I'm using an extinct program
April 14, 2009 10:29 AM   Subscribe

What programming system or language should I use to replace Authorware for making psychological experiments?

I make a lot of computer-based psychological studies, looking at learning, memory, etc. I've been using Authorware, because it uses an easy, straightforward flowchart organization, is good at presenting text, images, and video, but still allows a reasonable amount of more direct control with its scripting language. However, development and support have completely stopped for the program, and I'm now starting to run into some compatibility issues with Vista. I'm looking for a replacement.

A WYSIWYG formatting of text and images on the screen would be great, but since participants will be proceeding through many different screen layouts, Visual Basic doesn't seem like the way to go. I need to write output data files to the local machine, so Flash is out. I've been doing some programs with python and pygame, but that's usually overkill for my needs. I do need some fairly straightforward programming capacity, though -- variables, loops, conditionals, random number generation, etc. Programs designed specifically for psychology experiments exist, but they're usually way too restricted in their options. Any thoughts or advice appreciated!
posted by svenx to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
We used to use Matlab with some good success in doing psychophysics studies.
There's a bunch of free matlabl toolboxes out there you might find useful.

There are also some open source Matlab like systems that may be "close enough"

We also used to use TCL/TK and then Java front ends for Matlab backends when we needed something more powerful.

Today I'd probably use python or groovy.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 10:43 AM on April 14, 2009

Adobe Air will do what you want. It's basically Flash for the desktop (Mac and PC). It can write to files.
posted by grumblebee at 10:47 AM on April 14, 2009

Something I've been reading about recently is Mozilla XULRunner, which I think might let you do this as a desktop-based web application.

Since it's essentially FireFox-based you'd have SVG available for doing graphics. Check out the demos at RaphaëlJS for some slick examples of what you can do with just SVG and javascript. Inkscape is an open-source illustration tool that could be used for rigging up SVG text and graphics, which you can then automate with javascript.
posted by XMLicious at 11:19 AM on April 14, 2009

I think Flash or Flex with Adobe Air is a viable choice. The video from here called "Comparing Flash, Flex, Flash Player and AIR" introduces some of these basic technologies. Air applications are allowed to store things locally and can also push things through a central server to a database.
posted by !Jim at 12:39 PM on April 14, 2009

Dunno about Vista, but I hear great things about E-Prime... which is not used in my department. We use Matlab with the PTB for damned near everything. Being a programmer, it may be right up your alley.
posted by knile at 8:27 PM on April 14, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. I think I'll give Adobe Air a shot and see how that works out.
posted by svenx at 8:04 AM on April 15, 2009

Does PyEPL fit your needs?

PyEPL (the Python Experiment-Programming Library) is a library for coding psychology experiments in Python. It supports presentation of both visual and auditory stimuli, and supports both manual (keyboard/joystick) and sound (microphone) input as responses.
posted by PueExMachina at 9:21 PM on April 15, 2009

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