What is Xcode and why do I need it?

By Eddy Chung

Xcode is essential for iOS app development, but what is it and why do we need it?

What is Xcode and why do we need it? Xcode is a MacOS app made by Apple for app development. It is the only officially supported way to develop iOS and other Apple OS apps. You can think of Xcode as your pen and paper for app development. You use Xcode to write your code and build your user interfaces.

Xcode offers many different features and benefits for developing iOS apps. It includes tools to help the developer at each stage of the engineering process.

What is Xcode

Xcode is an IDE – an integrated development environment – created by Apple for developing software for macOS, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. It is the only officially-supported tool for creating and publishing apps to Apple’s app store, and is designed for use by beginners and experienced developers.

Xcode includes all of the tools needed to create an app within one software package; namely, a text editor, a compiler, and a build system. With Xcode, you can write, compile, and debug your app, and when you’re finished you can submit it to the Apple app store. It contains a number of tools to help the development process move quickly, so seasoned developers can create apps lightning fast, and beginners face less confusion and barriers to creating a great application.

As a code editor, Xcode supports a huge variety of programming languages – C, C++, Objective-C, Objective-C++, Java, AppleScript, Python, Ruby, ResEdit, and Swift. It uses Cocoa, Carbon, and Java programming models.

Xcode is designed to give you as a developer one single window in which to work. It has a source code checker and autocomplete feature, which will made writing source code much easier. When you create a new project you can select from the available templates to give you a basic framework off of which to expand. These features are helpful to new developers as they give you a crutch to lean on as you learn. Advanced developers will find these features useful to streamline their workflow and make the application development process much faster.

Why do you need Xcode

Xcode is the only supported way to develop apps by Apple. So if you’re interested in building iOS or MacOS apps you must use it. There are third-party solutions that don’t require you to use Xcode, however these are not supported by Apple and there are often issues with these solutions.

Xcode comes with great debugging tools that allow developers to solve problems in their app faster. It also comes with project management tools that allow you to manage your image assets and code files in an organized way.

Xcode Can Be Used By Beginner Developers

Even for beginner developers, Xcode is the best choice for iOS app development. It has a source code checker that will highlight any errors while you are typing, and then give suggestions on how to fix the errors.

Xcode also has templates and stored snippets of code to make development much smoother. You can create your own templates if you find you are often retyping commonly-used code. This feature allows beginners to use these templates to create their app even with little knowledge of application development.

You can view multiple files at one time in the Xcode editor. Rather than having to open multiple files to make a small chance, you can view them all and use the find and replace tool to update lines of your code. This will save you an immense amount of time in development. Your work is automatically saved, so there is no need to worry about losing any updates or changes you’ve made.

Xcode’s Interface Builder allows you to design menus, windows, and other visuals. You can choose to develop them on your own or use Xcode’s library. Auto Layout allows you to create a responsive app that will snap to the right size and position for the screen they are on. Scene Kit Editor allows you to add 3D elements to your app, and Particle Emitter has animations you can use.

Testing Your iOS App

Although there are third party IDEs that will allow you to create an iOS app outside of MacOS, where they fall short is with testing and debugging. To make a truly great – or even functional – app, you will have to run it through testing and debugging.

Xcode has an integrated debugging tool. This tool will run your app in real time while also allowing you to view the source code line by line so you can check for any bugs. You can also see how much CPU the app is using and how many resources the app is using on your device in comparison to other apps running. The Test Navigator will run any additional tests you wish to perform.

You want to test your app for core functionality, to make sure that the main function or functions of your app are working as they should be and as people will expect them to work. You also want to test UI, user interface, to make sure that everything flows and works as it should from a user perspective. Every time you discover and fix a bug, write and run a test for your bug fix.

Getting Your App to the App Store

Because Xcode was created by Apple to help developers create iOS apps, the process of getting your app into the Apple app store is fairly straightforward. Xcode makes it very easy to make your app available. Upload your app to App Store Connect, test it, and then submit it for review and approval.

App Store Connect allows you to monitor sales, view reports, respond to reviews, and more. TestFlight beta testing will send beta builds of your app to testers for feedback. In your App Store Connect account, you can enable this feature.

Every application has to be approved by the Apple team for technical, design, and content guidelines before it will be put in the app store. Review these guidelines before submitting your application. This approval process can take 2-3 weeks.

Is Xcode available for Windows? No, Xcode will only run on MacOS. It is an Apple IDE, so it is meant to only be used on devices with MacOS.

Can you develop iOS apps on Windows? Yes, there are many cross-platform tools that allow you to develop apps for both iOS and Android on Windows. However, these tools often have quite a learning curve, and you are better off using Xcode on a rented or virtualized Mac.

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Eddy Chung

I am a professional iOS developer in Silicon Valley. I teach iOS development on ZeroToAppStore.com. If you'd like to learn more about me click here or you can contact me at: eddy@zerotoappstore.com

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