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Essential Programs for Web Programming

This page describes the programs you will need to get started with web programming.

If you just want to run programs locally on your computer, you need to:

If you also want to edit and host programs, you also need to:

Note: You will likely want to both run programs locally and host programs. Running locally is nice for testing/editing an in-progress programs before hosting them for piloting and data collection.

Get a GitHub Account

GitHub is a repository hosting service. It allows you to create repositories, where code is stored, and share code with multiple users. Think of it as Dropbox for code.

  • Go to and create an account
  • Have someone in the lab add you to the lab's account ( or to a particular repository (which will be something like
  • Download the GitHub app from
  • During installation, you will be asked to set a default folder
    • On a Mac, set the default folder to Applications/MAMP/htdocs
    • On a Windows PC, set the default folder to C:\MAMP\htdocs
  • Setting the default folder to "htdocs" will ensure that your GitHub repositories are cloned in the default folder in MAMP

Clone a GitHub Repository

Cloning makes a copy of a GitHub repository locally on your computer. These instructions are for cloning an existing repository. If you are starting a new project, you will need to Create a New Repository.

Via Github Desktop

  • On GitHub, go to the repository you want to clone (e.g.,
  • Click the "Clone or download" button on the right side of the screen. Then click "Open in Desktop". This will launch the GitHub app.
  • Click "Clone" to save the repository in your "htdocs" folder.
  • In the GitHub app, there is a "Sync" button in the top right. Clicking Sync pulls the most recent code from GitHub and pushes any changes you have made locally.

Via Command Line

  • First you need to have git set up.
  • Then you can use git clone.
    git clone <whatever link from github>
  • For more detailed information, check the Github documentation or your search engine of choice.

Get a Text Editor

You will need a text editor to write and edit code. Popular ones are:


MAMP is a tool that lets you run a local server on your computer. You will need to use MAMP to run programs locally on a computer.

If you are confortable using the command line or would like to learn, take a look at MAMP alternative.

  • Download and install MAMP:
  • After installing, open MAMP and click Preferences. Select the Ports tab and put "8888" in the box next to Apache and "3306" in the port next to MySQL.
  • To run the local server, simply click Start Servers.

Run a Program Locally on Your Computer

To run a program locally:

  • Open MAMP and click Start Servers
  • Make sure you have the most recent version of your program by syncing with GitHub
  • Go to the local URL to run the program
  • The URL for a given repository will be http://localhost:8888/RepositoryName/
  • The URL for your particular experiment may be something like the following: http://localhost:8888/RepositoryName/experiment.html
  • If you have multiple experiment folders within a repository, your URL may be something like: http://localhost:8888/RepositoryName/E1/experiment.html

MAMP Alternative

If you have node and npm set up already, you may find it easier to use an package like http-server to quickly get an experiment running locally.

If not installed already, download Node.js.

Once it finishes installing make sure it works by running node -v.

node -v

v16.14.0 # your version will vary

This also gives us the npm and npx programs as well, which we will use to download and run javascript libraries published on npm.

Run an experiment locally

# run in the same directory where experiment.html is located
npx http-server

# if changes aren't updating on refresh, use -c-1 to disable caching
npx http-server -c-1