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POLKA is a general purpose animation system that is particularly well-suited to building algorithm and program animations. One of the first foci for the system was to build animations of parallel programs and computations, but POLKA is ideal for animating good old serial programs too. POLKA is descended from the XTango system, but it is far more powerful and flexible. All of our most recent development was with POLKA, not XTango. POLKA supports color, real-time, 2 & 1/2 dimensional, smooth animations. To see examples (still frames) from Polka animations, click on visualization gallery. The focus of the system is on a balance of power and ease-of-use. POLKA provides its own high-level abstractions to make the creation of animations easier and faster than with many other systems. Programmers need not be graphics experts to develop their own animations.

Polka also includes an interactive, front-end called Samba. Samba is an animation interpreter that reads one ascii command per line, then performs that animation directive. These commands are of the form

rectangle 3 0.1 0.9 0.1 0.1 blue solid
move 3 0.5 0.0

so they are very easy to learn and use. The chief advantage of Samba is that a program in any language can be annotated to generate these ascii commands, thus driving a visualization of the program.

Learning about POLKA

Sample files -- See some sample files from Polka animations.

Regular documentation (postscript) and (html)
Lite (beginner's) documentation (postscript) -- Look at the documentation for the Polka system.

Technical report -- A technical report describing POLKA's animation paradigm.

How it's used -- Undergraduate algorithms course making extensive use of POLKA and SAMBA.

Acquiring POLKA

The original version of POLKA is implemented in C++ on top of UNIX and the X11 Window System, and it requires the Motif or Athena widget set. It should be run on a color monitor. POLKA is available for use via anonymous ftp from ftp.cc.gatech.edu under pub/people/stasko. To access that place, press here. Once you've acquired the appropriate file, uncompress it (% uncompress polka.tar.Z) and tar it out (% tar xvf polka.tar). This will create a directory called polka with all the appropriate files. From there, examine the file README in that directory and just follow the directions in it. The distribution includes source, documentation, and a couple directories of sample animations. The system was first put out for anonymous ftp in early 1993.

A newer Windows-native version of Polka, called PolkaW, exists as well. PolkaW is implemented in C++ on top of Windows using Microsoft Developer Studio 97 (MS Visual C++ v5.0). Included in the distribution are sample executables that can be run directly, including the Samba system. Source files are also included so that you can create your own algorithm animations. PolkaW is available for use via anonymous ftp from ftp.cc.gatech.edu. To acquire it, press here. The system was first put out for anonymous ftp in October 1997.

Note from July 2011: We have not updated or supported Polka for many years now.


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