Archive for October, 2019

Learning Thunkable: Not all Roses and Puppies

October 3, 2019

This semester I am teaching an app building course with Thunkable.  Why Thunkable? Because Android Studio is a pig to learn and a pig on my old computers.  I do not even want to talk about Swift. There is only so much time in the day. Thunkable is dual platform and since most of my students are iOS I figured Thunkable would be the ticket.  Now that I have been with Thunkable a month or so I am getting a handle on it. I am finding some issues. Coding with it is a piece of cake. It is App Inventor on steroids. Drag-and-drop and an easy to figure out interface.  But there were some surprises. If you go to and click the Get Started button it sends you to their latest version of Thunkable, Thunkable X. One of my students found a second version of Thunkable I was not aware of so I started digging.  The old version ( is the original build using App Inventor as the engine. It works only with Android but is very complete with many functions and it works smoothly. It is what you would expect of a mature product. Very nice. Thunkable X, the default version and their latest version, is not so mature.  Thunkable X does not use App Inventor as its engine, it is a complete rewrite of the app. It looks the same but that is the only similarity. The people at Thunkable dove in and rewrote the thing from scratch. And it is not completed yet. I wrote a little app and played with Thunkable X a bit. It has a Live Test mode which is really slick.  You test your app in a live testing environment on your device. I have an Android and it worked pretty nice. I downloaded the completed app to my phone (this is the permanent install, not the live test mode) and things were not so good. The app is locked in portrait mode. A little research and some discussion with the Thunkable people and I learn there is no orientation sensor for the X version.  That is a pretty big issue but I figure I can do some kind of work around. The weird thing that had me going crazy is the orientation worked fine in Live Test mode. Download the app and it is locked in portrait. That is issue number one. Issue number two is it does not play well with iOS. (No surprise there, little plays well with iOS. That is why I am Android.) Most of my students are iPhones.  In Live Test mode the phone sees the app, it is in the app list, but sometimes they work, and sometimes they do not. Since I do not have an iPhone to play with I have not been able to test the issue extensively. One of my uber-geeks has been looking at the problem and cannot see a pattern. A Live Test app will not work one day and will work the next. Oh joy. Intermittent bugs are so much fun.

If I had Android students I would be more than satisfied with Thunkable.  Professional looking apps can be built. The iOS thing and the orientation issue with version X has me bummed.  I will hang in there with Thunkable because the options are limited. It is kind of interesting to work on software that is maturing as you use it.  As a teacher you just have to shift focus from app building to software testing and issue management. Real life in the computer science world. Sort of fun.