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Posts tagged with "developer tools"

The Xcode Cliff

Paul Miller, writing for The Verge, argues that Swift Playgrounds, while an amazing tool to learn the fundamentals of coding and Swift, ultimately doesn't let kids build real apps:

The Swift Playgrounds fantasy of what ARKit is like is closer to an ad than a tutorial. I’ve actually worked on an app using Apple’s ARKit and SceneKit APIs directly. I got stuck when my API call to Apple’s sound playback system wouldn’t work, despite all my best efforts at debugging. Writing software with Apple’s APIs is a powerful but difficult practice, and Swift Playgrounds’ penchant for hiding true complexity makes it hard to recommend for someone who doesn’t want to just “learn how to code” but instead wants to build something.

Apple would do its learners a huge service by providing them an Xcode equivalent on the iPad. Not because it would suddenly be easy to make applications and release them on the App Store, but because it would give iPad-bound learners a chance to engage that challenge and grow into true application developers in time.

I agree with Miller. I've been crossing my fingers for an iPad version of Xcode ever since the first-generation iPad Pro in late 2015. From aspiring programmers who would have a chance to see their creations on the iPad's Home screen (without using a Mac) to developers who could create commercial iPad software on their own iPads, the iPad needs Xcode. If coding is as important as learning a language, the lack of Xcode for iPad is like not having a keyboard to express our thoughts.

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Apple Releases Swift Playgrounds 2.0 with Third-Party Subscriptions

Apple has released version 2.0 of the Swift Playgrounds iPad app. The app provides an interactive learning environment for the Swift programming language. With version 2.0, Apple has introduced subscriptions to playgrounds from third-party creators. According to Apple’s developer news site:

You’ll automatically see new and updated playgrounds in your subscriptions, a content gallery that shows all playgrounds in a single view, new robots, and much more.

Subscriptions can be added by entering a URL or by browsing a gallery Apple has created, both of which are accessible from an ‘Add Subscription’ button in the top right-hand corner of the screen from which you add new playgrounds. As of publication, the buttons for adding subscriptions from the gallery do not work, but they should soon. When updated playgrounds are available, you can receive a notification too. Among the first third parties with subscription-based playgrounds are Sphero, Lego Mindstorms, UBTech, Parrot Drones, IBM, Mekamon, Wonder Workshop, and Skoog.

In addition to subscriptions, the update includes enhanced documentation for the Swift programming language and iOS SDK, and playgrounds can be opened from the Locations button in the Files app.


Aquarelo: A Beautifully-Designed Mac Color Utility

There are a seemingly endless number of ways to represent colors. Whether you’re a professional designer or developer, or someone who just wants to update a website template, you’ve undoubtedly come across several. The trouble with so many different formats is that it guarantees that at some point, the color value you have won’t be the one you require. Aquarelo is a beautifully-designed new Mac app that cuts through the thicket of formats to help you find the colors you want and convert them to the format you need.

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Coding on iOS Is More Feasible Than Ever Before

In a series of tweets yesterday, one of the developers behind Codea announced that a new version of the iPad coding app had been approved for release, and this update would enable code sharing for the first time.

Previously we covered the revised App Store guidelines that now permit downloading and executing code inside of apps, but we haven't seen those changes put into practice before now. With version 2.3.7 of Codea you can now import projects from both .zip files and .codea bundles, making it easy to share code with others.

Although Codea is the first prominent adopter of features made possible by Apple's newly-granted permissions, it certainly won't be the last. Other notable programming apps and IDEs like Pythonista and Continuous can follow suit as they so choose. These policy changes, combined with Apple's own entrance into iOS coding via Swift Playgrounds, all of the sudden make iPad a much more attractive programming environment than ever before.

One excellent example of the power of coding on iOS is a game called Starsceptre. Starsceptre is a retro-style arcade shooter that was coded entirely on an iPad using Codea. Creator Richard Morgan wrote the game primarily during his daily commute on a train. “My work commute is basically the only spare time I have, so I needed a way to make games in that time – on the move, on my iPad." The game's trailer is embedded below.

With the less restrictive new App Store policies on coding, and the upcoming power user iPad features in iOS 11, hopefully we will see a lot more examples of apps coded entirely on iPad going forward.


Apple’s App Store Guidelines Now Allow Executable Code in Educational Apps and Developer Tools

Apple made several changes to the App Store Review Guidelines during WWDC this week, including an easing of the prohibition against downloading and executing code on an iOS device. The ban on executable code remains intact, but rule 2.5.2 now also provides that:

Apps designed to teach, develop, or test executable code may, in limited circumstances, download code provided that such code is not used for other purposes. Such apps must make the source code provided by the Application completely viewable and editable by the user.

The change to the guidelines is limited, but it’s an important signal to third-party developers that Apple will accept certain educational apps and developer tools on iOS, which brings the promise of app development on iOS one step closer to reality.

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Dash Returns to the iOS App Store

Last fall, Dash, a popular iOS and macOS developer documentation app by Kapeli, was pulled from Apple’s Mac and iOS App Stores amid allegations of fraudulent reviews and Kapeli’s Apple developer account was terminated. Since then, Kapeli has continued to sell Dash for macOS outside the Mac App Store. With no way to sell the iOS version of the app outside the iOS App Store, Kapelli open-sourced the code for the app.

According to Kapeli, open sourcing Dash for iOS has led to numerous people submitting it to the App Store in violation of its GNU GPL license. In an attempt to slow down the rate of copycat apps appearing to the App Store, Dash’s developer, Bogdan Popescu, announced in a blog post today that he created a personal developer account with Apple and submitted Dash for iOS to the App Store. The app was approved and is now available as a free download in the App Store.


Live Photos Can Now Be Embedded on the Web

Apple's developer site details a new API that makes it possible to embed Live Photos on the web:

This new JavaScript-based API makes it easy to embed Live Photos on your websites. In addition to enabling Live Photos on iOS and macOS, you can now let users display their Live Photos on the web.

Live Photos were first introduced in September 2015 alongside the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. Since then, their adoption across major social media platforms and other parts of the web has been slow.

Today's news is welcome, as it will hopefully help expand the reach of Live Photos beyond the sandbox of photo apps on iOS.

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Apple Updates TestFlight with Improved Testing Options

Yesterday Apple launched TestFlight 1.5 on the App Store. The update's release notes didn't highlight any specific changes, but developers are discovering today that its release was timed with a few major updates.

Developers can now create different builds of an app to be distributed to different groups of testers. These changes will make A/B testing of apps possible for the first time, so developers can gauge feedback from different groups who are testing different versions of the same app.

Multiple builds can also be distributed to the same people so that testers can choose from a variety of builds that they wish to test.

Longer testing periods is another change – up from 60 days to 90 days. These are not yet noted in Apple's official documentation, so they are likely still in the process of rolling out. Developers we've spoken with as well as the MacStories team have been able to see builds with an expiration time of 90 days.


Details on App Store Developer Responses

Following yesterday's release of iOS 10.3, which introduced the ability for developers to respond to App Store reviews, Apple has released official guidelines for how developer's can best craft responses.

The ideal response is concise and clearly addresses your customer's feedback. Communicate in the tone of your brand, and use terminology your target audience will appreciate and understand. If multiple people in your company can reply to reviews for your app, they should use a similar voice and style. Make sure your replies follow Apple’s Terms and Conditions, which prohibits using profanity, posting users’ personal information, and spamming.

The guidelines also recommend:

  • Always providing individualized responses, even if only by pairing a personalized introduction with a more generic response.
  • Soliciting feedback from users regarding what they'd like to see in future updates.
  • Replying to reviews in a timely, consistent manner.
  • Prioritizing responses based on a review's apparent level of importance.
  • Writing release notes for app updates that specifically address issues mentioned in past reviews, and letting those past reviewers know of the update.
  • Staying on topic with the issue raised by a review; no using replies as a means of advertisement.

Besides these guidelines from Apple, as App Store responses have gone live for the first time, more details have come out concerning how those reviews will work.

It appears that every reply submitted by a developer goes through some sort of review process before it is posted to the App Store. In the following tweet's screenshot, you can see a 'Pending' tag on the developer's review.

It was previously unknown how users would be notified when a developer responds to their App Store review. Although a notification from the App Store app seemed a possibility, Apple has instead chosen to go the route of email notifications. Those emails include a link with the option for reviewers to update their original review.