual Programming Language by ThinkLABs for teaching robotics
  • Flow a graphical integration language used in the webMethods platform
  • Pipeline Pilot is a scientific visual and dataflow programming language, and the authoring tool for the Accelrys Enterprise Platform.
  • PLUS+1 GUIDE, a graphical programming environment from Sauer-Danfoss typically used for off-highway machines.

Data warehousing/ business intelligence[edit]


  • iCon-L (de: iCon-L) is an open visual programming system used with robots.[7]
  • Kwikpoint, an isotype visual translator created by Alan Stillman
  • Lava
  • Limnor, a general purpose programming system. Limnor Studio is an IDE for rapid software development.
  • Morphic (software), makes it easier to build and edit graphical objects by direct manipulation and from within programs; the whole Self (programming language) programming environment is built using Morphic
  • PUPI is a toolkit for creating visual programming interfaces with the ability to generate nodes directly from Microsoft .NET classes.
  • StreamBase Systems, StreamBase EventFlow is a visual programming language for processing streaming events
  • Tersus, an open source platform for the development of rich web applications by visually defining user interface, client side behavior and server side processing
  • TouchDevelop, programming for mobile devices
  • WebML, is a visual language for designing complex data-intensive Web applications that can be automatically generated
  • Yahoo! Pipes is an visual data-flow programming system to process web data [8]
  • YAWL, graphical workflow language
  • AnandamideScript, flexible data-flow scripting language for C++ and QT [9]


Visual styles[edit]

See also[edit]


This article was originally based on material from the Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, used with permission. Update as needed.

External links[edit]