How to use the arduino ide interface

In this post, I’m providing you with an introduction to the arduino ide interface. I was writing sketches for months, before I realized I was missing out on some of the key features of this awesome tool.

I will outline some of the most important features you’ll use when writing sketches.

 

All of these features are critical to making the most of arduino development, and are often overlooked by beginner developers.

Board selection

Here you select the board you’re using, this is important for when you’re compiling your sketch. If you pick the wrong board, your sketch may not run properly. The sketch is built by the compiler, specifically for the board you select, and some boards do not contain the same features or configuration as others.

Com port selection

This is where you select the port assigned to your arduino, by the computer. Without setting this, the ide doesn’t know where to upload your compiled sketch. If you own multiple boards, they will each be assigned to a different com port.

Tabs

It was a long time before I found out that tabs were a thing in the arduino ide. The significance of tabs is that it not only allows editing multiple files at once, but these files will build together as one sketch when compiled.

This feature allows you to separate the pre-set up, setup, loop, and any other functions or variable definitions in other tabs. It’s extremely useful for readability of long sketches. You can separate things, so when you’re looking for a certain function, it’s easy to find where the function starts and ends.

Libraries

Libraries are an amazingly helpful tool. Third party libraries provide additional functionality, that is not otherwise included in the arduinos built in library set. A good example of this is the esp8266. This is a wifi device, that would take weeks to set up without an available library to help drive it.

The arduino ide makes it very easy to manage libraries with searching and quick links to the source of these libraries.

Examples

Example code is provided with most libraries, and can be accessed very easily within the arduino ide. You don’t have to navigate to wherever it is that your libraries are stored, and find the example code. They are built right in to the interface, for easy access. This is another one I didn’t notice until months after I started writing arduino code.

Auto format

Auto format is another must for code readability. This feature automatically makes sure your curly braces are lined up, to help find beginning and ends of enclosed code. It also automatically indents code within the curly braces further than the curly braces are already invented. This extra indent ensures that the curly braces don’t get lost within the other code.

Verify code vs upload

A common question you may ask yourself when writing a sketch is, am I doing this right? Or, my code makes sense to me, will it make sense to the device? Or you may be writing a sketch, and your arduino isn’t near by to upload to.

That’s where the verify option comes in handy. It will compile your code and error check it for you, without the need for an arduino device to be plugged in. Then you can debug your code before trying to actually run it.

Output console

It may not be long after you start coding, that you find yourself constantly staring at the output console. This area will display tons of important information, about what ever action you’re currently performing.

If you’re opening serial monitor, it may let you know it couldn’t bind to the port. Then you might have to ask yourself, is my arduino plugged in?

If you’re opening serial monitor, it may let you know it couldn’t bind to the port. Then you might have to ask yourself, is my arduino plugged in?

Imagine coding without this. Would you sit and read through a thousand lines of code, to realize you forgot a semicolon on line 753? I sure hope not. I would give up pretty quickly.

Serial monitor

This is where you can have your arduino talk back to you. This is infinitely useful when debugging, or verifying that your functions are returning the right results. They made it very easy to output anything you’d like right to your computer.

You could, of course, use a different serial monitor program. It’s much easier to use the arduino ide as an all in one tool.

Baud rate

Your baud rate is what calibrates communication speed between the device and your computer. Without these 2 devices matching, you would get nothing at all, or a jumbled mess of nothing that makes sense.

Baud rate is a very important, and easily forgotten setting that is extremely critical. A lot of peripheral devices for your arduino will also require a specific baud rate. Each device you connect can run at a different rate, so you’re not limited to just one.

Serial send

Serial send is an amazing feature. This allows you to send data to your device, typed right in to the serial monitor. You can code your arduino device to interpret this data, and relay the message to other devices. This allows you to test functionality of devices, and determine how you’re going to communicate with them.

Questions?

Feel free to ask questions, or provide tips for others in the comments. I’m very open to questions and suggestions, that’s what I’m here for.

Maybe now you’re ready for the Serial Hello World Tutorial. This is a good place to start coding.

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