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Alice Tutorial

Alice Tutorial


Copyright © 1998 Carnegie Mellon University. All rights

We hereby grant permission for
any third party to make copies of this tutorial for person and educational purposes. This
tutorial may not be sold for profit without express written permission from the authors,
with the sole exception of charging a nominal fee to cover the costs of reproduction

Image4.gif (1614 bytes)

Alice was created by the members of the User Interface
Group of the University of Virginia
(Randy Pausch, Director).  Alice development continues by the Stage 3 Research Group located at
Carnegie Mellon University.

Click here for a
version of the tutorial in Portuguese.

Hints For Using This Tutorial

This tutorial will introduce you to the basics of the Alice authoring tool.

Based on our experience with many Alice users:

  • The tutorial is far easier to use in paper form, so if you have access to a printer, we highly
    printing this document rather than viewing it onscreen.  It will
    print correctly both in color and in black-and-white.
  • Do the tutorial with a friend.  You'll have fun together, and you'll
    be able to help each other work through any parts one of you might find confusing.

Tutorial Sections

The tutorial is divided into three parts:

Tutorial Part 1:

Getting Started With Alice


What Alice IS:

    Alice lets you create 3D worlds
    populated by graphical objects that have behaviors that change over time. Objects in Alice

    can move, spin, change color, make sounds, react to the mouse and keyboard, and more.

What Alice is NOT:

    Alice is not a 3D drawing program or
    a Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) program. The 3D objects in Alice can be constructed using
    third party commercial tools, but Alice comes with hundreds of pre-made 3D objects and
    there are thousands more available on the World Wide Web for free.

How To Start Alice

Start Alice by double clicking on the Alice icon on
your Windows desktop.  If you can't find the Alice icon, look for Alice.exe under
c:\Program Files\Alice.  If you still can't find it, use the Windows

"Find..." utility.

The Alice Control Panel

This is the Alice control panel.  We will use the menus and buttons on this tool
to control the 3D world we are going to create.

The Camera Window


And this is the Camera Window.

The camera is looking at a green lawn and blue sky.

Where We’re Headed…


The first world we will create has a pink bunny and a helicopter.
We’ll make the bunny’s head look at the helicopter. When you’re done, your
world should look something like this:

We will make this world one step at a

Loading A World

Let’s start by loading a world into Alice.

Go to the File pulldown menu and choose Open World:

This brings up a dialog box that will let you choose one of the worlds that comes with

Opening BunnyWorld


First click on Tutorial
Then select Bunny and click OK.

Using the Mouse

Use the mouse to move the bunny around.

Then, try clicking the undo button.

Now put the bunny in the middle of the screen like this.

Alice Commands

The mouse is good for quick sloppy placement. For precision, you can type into
Alice’s Command Box.

Let's try the move command.  Click into the command box and type

bunny.move(forward, 1)

After you type a command, press Enter on your
keyboard or use the mouse to click the Go button.

More Move Commands

Next try this…

bunny.move(back, 1)

BEFORE you type the next command: guess what the bunny will do - move to YOUR left or
ITS OWN left?

OK, now try this:

bunny.move(left, 1)

Was your guess correct?

Directions of Motion


Objects in Alice can move forward, back, left, right, up, and

The six directions refer to the object in motion: the bunny moved to its
own left, not ours.

Hint: to figure out what direction an Alice object will move, put
yourself in that object’s place and use your own sense of left/right and forward/back
to "act out" the motion you want.

The Turn Command

Backspace over everything…


... and type this:

bunny.turn(left, 1/4)

Again, the bunny turns to its own left, not ours.

The turn command requires two bits of information:

  • A direction to turn (left, right, forward, back)
  • The number of revolutions for the object to turn.

Finally, try these:

bunny.turn(forward, 1)

bunny.turn(right, 1/4)

Let’s Make A Mistake

Alice is very fussy about what you type. Let’s see what happens
when we make a mistake.

Try typing this incorrect Alice command. Type it
exactly as shown, misspelling the word turn as turb.

bunny.turb(right, 1/4)

You will see this dialog box:

Click OK to dismiss the box.  For a list of other common errors, and what causes
them, see the Common Errors section of the tutorial.

Adding Objects

Let’s get the other object for our little project: a helicopter.

Go to the Alice control panel and click on the Add Object

button.   This brings up a dialog box that will let you choose one of the hundreds of
objects that come with Alice.

Adding The Helicopter

Double click Vehicles...

Double click Helicopter.mdl...

Position The Helicopter

Use the mouse and the command line to move the helicopter and the bunny
around so that your world looks something like this:

Hint: holding down the shift key lets you move objects up and down with the mouse.

New Command: PointAt

Now try a new command: the pointat command:



Is this what we wanted?  Not really.

Press the button.

Let's find out how to point the head without turning the body. 

Objects Have Parts

Alice objects have parts, and these parts can have parts, and so on.  This list
shows all of the objects in the scene.
Click on the plus sign (+) to see that the bunny has parts called bunny.body, bunny.head,
and bunny.drum.

Does bunny.body have parts?

Using Commands With Parts

The name of an object’s part is just the name of the object,
followed by a dot, followed by the part name (object.part)

Try these:

bunny.drum.move(down, 0.15)

bunny.drum.turn(forward, 1)

If you miss it, try running it again:

Now let's use the pointat  command on the bunny's head.

Pointat Command With The Bunny’s

Try this:


Now the right thing happens.  The bunny's head turns to point at the helicopter.

Now For Some Real Fun

 Point at the
bunny with the mouse and CLICK the right button.

Select Destroy.

If you want to bring the bunny back, press .

End Of Part One: Summary

Here’s a recap of what we’ve just covered:

  • Alice comes with a collection of pre-made objects.
  • You can use the mouse or the command box to move objects.
  • Alice has 
  • Commands follow a pattern:

    object.command(detail, detail)

  • We saw three commands:

object.move(direction, distance)

object.turn(direction, revolutions)


  • Objects move in any of six directions:
    • forward
    • back
    • left
    • right
    • up
    • down
  • Objects turn:
    • forward
    • back
    • left
    • right
  • Objects can have parts.
  • Commands for parts look a lot like commands for objects:

    object.part.command(detail, detail)

  • Objects have menus for commands that you can access with the right mouse button.
  • One option on this menu is destroy.

Tutorial Part 2:

Creating Worlds in Alice


Before You Start

Do you know how to:

  • Start Alice?
  • Add an object to an Alice world?
  • Manipulate objects using the mouse?
  • Enter commands using the command line?

If some of these concepts aren’t familiar, you should go back and glance through
the first part of this tutorial.

Where Do We Go From Here?


So far you’ve learned how to do some simple things in Alice. To do
more complex things you need to learn more about Worlds in Alice.

Worlds in Alice have two parts:

  • What the world looks like (called an Opening Scene).
  • What happens in the world (called a Script).

Loading a World

Let’s look at a world that’s already been built in Alice to
learn more about how worlds work.

Go to the File pulldown menu and choose Open World:

This brings up a dialog box that will let you choose one of the worlds
that comes with Alice.

Opening the Snowman World

First click on Tutorial...
Then select Snowman and click OK.

The Opening Scene Tab

An Alice world has two parts:

WORLD = Opening Scene + Script

The Opening Scene and Script tabs in the Alice control panel give you
access to the two parts of this world.

What Is An Opening Scene?

Think of an Alice Opening Scene like you would a
play’s opening scene: the stage is set, the actors are in place, but the action has
yet to begin.   The opening scene of the world you loaded contains a snowman, a
snowwoman, and an oven.

The Script Tab

Clicking on the script tab opens the script editor.

What Is A Script?

An Alice script is like the script for a play. It describes the action that will take
place. In Alice, a script is a collection of Alice commands that tell the objects in the
world what to do and how to do it.  The script for this world moves the snowman
forward 1 meter to visit the snowwoman on the right side of the scene.

Performing A Script

Now that you’ve seen the opening scene and script for this world,
we want Alice to perform the script.

Make sure the script tab is selected so that Alice is
showing the script editor.

Click on the Perform Script button.

Watch the script run!

Performing A Script Twice

Try to guess what will happen if you click Perform Script again
after the script finishes.

Try it!


Were you right?

What's Going On Here?

Every time you click on Perform Script, Alice
resets the world to the Opening Scene before performing the script.

Doing Something Different

After running the script, the world should look like this:

What if we decide that the snowman should go toward the oven to get dinner for the
snowwoman?  We'll need to change the world.

How To Change The World

Worlds in Alice are easy to change. Changing either part of an Alice
world yields a new and different world.

  • Changing the Opening Scene causes objects to change their initial
    positions while still following the same script commands.
  •  Changing the Script changes what the objects in the world do
    even though they start in the same positions.

Changing The Opening Scene

Let’s change the opening scene. Our snowman decides to bring dinner
from the oven to the snowwoman, so he needs to move to the oven.

Click on the Opening Scene tab.

Turn the snowman to face the oven.  Hint:  You can do this with the command box or

the controls that say "The mouse...".

Your opening scene should look like this.

The Brave New World

What do you think will happen if you perform the script now?

Remember that because you didn’t change the script the snowman will perform the
same action.

Try it and find out!

Switch to the script tab and click .

Did the script do what you expected?

Changing The Script

Now let’s change what happens in the world so that the snowman
opens the oven door after he moves forward. To do that, we need to change the script.

Adding this new action requires adding a single line to the script:

Perform the script and see what happens.

What Happened?!?


Commands Start At The Same Time

Alice performs all the commands in a script at the same time:

The script starts the snowman moving and  the oven door turning at the same
time.  We need a way to tell Alice to perform one command after another.

What we need is a DoInOrder command.

The DoInOrder Command

The DoInOrder command takes a list of commands that should be
performed in order (one after another).

Here’s how it looks:






Using the DoInOrder Command

The two actions we want to perform in order are moving the snowman and
turning the door. You need to put these commands inside the parentheses for the DoInOrder

Wrap a DoInOrder command around the two existing commands in your script.

Check your work.  Did you put the parentheses and commas in the right place?

Perform the new script.

Very Nice!

Congratulations! The snowman should have moved to the oven. When he
arrived at the oven, the door should have opened. This is much better.

The Resize Command

That oven is hot! When he opens the oven door our snowman will be
exposed to a blast of heat and he’ll start to melt!

How can we make him melt? One way is to use the Alice Resize
command. The Resize command makes an object larger or smaller.

Here’s how it looks:


The amount specifies how much to change the size. 

For example, you can make the snowman twice his current size or 1/4 his current size.

Making The Snowman Melt

We want the snowman to melt after the oven door opens, so you need to
put the Resize command last in your DoInOrder command.

Your script should look like this:

Click on Perform Script and watch it go!



You've learned that Alice worlds contain:

  • what the world looks like (the Opening Scene)
  • what happens in the world (the Script)

and you've learned how to change an existing world.

What Comes Next…

ready to learn how to create your own world from scratch. For this world, we’re going
to teach a cement truck to act like an inchworm whenever you click on it with the mouse.

Making A New World

You need a fresh, clean world to start with, so select New World
from the File pulldown menu.

Alice will create a new world for you and show you the (empty) opening scene.

Setting Up The Opening Scene

You want your opening scene to look like this:

Use the Add Object button to add the CementTruck to the scene.

Use the mouse and the command line to position it.

Writing The Script

The next step is to write the script to tell the truck how to act like
an inchworm.

To do this, you’ll need to use Alice’s Resize
command with the FrontToBack and LikeRubber details. Alice will tell the
cement truck to resize lengthwise and squash and stretch like a piece of rubber does.

Try this script to squash the truck to half its current length:

Stretching Our Truck Back

Once an inchworm has scrunched up, it needs to unscrunch.

Because we squashed the truck to half its length,
to get the truck back to its original length we need to stretch it to twice its current
(2 * ½ = 1).

This script will first scrunch and then unscrunch the truck:

Hmmm, Something Is Missing

The truck scrunches and unscrunches, but it doesn’t move forward.
When an inchworm unscrunches it also moves forward.

But how do we tell the truck to move forward at the same
time as it unscrunches?

The answer is Alice’s DoTogether command.

The DoTogether Command

The DoTogether command takes a list of Alice commands to perform
(just like the DoInOrder command). However, the DoTogether command performs
all of the commands in the list at the same time.

Here’s how it looks:






Using The DoTogether Command

We want the car to scrunch and then unscrunch and move forward at the
same time.

To do this we’re going to need:

  • A DoTogether command for the move and resize (unscrunch) commands
  • A DoInOrder command for the resize (scrunch) and DoTogether

Can you see how to write this script in Alice?  Try it!

An Improved Inchworm Script

Here’s what your script should look like:

Did you figure it out?  Perform the script and see if it works!

Naming Commands

Our script is getting crowded!

You can assign names to commands in Alice and then
use that name instead of the command.

Assigning a name looks like this:

name = command

Using Names In Your Script

Let’s clean up the script by naming some commands and using those
names in the script.


Doesn't that look better?  Make sure to click on Perform Script to see if the
script still works!

Looping A Command

We’ve gotten the cement truck to perform the inchworm command once. What about
making the inchworm command repeat?  You can do this in Alice using the Loop
command. When a command is looped it starts over again as soon as it finishes.  
Here’s what it looks like:

loop(command, number) 


Looping The Inchworm Command

Let’s make Alice perform the inchworm command 4 times. You just need to add one
line to your script to make this happen:

Click on Perform Script and count the number of

Did the truck inchworm 4 times?

Making Your World Interactive

Now let’s make your world

interactive so that the cement truck inchworms when you click on it with the left
mouse button.  We'll need Alice's RespondTo command to do this.

The RespondTo Command

The RespondTo command tells Alice what to respond to and how it
should respond.

The command looks like this:

Object.RespondTo( WhatToRespondTo, HowToRespond)

Reacting To Mouse Clicks

We want the cement truck to respond by performing the inchworm command
we’ve built when you click on it with the left mouse button.

To tell Alice to do this we need to remove the loop

command and add a RespondTo command. Your script should look like this:

Your Interactive World

Your world should be ready to go!

Click on the Perform Script button to try it out.

Does clicking on the truck do the right thing?

End Of Part Two: Summary

Here’s a recap of what we’ve covered in this part of the

  • Worlds are made of Opening Scenes and Scripts.
  • Alice has an Opening Scene editor and a Script editor.
  • You click on the Perform Script button to perform the commands in
    the script.
  • You can change existing worlds by changing the Opening Scene or by
    changing the Script.
  • The Resize command changes the size of objects.
  • The DoInOrder command performs a list of Alice commands one after
  • The DoTogether command performs a list of Alice commands all at
    the same time.
  • You can assign names to commands and then use those names in your
  • You can use the Loop command to make a command repeat a finite or
    infinite number of times.
  • You can use the RespondTo command to make objects perform commands
    in response to mouse clicks.

Tutorial 3:
Adding Details to Commands in Alice

 Before You

Do you know how to:

  • Start Alice?
  • Add an object to an Alice world?
  • Move objects with the mouse?
  • Enter commands using the command line?
  • Use DoInOrder and DoTogether?
  • Name commands (use variables)?
  • Loop commands?
  • Use RespondTo?

If some of these concepts aren’t familiar, you should go back and glance through
parts 1 and 2.

Where Do We Go From Here?


You’ve learned how to create worlds in Alice and structure commands so
that they happen in order or together.
  To do more complex things in Alice, you need to know how to put more detail into
the commands you give to Alice.

Loading An Example World

For the first part of this tutorial we’re going to use a
pre-existing world.

  • Start Alice.
  • Go to the File pulldown menu and choose Open World:

  • Click on Tutorial, then double click on Windmill.

Spinning the Windmill’s Blades

You should now see a windmill in the camera window, like this:

In the script editor (click on the Script tab), you should see this:

The Blades Move Too Fast

Click on the Perform Script button.


The blades spin around rather quickly, don’t they?

We probably want to slow them down.

Remember that all animations in Alice normally take 1 second.  If
you want something to take more time (or less time) you can use a special word, Duration,
inside the Roll command.

The Duration Keyword

Try this:

Click Perform Script

The blades now take 3 seconds to turn completely around, because we gave
the roll command more details on how we’d like it to behave.

Duration is an example of a Keyword. Keywords are optional words
that go inside Alice commands that make the basic command do more interesting things. Look
at the end of this tutorial for a Keyword List.

The Speed Keyword

Instead of using the Duration keyword to specify the amount of
time the blades take to spin around, you can use the Speed keyword to make the
blades spin at a certain speed. Try this:

The blades spin around once at a speed of 1/3 rotations
per second.

Adding An Object To The Scene

Let’s put a horse into the scene in order to demonstrate another

Click on the Opening Scene tab, and use the Add Object

button (the horse is in the Animals directory). You want your scene to look like

Moving the Horse Forward

We can make the horse move forward using the Move command
(remember this command from Tutorial 1?). Click on the Script tab, and change your
script to look like this:

Click Perform Script.

The horse moves forward.

The AsSeenBy Keyword

However, using the AsSeenBy keyword, we can make the horse move
in the windmill’s forward direction. Add AsSeenBy to the command in
your script, like this:

Click Perform Script.

The horse moves in the windmill's forward direction.

Why Use AsSeenBy

Other commands in Alice understand AsSeenBy, allowing you to do
more interesting things. For instance, you can make the horse run around the windmill. Try
changing move to turn, and forward to right, like this:

The horse runs around the windmill once.

The horse is actually turning right, as seen by the windmill.

Keywords Summary

Here’s a summary of what we’ve learned so far:

Some commands in Alice understand keywords like Duration,
Speed, and AsSeenBy. Keywords allow you to do more interesting things by
giving commands more specific details. In the back of this tutorial is a list of other
keywords that Alice recognizes.

Now we’ll load a new world that will help you learn
another way of giving details to commands in Alice.

From the File pulldown menu choose Open World...

Double-click on Tutorials, and then double-click on Watching.

You should see this:

PointAt Revisited

Click on the Script tab. You should see:

Click Perform Script.

The bunny looks at the helicopter. However, this animation only happens
once; the bunny will not continue to look at the helicopter if we move the helicopter.

Use the mouse to drag the helicopter around to see that
this is the case.

The EachFrame Token

To make the bunny continue to look at the helicopter, we want to tell
the PointAt command to continue to happen as often as possible.

To do this, we can use a special word: EachFrame. EachFrame is a
. Like keywords, you can use tokens to give commands more details. Try adding EachFrame
to the command that’s already in the script:

Click Perform Script.

Now drag the helicopter around with the mouse!

Introduction to Control Panels

Sometimes we want to be able to control the worlds we create without
having to change the script and without having to drag objects around with the mouse. You
can create Control Panels with buttons that the user can press.

Let’s load a world with a control panel in it:

From the File pulldown menu, choose Open World...

Double-click on Tutorials, and then double-click on ControlPanel.

You should see this:

Control Panel with a Label

Click on the Script tab. Your script should look like this:

Click Perform Script.

You should see a small control panel that looks like this:

Unfortunately, our control panel doesn't do anything yet!

Adding a Button

Let’s add a button to our control panel.

Add this command to your script:

Click Perform Script.

A Control Panel with a Button

You should see a control panel that looks like this:

Try clicking the button!


  • Many Alice commands can take optional keywords like Duration,
    Speed, and AsSeenBy. Keywords make the basic commands do fancier things.
  • Some Alice commands also understand tokens, like EachFrame.
      Tokens also make commands do fancier things.
  • You can create control panels in Alice to control your objects and your
    worlds.  You learned how to put buttons and labels on control panels.


Where To Go For More Help

To learn more about Alice and what it can do, look in the following

• The Online Documentation Section

This section contains advice for advanced users of Alice who have
completed the full tutorial and are looking for new ideas and challenges.

• The Alice Help Menu

    This contains the Alice Reference Manual, an exhaustive source of
    information about Alice functions and options. Here you will also find examples and demos
    that you can use to get started.

• Mailing list:

    The mailing list is the best way for Alice users to help other Alice

    users. We read this mailing list as well, chiming in with answers and comments to help out
    when needed.

Keywords That
Alice Recognizes

Here is a list of the different keywords that Alice understands.
You’ll want to look at the Alice manual to find out which keywords can be used for
different commands.

Keyword Values the keyword can be
AsSeenBy  Any object in the world. You can
move and turn AsSeenBy any other object.
Speed Any number. For movement, this
number is in meters per second; for turning, this number is in rotations per second.
Style Any of these: Gently, Abruptly,
EndGently (or BeginAbruptly), BeginGently (or EndAbruptly) You can use this keyword to
describe how you want an animation to start and stop.
Duration Any number, in seconds. You can use this keyword to
describe how long you want an animation to take. If you do not use this keyword, all
animations normally take one second.
Lifetime Any number, in seconds. For animations that will normally
last forever, you can use this keyword to stop them after a certain amount of time.
HowMuch Any of these: ObjectAndParts, ObjectAndChildren,
ObjectOnly. You can use this keyword when you are getting information about an object or
when you are changing an object’s properties to describe how much of the object you
wish to consider/affect.

Common Errors

Missing comma or using a period instead of a comma othererror.gif (5661 bytes)
Misspelled or unknown name for an object (there is
no object called fred in our world)
nameerror.gif (5720 bytes)
Misspelled or unknown name for a command commanderror.gif (7550 bytes)
Missing parenthesis  othererror.gif (5661 bytes)

Cheat Sheet


    bunny.move(forward, 1)

    directions: forward, back, left, right, up, down


    bunny.turn(left, 1/4)

    directions: left, right, forward, back






    use the right mouse button menu over the object

Using Commands With Parts

    use dots between object and part:

    bunny.drum.move(forward, 1)


The Alice Interactive 3D Graphics Programming System is
Copyright © 1997, 1998, Carnegie Mellon University. All rights reserved.

Alice was initially developed at the University of Virginia.


To see articles on the same topic, click the links below the name of the author at the top of this page.