I’d be fine with syntax-directed editors, or structured editors, or structure editors too. That said, if we’re going to get nuanced about interface, I do think there is something that Scratch, Alice, and Block.ly-based editors do that past syntax-directed editors don’t do, which is include visual signifiers of non-terminal type: the “block” isn’t just about rectangles, but actually a reference to lego blocks, which have visual signifiers about what is attachable. The syntax-directed/structure editors from the 1980’s were all menu-based, but block-based editors are all drag-and-drop and visual signifier-based.

Of course, the sad part is that this advance came at the expense of accessibility. We should resurrect the menus too! Then we can call them syntax-directed, block-based editors. LOL.

Professor of programming + learning + design + justice at the University of Washington Information School. Trans; she/her. #BlackLivesMatter.

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