While working as a Senior iOS Developer, I met many interesting tools that can improve the work. Which tools are the best for iOS app development? It is no easy question. I am sure that most of you are still looking for the best solutions. Today, I want to present my set of tools that are really worth to recommend.
Software development is not only coding in a programming language with the usage of a bunch of SDKs. And these same rules work for creating a mobile iOS application.
In programming on the iOS platform, many things have changed since Apple introduced Swift in 2014 as the second programming language next to Objective-C for their platform and made it open source in 2015. Right now, Swift is considered as the main programming language on Apple platforms.
Why is it worth to use tools during iOS app development?
If you consider creating your own application for iOS or wondering what kind of tools developers are using in the process of creating an application, you're in the right place. I'm going to explain what tools we're using in the whole process of application development taking care of our clients' projects, but before that, let's say why we're using tools daily.
Each tool, I will mention in the next paragraph, is not to make developers' lives easier when they are dealing with programming on a daily basis but making the whole process of development easier and keeping the code quality with the higher standards. Of course, standardization of the tools used in the project makes the whole development process more comfortable for the team.
Let's take a look at, for example, the Fastlane tool. We're using it to test, build, and release our clients' applications. Integrating with GitLab CI gives us a great opportunity to make the process more streamlined and understandable for the team. The time spent on manually testing all targets, building release or beta builds, and manually releasing to different systems, right now we can spend on developing new features and improving current work.Thanks to that, we can deliver applications faster to the client.
21 best iOS App Development Tools:
We're not able to say what are the best tools for iOS development. Each developer has different preferences regarding the tools they are using every day. I will list out the tools that, in my opinion, are worth known and helpful in the whole process of development.
IDE and text editors
Let's start with the IDE and what kind of options we have, but before this, quick information. IDE stands for an Integrated Development Environment. The IDE is a software used by developers to create applications with usage of combined tools in a single graphical user interface.
Xcode is the official IDE distributed by Apple for creating applications for iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, tvOS, and macOS. Xcode is almost the first choice in the community of developers due to the fact that it is frequently updated and has integrated a bunch of useful tools.
AppCode as Xcode is an IDE designed for software development in Swift, Objective-C, C, C++. It’s created by JetBrains. One of the major differences between these two IDEs is that AppCode is paid and has an offer of a 30-day trial.
Code Runner is a useful tool when it comes to writing code in almost any language. Currently has support for more than 200 syntax highlight modes and, in the case of iOS development, can compile Swift and Objective-C code. Price for the tool is fair enough $14.99
Atom, as the creators themselves define, is "A hackable text editor for the 21st Century". It contains cross-platform editing, built-in package manager, file system browser, multiple panes, etc. Atom is created by GitHub, and downloadable from the creator's website for free.
Source control management
The second group of tools is strongly connected to source control of the project. SCM systems provide a running history of the created code and resolve conflicts created when merging all teammates' changes. In our case, I will focus on tools used for Git, a source code management system. Git is an open-source distributed version control system. For more information related to Git, please check git-scm.com. I also have to mention that IDEs have an option to manage the git-flow.
For most software developers, the only way of using Git is by using a traditional way, in the command line. Probably, the most accurate and easiest way of managing your repository without installing extra tools, only Git is needed. How to get started with Git in the command line?
Sourcetree app is a free Git client built by Atlassian. Using GUI clients for Git workflow has one major advantage. It's a visualization of your repository. It can help you manage the code development in the bigger projects, and may help less experienced developers to deal with all Git related issues.
Tower is like Sourcetree, a GUI client for Git, but in this case, the tool is paid. Pricing varies from the selected package from $69 to $149 per user for a year.
A command line is a tool that processes commands to a computer program in the form of text. On macOS default command line application is Terminal, but developers may use other replacements for it. You may be wondering why we need CL. As I mentioned earlier, it can be used for managing your project's repository and also can be used to manage your dependency managers, continuous integration, and continuous deployment.
As I already mentioned, Terminal is the default application available on macOS. Users have the option to adjust the shell to their needs.
iTerm2, as we can read on the product page, is a replacement for Terminal application and successor to iTerm. By contrast, iTerm2 gives more flexibility to the user. It has options like a hotkey window, autocomplete mouseless copy, and way more.
The next group that I want to describe is the dependency managers. Since the beginning of application development on iOS, there have created many high-quality frameworks that can speed up the development process, and developers are not forced to reinvent the wheel.
CocoaPods is mostly used as a dependency manager on the iOS platform. It's a Ruby-based application. The installation process can be challenging for beginners since it's Ruby, and you'll have to know how to manage Ruby dependencies. Also, CocoaPods is updating Xcode projects, which can be misleading.
Carthage is the second most used dependency manager. The main difference between Carthage and CocoaPods it’s that Carthage does not change the Xcode project, which is done by CocoaPods.
The first tool that many developers are faced with on the same beginning of the carrier with projects created on macOS is Brew. Brew is known as Missing Package Manager for macOS. The tool installs packages in their directories and symlinks files into `/usr/local` and also gives the opportunity to create your own packages.
RVM allows you to easily install, manage, and work with multiple Ruby environments. Since the macOS Catalina system does not contain Ruby preinstalled. You may wonder why iOS developers need to use Ruby on Objective-C or Swift projects. It helps us with Fastlane and CocoaPods tools that are created in that language.
Bundler is a tool that is very similar to CocoaPods in easy words. It provides a consistent environment for the project, allowing us to install and track exact ruby gems.
As I mentioned before, we're able to install dependencies using SPM as a project's dependency. What if the project does not directly benefit from the tool, but developers do. An excellent example of such a tool is SwiftLint, which is not directly used in the project but helps developers take care of project lint. Here we can use MINT, a package manager that installs and runs command-line tools packages written in Swift.
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Tools which will make your code more efficient
In almost all projects, there is always a discussion between teammates about different approaches to code design. Many less experienced developers are asking questions about the code formatting. Like many developers are requesting app resources, they do not care about whether they exist in the project what may cause the application to crash. Beneath, I will describe two tools that may help with that.
The tool created by the Realm team called SwiftLint is responsible for forcing developers to write code strictly to Swift style and confections. That kind of tool is useful to create code that is convenient for all developers, and it's easy to maintain. Readability of the project will be better no matters what sizes of the team is.
R.swift is a tool that will help developers to access to projects’ resources such as images, fonts, storyboards in Swift based projects. On the compile-time developers will receive proper information if requested resources are available.
Automation for builds and releases
Almost all of the projects are created to be someday distributed and available on users' devices. For this process, developers have to build release versions of the application and manually release it to the App Store. The whole process of releasing the application may be time-consuming, and as we all know, this time can be spent on more interesting stuff, such as new features implementation. Here, with help come continuous integration and continuous delivery. Each company decides on different tools to do it, such as GitLab CI, Jenkins, Bitrise. I will briefly describe one tool that is easy to use, speed up the process of application development and distribution.
Fastlane is a tool that allows developers to set up the whole application life-cycle from building the application, code signing, creating screenshots for the store, beta, and release distribution. Fastlane is based on lanes, which can be directly understood as methods. Each lane can be responsible for different tasks in the process. Developers can specify, for example, the whole deployment process from building the app, by testing the product, signing code with a proper certificate, to sending it to the chosen system of distribution such as Firebase or TestFlight.
In each developer’s work comes the moment that they need to integrate with the external services. Two mostly known to all developers are push notification systems or well-known API where developers find out many obstacles. Below are two tools that may turn out helpful in the development process.
Knuff, also known as the debugging application for Apple Push Notification Service, is a simple application available for macOS. Developers have an option to send notifications directly to the test device by setting up proper device token and payload representable as JSON.
Charles Proxy is a tool useful to monitor all HTTP requests that your application is making. It is also a helpful tool to mock responses from the server to check rare or unexpected cases in the application. Easy interface and possibilities to debug the whole history of HTTP requests can prevent from hours spent asking backend developers to change something in the response for you. It also gives the possibility to design the application logic based on previously discussed responses with the backend team even before starting work from their side.
Check the article:
How to choose the best tools for mobile app development?
There is no golden rule, how developers should choose tools for mobile application development. Each developer should select their tools on the working station that fits their most equivalent needs. Of course, working in teams requires developers to be more flexible and agree on a bundle of tools that will be used consequently on the project.
Software development is based on using different tools. As I said before, each developer can decide what kind of tools he/she needs. The whole process of creating an iOS application is not only based on selected language and IDE.
During the entire process, different tools will be used to cut the time of it. There is no need to do this manually or create something from scratch if it's already invented. With the tools for CI and CD, tools that will help to keep the code more readable, tools that give developers quicker access to application assets, developers will spend less time looking for a solution on how to create the project. They will be mainly focused on the client's product that needs to be developed with the highest quality.
I am sure that you already know that not only tools are important during app development. Proper technology has a significant impact on application success. Check the comparison: