What it is: Xcode is Apple’s free programming tool for creating OS X, iOS, and watchOS apps.
If you want to create your own apps, the programming tool you choose depends on what’s most important to you. Most likely one of the following criteria will be your overwhelming need:
- Must be as simple as possible
- Must leverage existing knowledge
- Must offer the most programming power
Unfortunately, these various criteria are often mutually exclusive. If you’re a complete programming novice who may know next to nothing about programming, one of the simplest ways to create a smartphone app is to turn your web site into an app. Basically this converts HTML code (used to design a web site) into an app. While this is simple, it is also fairly limiting since you can’t create anything for your app that you can’t create as a web page. For simple apps, this process is the simplest and fastest method available.
If you already know programming, chances are good you don’t want to learn an entirely new programming language just to create apps. If you’re a Visual Basic programmer, you can use Xojo to create Windows, OS X, Linux, and iOS apps. If you’re a C# programmer, you can use Xamarin to retain your knowledge of C#. Leveraging your existing programming knowledge lets you create OS X and iOS apps quickly while giving you more flexibility than just converting a web page into an app. However, the biggest problem with using your existing programming knowledge to create OS X and iOS apps is that you’ll forever handicap yourself with a programming language not optimized to create OS X and iOS apps. The latest features of OS X and iOS will always take time to make it to programming tools like Xojo and Xamarin, which means you have to wait to add those features to your program.s
Perhaps the most time-consuming but most powerful alternative is to use Xcode and learn Swift instead. Swift is Apple’s latest official programming language and Xcode is Apple’s free compiler that everyone including Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Adobe use to create OS X and iOS apps. Best of all, all the latest features of OS X and iOS always come to Xcode first. The drawback is that you’ll need to take the time to learn Xcode and Swift.
So what should you choose? If you have no intention of learning programming, choose the simple solution of converting web pages into apps. If you’re currently a programmer and need to create a flexible app in a hurry, leverage you existing programming skills. However, this is a short-term solution. For along-term solution, take the time to learn Xcode and Swift.
Knowledge of Xcode and Swift will fuel the future of the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch along with possibly Apple TV, so a little time spent now to learn Xcode and Swift will pay huge dividends later in the future. If you avoid Xcode now, you’ll just keep falling further behind day by day. Even if you use a programming tool like Xojo or Xamarin, you’ll never have the full versatility and flexibility of the latest features that Xcode and Swift can give you.
Xcode is vitally important because if you want to create the most powerful apps possible, Xcode will always remain the best solution. Since Xcode is also free, you have nothing to lose but time. If you fail to learn Xcode and Swift, you’ll lose both money and time in the long run. Just think of all those programmers who failed to make the shift from MS-DOS to Windows. Guess how much money and how many opportunities are open to MS-DOS programmers today? That’s the future if you fail to learn and use Xcode.