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What language, tools or libraries do you suggest for prototyping applications that use a lot of animation? For example:

  • Conway's game of life
  • Solar system simulation
  • Signal propagation

Good choices should offer easy access to primitives such as points, lines and circles.

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closed as off-topic by gnat, Kilian Foth, Ozz, GlenH7, MichaelT Oct 2 '13 at 18:35

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3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The Processing programming language might be what you want. It is quite similar to Java in many ways, but has phenomenal drawing capabilities and is designed for that.

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Excellent suggestion. Processing is great. There's also Processing.js (processingjs.org) allowing for browser based Processing applications. –  Vitor Mar 5 '11 at 18:32
    
Processing and Processing.js are excellent suggestions! –  Eelvex Mar 5 '11 at 18:59
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There are different frameworks for various categories of simulation, though a decent general platform for prototyping is MatLab, or to a lesser extent Octave (a free MatLab compatible language). It's fairly good at expressing matrix and cellular data and differential equations, which should cover the examples you listed. As you get to more specific categories, it would be worthwhile to pose the question for suggested frameworks to more specialised groups (for example, for tree-graph based simulations, you want an L-system engine).

Spread sheets can also be handy for crunching through data sets and building up quick & dirty analyses.

It's also useful to keep a good plotting tool handy. I personally like gnuplot, but there are many options available, such as Grapher (comes with OS X), or the graphing tools in spread sheets.

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Python with Numpy. Vector or raster imagery can be displayed with PIL (Python Imaging Library) and any GUI toolkit you like (I've found PyQt to be easy to do quick simple prototypes with). Python is one of the easier languages to learn yet quite powerful, and is used in the real world for serious simulation, animation and such.

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