I’m a firm believer that creative coding is a very different activity than the kind of coding that most people do for their day jobs. In feature / application / systems programming, there’s usually a fair amount of planning, scoping and architecting that comes before you start coding. Ideally, when you start coding, you have a pretty good idea of what you are going to make and how you’re going to make it.
But creative coding, for me at least, starts with “what would happen if I did this…?” and generally follows that line of logic all the way until I have something published.
So I’m always going to this value or that, deleting “true” and typing “false” or vice versa. Or, I’m using a sine function and want to see what happens if I use cosine. Or tangent. Or I want to swap greater than with less than and see what that does. Or change plus to minus or minus to plus.
After way too many times doing this type of thing, I figured there must be some plugins that would make this easier. And so there are! I use vim, and found several. I tried a few and had almost settled on vim-toggle and then checked out switch.vim, which I found to be the most powerful of the lot.
I recognize that most people probably use VS Code or Sublime Text or other editors. A quick search informed me that there are similar plugins for those editors as well (all links below). I haven’t tried the non-vim ones, so I can’t vouch for their quality, only their existence. There may be better ones, so do your research.
The way these work is you put your cursor on the word or symbol you want to change and hit some keyboard shortcut. For switch.vim, that’s
gs. Each time you hit that shortcut the word will toggle back and forth between, say, “true” and “false”. Or “on” and “off” or “1” and “0”.
Most of the plugins come with several obvious definitions pre-defined. But make sure you find one that will also allow you to set up custom toggle sets. Some of the plugins only support binary switching between two options, but some, like switch.vim, will let you specify a list of as many items as you want. It will cycle through all of those options when you hit the shortcut key over any one of them. Here’s just a few of the custom toggle sets I set up:
["width", "height"] ["moveTo", "lineTo"] ["x", "y"] ["-", "+"] [">", "<"] ["cos", "sin", "tan"]
And there are more niche ones I use in my day to day creative coding using cairographics bindings for Golang (blgo). Sometimes I’ll be making a piece where the background is white and the foreground is black. I use a function,
ClearWhite to clear the surface to white, and set the drawing color to black using
SetSourceRGB(0, 0, 0). but occasionally I want to invert these to use a black background with white shapes. So I set up some toggles like so:
["ClearWhite", "ClearBlack"] ["0, 0, 0", "1, 1, 1"]
This lets me easily make the change in just a few key strokes.
switch.vim even allows you to set up toggling rules using regx, which seems super powerful, though I haven’t dug into that so far.
So far, I’ve found these immensely useful. Maybe you will too. Here are the links: