Mozilla updates its Thimble online code editor to help teach Web programming

Changes include autocompletion and previews of how sites will look on mobile

Mozilla updated its Thimble code editor Tuesday to make it more useful for teachers and students who want to learn and teach how to program websites.

The updates bring a variety of improvements to Thimble, including the ability to link and edit multiple Web pages within a project rather than restricting users to editing only one page. Users can also take a website that has been compressed in a Zip file and import it into Thimble, which will expand the whole thing and let users start tweaking the website from there.

Like other code editors, Thimble now also can autocomplete tags and automatically closes tags to make it easier for people to build websites. With the growing emphasis on smartphones, it also helps that Thimble's previewer can show users what their pages will look like on a smaller device.

Thimble is a useful tool for people just getting started with Web programming because users can program in one pane while viewing a real-time preview of what they're working on right next to their code. Users can immediately see what happens when they tweak a value in their code, which helps improve understanding of how the whole site works.

In addition to letting users import sites to fiddle with them, and letting people build things from scratch, Thimble also has a group of pre-made projects tailored to help educators teach Web development. Templates like one that lets people remix the popular "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster include teaching kits with lesson plans for using them in the classroom.

Mozilla first launched Thimble in 2012, and it has been used since then for a variety of projects, including teaching people how to code and designing posters to argue in support of net neutrality. By improving its functionality, Mozilla has made Thimble even more useful for situations like that and others.

The update is powered by work that Mozilla did with the Seneca College Centre for Development and Open Technology. Thimble picked up many of its new capabilities through integrating Bramble, a fork of Adobe's Brackets open-source text editor that includes features like autocompletion.

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