Top 10 Development Tools for Objective-C iPad/iPhone Development

Friday Oct 8th 2010 by Scott Clark
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If you're going to develop applications for the iPhone or iPad, you are probably aware of Objective-C. In this article we'll discuss the myriad of options that are available for iPhone and iPad development, some of which focus on Objective-C, and others which allow you to utilize other programming languages.

Introduction

Objective-C was designed to "enable sophisticated object-oriented programming, and extends the standard ANSI C language by providing syntax for defining classes, and methods, as well as other constructs that promote dynamic extension of classes." With that mouthful of jargon rolling around in your head, we'll discuss the myriad of options for iPhone and iPad development.

Apple's iPhone Developer Program

Naturally many developers will want to sign up for Apple's iPhone Developer Program, which costs $99 per year, and provides access to all the iPhone 4 tools, as well as the ability to submit applications to the App Store. Note that developers can become registered Apple developers without joining the iPhone Developer Program. As a registered Apple developer, which is free, access is provided to:

  • Downloads - Get the latest builds of iOS, iPhone SDK and iTunes.
  • Getting Started Videos - Apple experts discuss a range of introductory concepts for iPhone development
  • Getting Started Documents - Fundamental concepts and best-practices for iPhone development
  • iPhone Reference Library - Technical documentation on iPhone development
  • Coding How-To's - Incorporate features of iPhone in your application
  • Sample Code - Great for understanding and inspiration for development of applications
Keep in mind that in order to use the iPhone SDK 4, however, you will need to be using an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X Snow Leopard or later--thus far there is no Windows version of the SDK.

Apple Xcode 3

Xcode is Apple's full-featured IDE (Integrated Development Environment) that integrates the editing of source code, with build and compile steps, to a graphical debugging experience, while providing a view of your source code throughout the process. It also features an Interface Builder, which is an easy-to-use graphical editor for designing iOS applications. Xcode includes the Xcode IDE, performance analysis tools, iPhone Simulator, and OS framework bundles (Mac SDKs and iOS SDKs). The download is free, but you must be registered as an Apple Developer. Xcode also requires the use of an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X.

Rhomobile Rhodes

Rhodes is an open source framework which enables developers to create native apps for the iPhone, as well as Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, Symbian and Android. The apps that are created using Rhodes are true native apps which are able to take advantage of the iPhone's capabilities (GPS, PIM contacts, camera, etc.). One advantage of using Rhodes is that the source code can be compiled to run on all major smartphone devices.

Appcelerator Titanium

Titanium is open source software which enables developers to use their current skill set, such as JavaScript, HTML and CSS, and turn their work into native applications that appear and work as if they were written in Objective-C. Titanium features more than 300 APIs as well as a large developer and support community. It is free to download and use, and is available for Mac, Windows and Linux operating systems.

Nitobi PhoneGap

PhoneGap is another open source development framework for building cross-platform mobile apps using HTML and JavaScript. Similar to Rhodes, PhoneGap enables developers to utilize the core features of the iPhone, along with other smartphones such as Android, Palm, Symbian and Blackberry. Similar to the iPhone SDK 4, the use of PhoneGap requires an Intel-based computer running Mac OS X Leopard, and you will need to have the iPhone SDK 4 and Xcode already installed.

iPhone User Interface Framework - iUI

iUI is yet another open source product...this one is actually a user interface library for iPhone web app development. iUI, which uses JavaScript, HTML and CSS, can be used to create a web application that runs on Safari, with the look and feel of a native application built with the iPhone SDK. Besides working on the iPhone, applications built with iUI will also work in other HTML 5 compliant web browsers, along with many other smartphones.

DragonFireSDK

It is worth mentioning that there are other options for developers who wish to leverage their current skillset while developing iPhone applications. Zimusof's DragonFireSDK allows developers to use C and C++ programming to develop applications using Microsoft Visual Studio or Visual Studio Express. Zimusof is responsible for packaging applications and handling developer submissions to Apple's App Store on behalf of its customers. Developers submit their apps to Zimusoft after development and testing on their own Windows PCs. Pricing for DragonFireSDK is $99 and includes one iTunes App bundling, with additional bundles available for $10 each.

Unity

Another option is Unity, a multiplatform game Integrated Development Environment (IDE), which enables developers to create apps in JavaScript and C# programming. The JavaScript and C# scripts are compiled into native ARM assembler code during the build process, and are ready for submission into the App Store. Unity itself is free, while the iPhone addon sells for $300 during the pre-order phase, after which it will sell for $400. An advanced version with static geometry batching and improved build size stripping is also available for additional fees. Unity for iPhone requires the use of an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X "Leopard" 10.5.4 or higher.

Corona SDK

Yet another solution is to use the Corona SDK, a software development kit which enables developers to create high-performance, multimedia applications and games for the iPhone without using Objective-C or Cocoa--Corona SDK uses the Lua scripting language, which looks very similar to Adobe's ActionScript 2.0--which isn't suprising since the Corona SDK was created by a team of former Adobe mobile engineers who founded the Ansca Mobile software company. Corona sells for $99 per year, and developers must also be members of the Apple iPhone Developer Program, and have a Mac machine running OS X 10.6 or higher.

GCC, the GNU Compiler

The GNU Compiler Collection includes front ends for many programming languages, including C, C++, Objective-C, Fortran, Java, and Ada, as well as libraries for these languages (libstdc++, libgcj, etc.). It is free, and is available for AIX, DOS, HP-UX, Solaris and Windows platforms.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many ways to develop applications for the iPhone and iPad. Some require you to know how to program using Objective-C, while others allow you to create apps using your existing skillset. Some are free, while others are commercially available. Many require a Mac, while others can be used on Unix and Windows operating systems. All in all, there are plenty of options available for developers.

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