Geek Talk and ... whats coming with the next version of Scratch

Hi all,
We spoke to Brian, Janet and Bette today and I gave a little update on the update on Scratch. As I spoke about some of the changes I realized that I should just share the document that the developers post to describe what they'll be doing.

I realize that many of you will not be updating your 'images' but as Scratch can be run from a Flash drive, you may want to try it out when it becomes available.

The Scratch team may postpone the update until after Scratch Day, May 16th. This is not certain.

Here are the notes from the Beta testing page ( with annotations in parenthesis from Keith)

Scratch 1.4 Beta


What is Scratch beta test?
Before we release a new version of Scratch, we invite a handful of people to help us test a series of preliminary versions, called "beta" versions. Beta test gives you a chance to see what's coming in Scratch a little earlier than most people, and it is a big help to us. But you should be aware that a beta version of Scratch is a "work in progress."

Beta versions of Scratch have more bugs than release versions. You should be careful to keep backups of any projects you create using the beta version. Furthermore, features may change or, in rare cases, even be removed entirely during beta test.

We recommend that you continue to use Scratch 1.3.1 for all your serious Scratch work.

New UI
The new Scratch UI was designed to support screens as small as 800x480. There are number of inexpensive education computers with screens of this size -- sometimes called "netbooks" -- including the Intel Classmate, the ASUS computer, and Nokia N800 series internet tablets.

Quarter-size stage mode
To support these smaller screens, Scratch now has a mode where the stage is shrunk to a quarter of it's normal size. On small screens, you can switch to presentation mode to see the stage at it's normal size (480x360). On larger screens, you have three viewing modes: quarter-size stage mode (more screen space for scripts), normal mode, and presentation mode.

( this is now in discussion) No more toolbar
The toolbar has been removed to save space. So how do you duplicate, delete, and resize your sprites? Those operations are available using the right-button menu on the sprite. In addition, the sprite scripting area now has a delete button that can be used to delete the sprite.

Smaller sprite thumbnails
The sprite thumbnails are smaller and no longer show the costume count, and script count. You can see that information as a pop-up if you hover the cursor over a sprite thumbnail.

Sticky comments
A comment can now be "stuck" to a block so that, as you move stacks of blocks around, the comment remains attached. However, comments are not actually part of the stack to which they are stuck, and they are not duplicated or deleted when the stack is duplicated, deleted, or dragged to another sprite.

( yeah MediaMashup!) Project notes template
You can provide a template for projects notes by adding the file "defaultNotes.txt" to the Scratch folder. This mechanism can be used to provide users with a list of questions such as "What gave you the idea for this project?"

Blocks
New blocks

* The "ask _ and wait" and "answer" blocks allow you to ask the user a question and do something with their answer.
* The "join" block concatenates two strings.
* The "letter _ of _" block reports a given letter of a string.
* The "length of _" block reports the length of a string.
* The "contains" block can be used to find out if a list contains a particular word or number.

(this is the addition I spoke of as a nice partner to the PICO Board) Motor blocks
Scratch can now interface to the Lego WeDo. The "Show Motor Blocks" command in the Edit menu makes five motor color blocks appear in the "Motion" category. In addition, the "sensor value" block now allows you to select the WeDo "tilt" and "distance" sensors.

Changed blocks
The comparison blocks now allow you to type strings into their arguments.

Blocks that refer to sprites (e.g. distanceTo) now accept reporter blocks. The reporter block is expected to return the name of a sprite.

We also made a subtle change to the operation of a list reporter block. If the list consists entirely of single character entries then the list reporter concatenates those letters together without inserting space. If any list entry consists of more than a single character, spaces will be inserted between the list elements, as was the case in Scratch 1.3. (This is useful for making a sentence from a list of words.)

Better translation support
Translators can now re-order block arguments, resulting in more natural translation word order.

( some of these may be relevant in the library lab settings) Features for networked settings
Features have been added to make it easier to configure Scratch for use in schools and other networked settings.

* There are separate shortcuts on the open/save dialogs for user projects and sample projects
* The user's home folder can be set (e.g. to a folder on a network drive)
* Setting "visible drives" now prevents users from navigating up the directory hierarchy
* Sharing can be disabled
* Scratch can be configured to upload projects through a web proxy

Most of these features are activated by editing the Scratch.ini file.
See http://info.scratch.mit.edu/Installation_Support for more info.

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Comment by Jen on April 16, 2009 at 10:09am
Great summary, Keith, thank you!

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