June 2022

If you want to be productive as possible and get your experiments done, with a minimum of distractions and extra required learning, use oTree Studio, rather than a text editor. oTree Studio is so cheaply priced ($2.99 a month) that using a text editor will actually be more expensive, if you consider the value your time. Also, you can check if your department has an existing group subscription to oTree Studio, in which case they can just add you to it.

I have recommended oTree Studio for a long time, because I know how important ease of use is to oTree users. They often tell me that user-friendliness is the most important criterion for them. Sometimes I speak to people who say they found oTree too hard. Usually, it turns out that were trying to use a full developer setup with PyCharm and Git, instead of oTree Studio. If ease of use is very important, why choose the hardest way?

oTree Studio was built after several years of observing people use oTree. On the oTree forum, the same questions and issues kept popping up again and again. I made a list of these issues, and designed a user interface that would prevent them.

Common questions and concerns

"I want to start with PyCharm, and if I get stuck, then I will switch to oTree Studio"

If you do this, be aware that you would need to restart your project from scratch when you move to oTree Studio. In contrast, you can easily export your project from oTree Studio to code, so it makes more sense to start with the free version of oTree Studio, then switch to a text editor later if you prefer for any reason.

If you start with oTree Studio, you can "flatten the curve". oTree Studio has an easier learning curve, and you can delay the learning curve of a full developer stack until later -- or never :)

"oTree Studio doesn't seem that much easier; it still requires coding"

oTree Studio still requires coding, but the hardest parts have been removed. I find that most users are able to write the code for individual functions, and the HTML layout of their pages, as long as the proper assistance and guidance is given. oTree Studio ensures your project has the correct structure and that things are put in the right place.

"I'm following a tutorial that uses a text editor"

I think it's great that people have produced tutorials for oTree, but keep in mind that these tutorials are usually made by people who have more programming experience. They use a text editor for their own projects, but it doesn't mean that this is the right tool for your experience level.

Also, coding in a text editor may seem easy when you are following along with a tutorial, but it is different when you try implementing your own game without assistance.

(Side note: if you are thinking of producing a tutorial or other community resource, please contact me and I can provide you with access to oTree Studio and other types of help to make beginner-friendly learning materials.)

"Isn't oTree Studio a dumbed-down version that just has basic functionality?"

Absolutely not. oTree Studio supports 95% of oTree features. After months of using it, you will still be scratching the surface of what oTree Studio can do. The remaining 5% is the lesser used or complex features that I didn't find it worth including. You can start to think about those features after you become a power user.

"Where is the documentation for oTree Studio users?"

oTree's regular documentation is written equally for oTree Studio and the code-based version.

"I like how otree devserver lets me test my code immediately."

oTree Studio lets you do the same thing. Just run otree zipserver in your Downloads folder, and each time you click the "download" button in oTree Studio, the server will load your changes.