Why I still care about NodeBox

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02 Sep, 2019 11:51 PM

Over the course of my long career I have been both a coder and a designer. My title now is design architect. Always I have been an architect of the invisible. To do my work I have penetrated to the heart of vast and intricate systems which no one can actually see, and created solutions built on bones which must always hide beneath the skin they support - beautiful bones that no one but me can fully appreciate. This is an experience every coder knows.

Software is ephemeral - like building sand castles - so everything I make is sooner or later washed away. But at least sand castles are seen by someone before they go.

What I love about Nodebox is that I can see it. I can see my bones. I can touch them and drag them, zoom in and out, arrange them as one would arrange flowers in a vase. Coding in Nodebox is more play than work. I sit in my sandbox and play, fitting my bones together until they form a viable skeleton.

Once everything comes together and starts to work I then spend more time tidying up, improving not just the function of my algorithms but their form. I rearrange the nodes and edges to bring out their natural symmetry, to balance them, using negative space to make internal boundaries more distinct and easier to see.

This is not about efficiency. This is about harmony, about simplicity, about understanding. It is contemplative, almost a form of meditation. At its best, it is about beauty.

I want to empower design. I want to make coding intuitive so that more designers can code. I want to make that code visible so that more people can appreciate its beauty. I want to make art with code and I want the code itself to be seen as art.

I am not sure how far we could push NodeBox, how far it could carry us to this goal. But it is already a good start - the best I’ve found. With just a little work it could be much, much better.

I would like to hear from others in this community - artists as well as coders. What do YOU like about NodeBox? What do you use it for? How could we make it better?

Any open source project is only as alive as the people who use it. NodeBox is at a crossroads. It will either find new energy and direction, or it will fade away.

The path to renewal begins with conversation. Why do YOU still care about NodeBox?


  1. 1 Posted by rougeux on 03 Sep, 2019 01:35 AM

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    Great topic. I care a great deal about NodeBox. It's been an integral part of many projects I've completed over the years. Without it, I don't think I'd be where I am today. It opens the doors for me as a designer who isn't as proficient with coding as others. Being able to see my thoughts come to life without getting bogged down by coding libraries or compatibility has allowed me to create more than I ever imagined and with ease that makes it a joy to use.

    The UI does have its quirks (clicking + dragging) and I long for the day when they get fixed and new features (gradients, blending modes, etc.) are added but I'll continue to use it often until then or even if it doesn't happen.

    I do hope that NodeBox continues to flourish and doesn't fade away. I've recommended it to everyone who's asked about my "go-to" tools for experimenting with art and data visualization.

  2. 2 Posted by Jose on 29 Jan, 2020 11:12 PM

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    New NodeBox user. My background is in traditional illustration, good ol' fashion pencil to paper. I've been working as a graphic designer for the past six years and have always tried to get into some form of coding but I've never been successful at retaining the different coding languages. Finding NodeBox might be what I've been looking for in my form of visual learning. Glad I stumbled upon this program.

  3. Support Staff 3 Posted by john on 31 Jan, 2020 08:25 PM

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    Hi Jose! Welcome to NodeBox.

    You are bound to run into a few puzzles as you play with NodeBox for the first few times - I certainly did. If you get stuck, please post your situation to the NodeBox 3 forum and I will try to get you unstuck. I actually enjoy doing this and it's a great way for others to learn as well.


  4. 4 Posted by Guilherme Vieir... on 23 Jul, 2020 11:32 AM

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    I have known Nodebox for a long time, and what interested me most about it was this approach that allows you to develop simple and fast things and how much the already developed node structure allows for an infinite number of possibilities.

    I teach some computer design courses and I think it is one of the best tools for a first contact with creative programming. The ease of viewing results, exporting to image and video outputs is a very important factor for beginners. I don't see why it is not as valued as other languages like Processing or one of its descendants Drawbot.

    Rougeux and John, I really like your work on Nodebox, and they are part of my examples of what Nodebox is capable of. Thank you always for sharing and showing the potential of this tool.

  5. Support Staff 5 Posted by john on 27 Jul, 2020 05:39 AM

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    Thank you, Guilhermesv. You've been using NodeBox even longer than I have. I think teachers have a special fondness for NodeBox; I agree it is a great teaching tool. It encourages play and experimentation in a way more traditional languages cannot. I also agree that it's undervalued (which is why I am always beating the drum for more sharing in the forum and beyond).

    By the way, I looked you up after your comment and found an old question you posted back in 2014. It's a common problem and I think one of the nodes in my library might now be able to address it. Do you get email notifications when I post replies to ancient discussion threads like that?

    I haven't posted in the Share Your Work forum for awhile. Your kind note encourages me to rectify that. Stand by...


  6. 6 Posted by Guilherme Vieir... on 28 Jul, 2020 11:28 AM

    Guilherme Vieira's Avatar

    Hi John,

    Sharing the work done with Nodebox is important to understand his exploratory capacity. I never shared some of my work around here. I usually use Instagram for this.

    It would be nice if the site had a more visible place for work done with Nodebox and more updated. I imagine that many artists would like to collaborate with this updated gallery.

    I don't know if there would be a way to collaborate with something like that, but I would be interested in imagining possibilities and helping to realize them.

    About your other comment in the old post, I got the notification! I haven't been able to look at your suggestion calmly yet, but thanks I will test it!

    Yes, i received the notification!

  7. 7 Posted by Jaffa on 14 Nov, 2020 04:53 PM

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    I use NodeBox to introduce industrial design students to the potential of generative design. I have only a few hours to peek their interest, so Nodebox is a savior for all the reasons already mentioned.

    Because of 3D CAD software, they are used to interconnecting functions to achieve a desired outcome; apply a function, get instant visual feedback.

    When I point out these similarities with Nodebox, "programming" doesn't seem so alien anymore and it is much easier to get them on board.

    Nodebox already removed many barriers, but for my use case it would be great if we had easier means to connect with the material world. I would love to be able to play with the parameters directly with physical pots and sliders on a midi controller and output optimized Gcode to a plotter, CNC, laser cutter, etc.

    There is a "plotter enthusiasts" community on the Web. They might also be interested in these types of nodes.

    Long live Nodebox !

  8. 8 Posted by willadams on 28 Jan, 2022 03:32 PM

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    I'd like to use Nodebox, or something like to it --- the thing is, I want to do 3D though.

    Right now I'm limping along doing modeling in BlockSCAD and then exporting to OpenSCAD --- the problem is the latter won't write out text files, and what one can capture as a DXF or SVG from it is limited (and STLs won't work for my purposes, since I can't find any CAM tools which will use the tooling which I wish to use efficiently enough).

    So, could we connect Nodebox to the kind of 3D modeling which OpenSCAD does?

    Once we've done so, could we allow writing out a text file?

  9. Support Staff 9 Posted by john on 28 Jan, 2022 10:53 PM

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    Hi Willadams,

    I assume you can already create 2D shapes in Nodebox and import them as SVGs into OpenSCAD for extrusion, but I gather you want to do more than this.

    It's certainly possible to create Nodebox nodes which would draw 2D perspectives of simple 3D objects, but recreating OpenSCAD would be a heavy lift.

    What kind of text files do you want to export? Some kind of XML file to drive CAM tools of some sort? I'm not clear what your end goal is and what your proposed workflow would look like.

    Nodebox can create drawings and export them as text files. It can certainly be part of an overall workflow. But I'm skeptical that you could stretch it into a usable and efficient one-stop CADCAM tool just by adding nodes. Even if you could do it there would probably be easier ways to accomplish what you want.

    Nevertheless I am always happy to explore ideas. If you can describe exactly what kind of text files you want to export maybe Nodebox could help. Feel free to start a separate thread if you'd like to have a conversation about this.


  10. 10 Posted by willadams on 30 Jan, 2022 02:29 PM

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    I would like to write out G-Code:


    but I want to do it in the context of 3D modeling, and using a Node/block editor --- as noted, I'm currently using BlockSCAD:


    and I just find that the most workable way for me to do design work. I suspect I'll have to write my own tool --- we'll see.

  11. Support Staff 11 Posted by john on 31 Jan, 2022 10:31 PM

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    Hi Willadems,

    You have captured my interest. Your project may or may not be.a good fit for NodeBox, but it's certainly an interesting challenge in any case.

    I have created a separate topic to capture further contributions to this conversation. Please see my latest post and post all replies about this here:


    Anyone others interesting in using Nodebox for CADCAM or 3D modeling in general are welcome to join the conversation!


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