Max 7 is a high-level visual programming language based on the metaphor of connecting computational objects together with patch cords. It is particularly well-suited for interaction design and physical computing. Max makes it easy to work in real time with audio, music, video, computer graphics, microcontrollers and sensors.

Max originated in computer music software that allowed MIDI messages to be sent between different machines on a precise schedule. When personal computers became fast enough to handle audio data in real time, Max was extended with a signal processing package called MSP. When real-time video processing also became possible, Max was further extended with a package called Jitter. The three packages were available separately until recently, and are often referred to as “Max/MSP/Jitter.” Although this is still a useful keyword for online searching, the program is now available as single bundle called Max 7.

Once you have installed Max, you can open up the documentation using the “Help” menu and begin to work through the tutorials. Start with the first Max tutorial, “Hello”. When you have completed the tutorial, you should have a basic idea of how to create new patches (Max programs).

Since we will be particularly concerned with using Max for interaction design, let’s explore some basic interactive mechanisms.


You don’t have to recreate the Max patch shown above. You can download it from GitHub by following these steps…

  • Go to the raw code link
  • View the source code
  • Select all (on the Mac you can use Command-A)
  • Copy it (on the Mac use Command-C)
  • Go to Max 7
  • Choose File -> New from Clipboard
  • Save the new patch somewhere on your own machine.

It may take a few tries to get this working, but it will soon seem easy. You can also copy code from the Cycling ’74 forums this way.

Once you’ve had a chance to try the basic interactions, look at the help files for each of the following objects.

  • message
  • button
  • toggle
  • led
  • send
  • receive

Finish by working through the second Max tutorial, “Bang!”