Ally IDE is a web-based, accessible Python IDE for non-visual programming. It is still a research prototype and may have bugs. It is tested in Chrome Web browser with NVDA and VoiceOver screen readers.
Ally IDE has five components: two editors, two views, and an output window. The shortcut to select each component is Control plus a number from one to five. Each component serves a special purpose and is well-integrated to minimize the need for visual cues during programming.
The first editor is a plain Text Editor, which is similar to writing code in a Notepad or TextEdit. The shortcut to select Text Editor is Control + 1. The second editor is a spreadsheet-like interface to read and write code in grid cells. We call it Grid Editor (shortcut: Control + 2). The user can seamlessly transition between Text and Table Editors to read/write codes.
Code Output window (shortcut: Control + 5) shows the textual output. To compile/run the code, a user presses ALT + ENTER.
Context Menu (shortcut: Control + 0) provides a list of helpful information, such as the current line and scope, frequently used actions like bookmarking a line, and changing the default settings. Finally, Ally Editor provides different audio cues to keep the user informed and oriented at all times.
The following sections describe each component and associated shortcuts in detail.Back to Table of Contents
|Control + 0||Open Context Menu or Right-click menu|
|Control + 1||Switch to Text Editor. The cursor is set at the current line|
|Control + 2||Switch to Grid Editor. The cursor is set at the current line|
|Control + 5||Switch to Code Output Window|
|Control + l||Announce the line number, level of the statement, and the name of the view at the current cursor|
|Control + g||Go to a particular line. A user types the line number and presses ENTER to commit|
|ALT + ENTER||Compile or Run the code. The cursor is taken to the output window by default|
|Shortcut Key||Text Editor||Grid Editor||Code Output Window|
|UP Arrow||Move the cursor to previous line||Go to the cell above the current cell at the same column||Move the cursor to previous line|
|DOWN Arrow||Move the cursor to next line||Go to the cell below the current cell at the same column||Move the cursor to next line|
|LEFT Arrow||Move the cursor to previous character||Go to the left cell in the same row of the current cell||Move the cursor to previous character|
|RIGHT Arrow||Move the cursor to next character||Go to the right cell in the same row of the current cell||Move the cursor to next character|
|ENTER||Create a new line. If current line is empty, then ignore||Make a cell editable (if allowed)||No Action|
|BACKSPACE||Remove the character (or indetation) at the cursor position.||In Navigation mode, remove the current statement cell and the corresponding row. Block Statements and the first stamentent inside a block cannot be removed. Cursor will point to the statement cell in the previous row.||No Action|
|ESCAPE||No Action||Make a statement cell non-editable, or dismiss the suggestion drop-down||No Action|
|DELETE||Delete the character at the cursor position||Delete the character in a statement cell while editing||No Action|
|PAGE UP||Move cursor to the first line||From an Empty cell, go to the nearest Statement cell or Indentation cell in the upward direction at the same level. From an Indentation cell, go to the Statement cell that creates the indentation. From a Statement cell, skip over consecutive statement cells or Blank Cells in the upward direction at the same level.||No Action|
|PAGE DOWN||Move cursor to the last line||From an Empty cell or Indentation Cell, go to the nearest Statement cell in the downward direction at the same level. From a Statement cell, skip over consecutive Statement cells, Indentation Cells or Blank Cells in the downward direction at the same level.||No Action|
|HOME||Move cursor to the start of current line||From an Empty cell, go to the Statement cell in the same row. From a Statement cell or Indentation cell, go to the Line Number cell in the same row.||No Action|
|END||Move cursor to the end of current line||From an Indentation cell or Line Number cell, go to the Statement cell in the same row. From a Statement cell, Empty cell, go to the Right Most cell in the same row.||No Action|
Ally IDE provides a real-time error cue (a beep sound) when editing the code in Grid Editor to indicate a syntax error. This cue is provided when the current editing cell contains a syntax error and the user tries to go out of Edit mode or create a new cell by pressing Enter. In addition, a periodical error alert every 45 seconds (configurable) will notify the user of any error with a prompt, e.g., 'Error at Line 3'. The user can disable these cues from the Settings. A list of other audio cues is described in the following table.
|Making a cell editable/Going to the child node or statement|
|Making a cell non-editable/Going to the parent statement or node|
|Hitting a table boundary|
|Navigating with arrows|
|Editing a table cell|
|Auto-completing a block|
|Switching Editors or Views|
|Code is executing|
Text Editor is similar to Nodepad to edit code. It has the following features:
Grid Editor is the core component of Ally Editor. It is a spreadsheet-like tabular environment for reading and writing code in grid cells. Each row contains a single line of code, and each column represents a statement at a different scope or level. The first column corresponds to the code at the global scope (level: 1). Conditions and Loops create a new scope or level. For example, the body of an if block creates a new scope. In this case, it is at level 2. The body of a for block within this if block will create another scope, level 3.
The table grows dynamically as new lines and levels are added to the code. The right-most column will contain the code at the highest level. If a source code has ten lines and the highest level is four, Grid Editor will have ten rows and four columns -- in total, forty cells. The table cells can be of three types:
The following sections describe how to use different features of Grid Editor.
Grid Editor has two mode of operations: (a) Navigation mode to read and explore code risk-free; and Edit mode to make changes in the code.
While editing, Grid Editor provides a suggestion drop-down list with variables that match the typed text. The user can choose variable or a code block (e.g., If block , For block ) from this list by pressing UP or DOWN arrow and commit the selection by pressing ENTER.
If a code block is selected, Grid Editor automatically inserts necessary keywords and creates an indentation cell in the next row. Then, a user types the conditions and presses ENTER to go to the body automatically.
A user can also write a block (e.g., if/loop block) manually. For example, to write an if block, a user types if keyword, the condition, colon, and finally, presses ENTER. Then, Grid Editor creates an indentation cell (e.g., 'within if') in the next row and brings the cursor to the appropriate statement cell to continue typing the body of that block.
First, a user presses ESCAPE to get in the Navigation mode, then presses LEFT arrow to go to the target cell, and finally presses ENTER to edit (if allowed). For example, the first indentation cell after a block cannot be edited because doing so creates an indentation error. The plain Text Editor is recommended over the Grid Editor to remove nested code blocks or restructure a code.Back to Table of Contents
The Code Output window shows the textual output of the code when executed (shortcut: ALT+ ENTER). When the output is available, the cursor is set to the first line of the output. The user can press the arrow keys to navigate the output. Ally IDE parses syntax error messages and offers a special context menu (shortcut: Control + 0) to jump to the corresponding error line at Text Editor, Grid Editor, or Code Tree.Back to Table of Contents