3. Setting Up Your System

Before you begin, you need to install a few things on the computer. Using a school computer? You may have these already installed. Yay! Still, read through this part. Make sure you know how the computer is setup up.

Getting a system set up and ready to program can be a bit frustrating. Don’t give up. Once you’ve got a system set up for programming you don’t need to think about it again. You can concentrate on the programming part. You may get stuck during the setup, so don’t hesitate to reach out and get help.

Your development computer will need:

  • The Python programming language and the Arcade code library.
  • An editor to type in your programs. (We’ll use a program called PyCharm. You can use the community edition for free, or if you have an email address that ends in .edu get can get a free student license for the professional version.)
  • A version control system to track and turn in your work. (Git/SourceTree/BitBucket)
  • A minor configuration tweak so we can see file extensions.

Let’s go through these four items in detail.

3.1. Setup the Programming Environment

To get your computer ready for programming, we need to install Python, some Python libraries, and an editor.


3.1.1. Installing Python and Arcade

We will be using the “Python” computer programming language. The creator of Python was a fan of Monty Python, hence the name.

In addition to the Python language, we are going to use a library of commands for drawing on the screen. This is called the “Arcade” library.

Installation for installing Python and the Arcade library are available below:

3.1.2. Installing an IDE

We also need an editor. Python comes with an editor called IDLE, but it is awful and not worth using. We’ll use an editor called PyCharm.

PyCharm is a powerful program that lets you do more than just edit the program, it also includes a large set of tools that programmers need. This type of environment is called an Integrated Development Environment, or IDE for short.

Download and install PyCharm. You can use their community edition for free. We won’t use the features in the professional edition. If you decide to pick the professional edition anyway, you’ll need a license to use it. But licenses are free for educational use! If you have an e-mail that ends in .edu you can ask for a student license. It can be used on a school computer, or on your own computer.

What is a text editor? What is an IDE? Read more at Understanding and Choosing Text Editors.

3.1.3. Opening in PyCharm

  1. Open PyCharm.
  2. Select File…Open. Then select the directory that you cloned the repository.

3.2. Viewing File Extensions

It is a great idea to change your windows configuration to show file extensions. A file usually has a name like Book report.docx where the .docx tells the computer it is a Microsoft Word compatible document. By default Windows hides the .docx extension if there is a program installed to handle it. If you are programming, this hiding part of the file name can be annoying.

For Windows 7, to show file extensions, open up your computer’s control panel. Find the selection for “Folder Options.”” Click the “View” tab, and then unselect the option for “Hide extensions for known file types.”“

For Windows 8 and 10, bring up a file explorer by hitting the Windows-E key. Then click the “view” tab and make sure “File name extensions” has been checked.