Arduino IDE v1.8.20 flash screen

Fantastic way to talk to your Arduino: The Arduino Software

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series Welcome To Arduino In Zimbabwe

To the uninitiated, our Arduino board may seem like nothing more than just an over glorified (yet well organised) chunk of silicon, plastic and copper. However, their opinion soon change when they become acquainted with the Arduino software. Read on.

The Arduino Integrated Development Environment (IDE)

The Arduino software or IDE is a tool that we use to write code, compile it and transfer it to our Arduino board. In practice, we mostly just type in code, click a button, and the IDE takes care of the heavy lifting for us. We write our sketch(Arduino program) using the Arduino Programming Language, which is based on a programming framework called Wiring. The IDE itself, is based on a framework called Processing. But that’s not all!

Just as with the Arduino hardware, the Arduino software is also free to download and use, for both commercial and non-commercial purposes. You can download a copy of the IDE from the official Arduino website. The instructions you need to successfully download and install the Arduino software on your particular operating system, are provided on their website .

That said, I would recommend that you have the IDE installed on your computer for the next part. I will wait for you here.

The Arduino Software: IDE v1.8.20

I hope you now have your IDE up and running. If not, it’s still okay. You can bookmark this page and return to it once you have the IDE installed. We will now start our tour of the Arduino software.

Arduino Software( IDE)
Arduino Software( IDE)

The Arduino IDE v1 is structured as follows.

The Titlebar

Arduino IDE titlebar

The titlebar contains the name of our sketch, as well as the name and version of the IDE we are using. It is located at the top most part of the IDE window. As you can probably see from the title bar in the picture above, I have opened a sketch called ‘Hello_Word’ in version 1.8.20 of the Arduino IDE.

Further to the right, we have the familiar minimize, maximize and close buttons, common on most graphic user interfaces.

The Menubar

Arduino Menubar

The menu bar contains commands that we need in order to use the IDE’s features. Also, these commands are put together into menus which contain commands that initiate similar actions within the IDE.

We have five menu options in our IDE as explained below.

  • File – contains commands that deal with the whole sketch. The following are some of the commands that are found in the in the file menu. New – creates a new sketch, Save – saves sketches and Open – opens an existing sketch.
  • Edit – contains commands that affect the information entered into the sketch. For instance, Undo – removes changes we make to our sketch and Redo – puts back the changes removed by the Undo command.
  • Sketch – has commands that we use to get our sketch into a state were it can be uploaded to our development board. Such as, Verify/Compile – which checks our code for errors before compiling it and Upload – which verifies, compiles and uploads our code to our board.
  • Tools – contains commands that give us access to features or tools that make using the IDE easier. for example, Auto format – structures our code to make it more eligible and presentable .
  • Help – gives us easy access to the software’s documentation which can further help us in using the IDE.

The menubar is located just below the titlebar.


Arduino IDE toolbar

The toolbar has five Icon buttons. These icon buttons are shortcuts to access commands that we frequently use when writing our sketch. The five shortcut buttons are as follows.

Verify – compiles our code and checks for errors.

Upload – verifies our code, compiles it and sends it to our board

New – creates a new sketch.

Open – opens a list of existing sketches.

Save – saves our sketch.

Serial Monitor – opens the serial monitor.

Tabs area

Arduino IDE Tabs

Between the toolbar and the text editor, we have a section which displays the the files in our sketch as tabs. Each tab contains the name of a file in our sketch. The picture above shows that my sketch only has one file named ‘Hello_world’. The more files your sketch has, the more tabs that will show up in this area.

Text Editor

Arduino IDE text editor

The text editor is where we write our code. It is the large white area shown in the picture above.

Message area

Arduino IDE message area
Arduino IDE Message area with message

The message area gives us feedback on the tasks carried out by our IDE. It is located below the text editor and the text console. This area shows us when the IDE is saving, compiling or uploading our sketches. It also displays error messages when something goes wrong.

Text Console

Arduino IDE text console
Arduino IDE text console with message

The text console is how the IDE communicates more detailed information to us. It show us information relating to the compilations of our code, as well as information about our board. In addition, it also gives us information on the size of our sketches and provides us more detailed error messages when compared to the message area.

Bottom area

Arduino IDE bottom area

On the left hand side, It shows us the horizontal position of the cursor. In this example, my cursor was on the first line of the text editor. Further to the right, It shows us the configured board and the configured serial port. In this case, I was using an Arduino Uno board connected to one of the USB ports on my computer.

Try it on your own

That pretty much wraps up everything we need to know about the Arduino IDE for now. It is (finally) time to upload our very first Arduino sketch. You will find that the next steps will be easier to follow, now that we know our way around the Arduino IDE and the Arduino hardware.

We will look at uploading sketches in detail in our next post. In the meantime we want to put our skills to the test. See if you can do the following exercise.

In your IDE, move to the menu bar and click File->Examples->Basic->Blink. A sketch called blink should appear on your screen. Connect your board to your PC. I am using an Arduino Uno (I hope you are too, if you are a beginner). Navigate to Tools->Boards from your menu bar. Select Arduino Uno from the list that appears. Go to Tools->Port and make sure that the USB port that your board is connected to has a tick next to it. Now, click on the Upload button on the tool bar. Wait for it to finish uploading. And congratulations! You have just uploaded your very first Arduino sketch. Your Arduino will reward you with a blinking light.

If you faced any challenges in this exercise, that you think we should talk about in the next article. Let us know about it in the comments sections. If its a minor thing, we can even address it right away. I will also focus on your submissions in the next post.

Don’t have an Arduino yet?

Don’t worry, we have plenty of Arduino Uno boards eagerly waiting for you. You can buy one (or two) directly from our online shop, or you can whatsapp me on 0780 323 655, and I will help you get your very own Arduino Uno in no time.

Final Thoughts

This marks the end of the first part of this tutorial series. I hope you are enjoying it as much as I am. From here on out, it will be more hands on and less theory. So if you haven’t gotten around to buying your board yet, now is the time to do it. I have put the purchase links at the bottom of this article, and a WhatsApp number you can use to reach me is provided in the previous paragraph.

As always, I will be looking forward to your hearing from you in the comments. Let me know what you think of this series so far. And also, what you expect to see in future installments of this series.

Further reading

  • Edward Roger – Arduino Crash Course
  • Neil Cameron – Arduino Applied
  • Ashwin Pajankar – Arduino Made Simple
Series Navigation<< A Simple Guide To The Arduino Uno Hardware For BeginnersArduino IDE 2 – What You Need To Know >>
Like & Share :)

Leave a Reply