It’s been a while since we last made an update to our IBM Swift Sandbox. This is partly due to the holidays, since we need breaks as much as the next company, but it’s also because we’ve been listening to your wonderful feedback and working hard on a number of exciting changes. Today, we are very proud to introduce version 0.4 of the Sandbox, and while I can’t call it “life-changing”, science has yet to prove that it isn’t.
You should notice some differences as soon as you open the Sandbox up, as we’ve given the tool a complete visual redesign from head to toe. The header bar and other things have been trimmed down, in order to give users more space to code and view the results. We’ve improved the organization as well, with information and social links up town, and more functional items residing at the bottom, including our new Play button. We have some new menus in place as well, to keep the interface from becoming too cluttered; source code samples are now in the Source Code menu, and changing the theme of the Sandbox can now be done from the Settings menu. In addition to the Play button, you can now run your current code simply by hitting Ctrl+S (or Cmd+S if you’re using OS X) if you’re in the programming zone and can’t take your hands off your keyboard. We also threw in a number of visual flairs to make the Sandbox more easy on the eyes and enjoyable to use, and we hope you enjoy them, as they were fun to add.
Mobile UI At Last!
We’re always listening to user feedback and watching our stats, and we were surprised to discover just how many people are using the Sandbox on mobile devices. This was both exciting and terrifying to discover, since mobile phone users were previously treated to a page that was either very zoomed out or a tangled, compressed mess. So as part of our total redesign, we have made the Sandbox completely responsive, giving users a greatly improved and fine-tuned mobile experience. All of our icons and menus are now optimized for ease of use on mobile devices, and we’ve changed the main screen to give you as much editor or output space as we can, when you need it. We did our best to make the responsive changes entirely in CSS, which should reduce the number of UI errors that pop up. We wanted to do right by our mobile users, and we hope the new look of the mobile Sandbox gives everyone a better user experience, and prevents some cases of eye strain to boot.
One comment we heard a lot from others in the Mobile Innovation Lab was that it was a hassle to delete everything in the editor and start fresh. To that end, we’ve introduced a Clear Code button on the left side, which clears away all the spaghetti code you can’t stand to look at, replacing it with a blank canvas for you to use. (And for those who can’t take their hands from the keyboard, Ctrl+A and Delete still works great.)
Lastly, we were finally able to implement a feature we’ve been hoping to add for quite some time, which is a draft autosave feature. From the moment you start typing, the Sandbox will save your code to your browser’s local storage, in case of a drastic browser emergency. The next time you try to switch tabs to Stack Overflow and accidentally close your page, you can pick up where you left off by opening up the Source Code menu and looking at the Saved Drafts; there should only be one for now, but in the future, perhaps…
Be warned that at the moment, selecting a source code sample will overwrite your currently saved draft, though you can use the Clear Code button without losing what’s saved. And if you don’t want to use the feature at all, you can turn off the autosave in the Settings menu in the lower-right corner.
There are a number of other small changes we made, and we’re already working tirelessly on more improvements for the next version of the IBM Swift Sandbox. Keep an eye on the new “What’s New?” tab, and we’ll alert you as soon as we make any additional improvements to the tool.
In a future update we’ll provide you with a way to directly send us feedback, but for now you can always buzz us on Twitter. We’re very happy to see the number of ways people have been using the Sandbox, and we’ll be working hard in the months to come to make the tool even better, so stay tuned!