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10 Most useful iOS development tools

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In this short review I would like to introduce you couple of really cool tools that I have been using to develop iPhone and iPad apps. I have picked 10 apps that will help you on your way to successful delivery.

1.) Reveal

See your app layout in 3D

This one of the most useful tools I have ever encountered. Reveal will help you in one thing and will help you with that very well … it is also an app that looks most complex when it comes to a third-party app.

Reveal will show you your app as a 3D model where all views have their own layer … no innovation there you say, have you seen this in XCode already? Wait to see this little bad boy in action. Revel don’t just have the best visualisation I have ever seen when it comes to a layered projection of your app.

Now what is this good for you might ask … well, I guess if you have ever tried to develop a mobile app before you already know that sometimes you just create a view or any other element and whatever you do you just can’t see it … or it doesn’t behave as you would expect when it comes to layout … Reveal won’t just show you all your views in a 3D space, it will also render the entire view structure in an amazing folder like tree.

Reveal takes the first place in our chart by no mistake. It has loads of little gems inside that will just make your work more efficient … one of these things is the ability to change values in realtime in your simulator (probably using some kind of script injection? correct me here …). This is extremely useful if you need to debug layout and test if the planned changes work without having to re-build your app every time. You will be able to modify most of the values that are available in the Interface Builder, including autolayout constants and similar!

You can install Reveal by just a simple Drag&Dropping their SDK/Framework into your project or more elegantly by using pods. As Reveal is not a production framework (read, you get yourselfhe pods inclusion below will

Reveal is $59 for students, $89 for home and $179 for corporate use.

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Reveal website

 

2.) PaintCode 2

Convert your drawings into an executable code!

PaintCode is a a beautiful little timesaver. The app allows you to create Objective-C/Swift code using drawing tools you might already know from Adobe Illustrator or similar. While you draw, the output is automatically generated underneath in the code output window.

One of the biggest advantages of using a tool like this is that the size of your app won’t be growing exponentially with every graphic that you add as a PNG and will make your artwork 100% scalable.

Other functionality I have personally found very useful is that while working in a team, the designers can supply you with SVG or other compatible files which they can pre-test so when you ready to implement that particular asset, you can be sure the result will look exactly as the designer intended. Output can be switched from iOS to Cocoa for mac too.

With the latest versions, ability to export to SVG, animated gifs and PNG’s has been added and much more!

At £79.99/$99.99, PaintCode 2 is not the cheapest of apps but hey, time is money and taking the amount of it you’ll save, comparing to writing any of the drawing code by hand, you will quickly forget the empty space in your wallet.

PaintCode is available on the …

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Mac AppStore

 

3.) LiveUI

Remote asset/localization management

Have you ever been in a situation where you have released an app and had close to none downloads in english speaking countries but got thousands of downloads in countries like Japan ,Malaysia or Thailand? Well this exact thing has happened to me with one of my own apps couple of years ago. The biggest issue was that even that I got loads of downloads, the user retention was somehow really poor … the reason was … surprise!!! … only a small percent of my users have spoke any english! The result of such situation is that your conversion ratio goes to zero f you have any InAppPurchase if you pass the obvious, which is that you actually retain your customers.

I have got a professional translation company to get translations for the most spoken languages around the world plus the once I have mentioned above. This took only a couple of days but the app approval times at that point were just apocalyptic … it took almost three weeks to get my update through to the AppStore and by than I have lost most of my potential audience in the region.

With LiveUI you can get translations … or an copy changes on that matter over in minutes. You just update your copy, images or colours in the LiveUI admin panel and click publish. The implementation is really easy as well, just Drag&Drop a provided framework and you are pretty much done.

LiveUI is available for free!! for indie apps and for a very reasonable fee for apps with loads of downloads (hey, somebody has to pay for the bandwidth).

LiveUI website

 

4.) Alcatraz

Plugin and theme manager for Xcode

Alcatraz is an open source package manager for Xcode. Alcatraz has made loads of little gems available through it’s interface. You can install some really nice themes, useful file templates and some really amazing plugins.

It is extremely easy to install Alcatraz, just go to your Terminal, copy and past the following:

Once executed, restart your Xcode and access Alcatraz through Window->Package Manager.

Alcatraz is open, thus free

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Alcatraz on github.com

 

5.) Fuzzy Autocomplete

Better autocomplete/Intellisense for your Xcode

Originally I thought I will make this part of the Alcatraz package manager mentioned above but I feel that this little Xcode plugin deserves it’s own entry.

If you have ever worked with some other advanced code development studio (IDE – Integrated Development Environment), you have probably noticed that the autocomplete (called intellisense in Visual Studio) is far more advanced on many levels. Fuzzy Autocomplete is topping the existing functionality with it’s own brilliant suggestions that you will just fall in love with. Imagine that you only type the first two and last two characters of a method and the suggestion that you need will be just one tap on a return key away.

To illustrate the easy with which you type a table view delegate method, imagine you only type “- tabdisel” will generate the entire:

Fuzzy is free and open source

Fuzzy autocomplete on github.com

 

6.) Tower for Mac (git client)

Source control management tool

Tower has been always a great and powerful tool to manage your git repos. With the version two it got even better. With regular releases, Fournova, company behind the app has managed to fix pretty much all the small release bugs and is now focusing on making their product more awesome.

Some of my friends have told me why did I decide to cover Tower which is a commercial app and not Sourcetree from Atlassian (which is also really good by the way!). I have thought about that for a while and my answer is that Tower not just works great but … Please don’t laugh … looks pretty too. The interface is nice, clean and as intuitive as you can probably get it on a git client.

The other factor, very subjective as I am a product owner too, is that I prefer to support good looking underdog over a big and well established organisation like Atlassian (developer of Jira) …

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Tower 2

 

7.) Charles proxy

Proxy to debug webservices

Charles is one of one of the most amazing tools once you start pulling some data into your shiny new app. I am sure most of you is indeed familiar with the concept of proxies but just to make sure we’re all on the same page (even tho we kinda are anyway), proxy is a software that you can route all the internet comms through and proxy can pretty much do anything with data from visualising to completely replacing your responses.

Describing what Charles can do for you would be for an article on it’s own but The basics are that you can connect your phone to it (simulator is routed through it automatically) and modify any aspect of your response or request. You can even mock the entire API in Charles without having to wait for the backend team in your organisation to actually build it.

Other really cool use case would be to use Charles as an analytics tool when you trying to keep the cost of your backend infrastructure down as it is really easy to see what requests are unnecessary or could be just optimised/limited a bit …

This neat little tool should be in any developers toolbox for sure. For any team developing internet enabled apps a good proxy is an absolute necessity

Charles

 

8.) Crashlytics

Does what is says on the tin

I can’t believe that when I was compiling this list together, I haven’t thought of Crashlytics right away for the first position. Maybe because I haven’t even thought Crashlytics would need any introduction at all …

So a question for you who haven’t used this neat little thing yet. What can put your users off using your spanking new app?! Language barrier? Dull content? Obviously you have sorted that out already … Yes, I am talking about these annoying crash events that will interrupt you when you half way through writing your presentation on the train to work, that will destroy that beautiful drawing you have worked on all afternoon but have completely forgot to save.

If you in such bad luck and you have shipped an app that has one of these buggers inside, you need to be able to react really quickly and offer your user base a fix within a couple of days in a form of an update.

Great thing about Crashlytics is the instant feedback you get right into your mailbox once some issue arises. Now that Crashlytics has been acquired by Twitter, you get an access to an unprecedented suite of enterprise tools with Crashlytics like Insights and the rest of the Fabric ecosystem, absolutely for free on whatever the scale!

Crashlytics – Fabric

 

9.) AppFigures

AppStore success analytics tool

So you have released your app and now is the time to wait for all the money to come in … Yes, we have all heard the success stories that are fed to us, developers on a daily basis but nobody usually brags about how their precious little app has end up in the dump of the AppStore.

Keeping your app afloat is a really hard work for the most of us. To do so, we need to have a great insight into what is happening with our app, what the trends are and what the users moan or are happy about.

One of the tools to keep you up to date with some of the most important data is an app called AppFigures. This super tool will does one thing and will do it really well. It will help you track your AppStore success.

System itself gets most of the sales data from your iTunes connect account and probably crawls for the rest (correct me here if you can!). Once all is processed, an overview of all your downloads and obviously any sales will be presented to you in a very nice way with loads of different metrics. You also get an insight into how is your app doing in AppStores and their categories all round the world so you can potentially react with a new localisation or just launch an advertising campaign in that particular part of the world.

Lastly the one functionality that I really like and is probably the most fun to use, is the reviews. Well, unless you have really bad reviews, than it can be slightly frustrating but none the less useful. AppFigures can download and display/translate all your reviews from all round the world. This is most useful if you want, and you really should want, to know what your users like, dislike, what were their good and bad experiences or what functionality is missing …

Basic AppFigures functionality is free, more advanced plans start at $4.99 a month.

AppFigures

 

10.) Cocoapods

Open package management for iOS apps

This list wouldn’t be complete without Cocoapods. Cocoa pods is a great and powerful tool that allows you to import most of the cool projects available on github without having to go through the, bellowed by all, integration pain. This tool will enable you to configure your entire dependency ecosystem on just a few lines of code from their Podsfile.

I have started using Cocoapods pretty much right after they cane out but have disliked them and removed from my projects right after their repo went down couple of times and my developers were unable to update their codebase.

Cocoapods have went a very long way since this incident and after years of rather using git submodules I have decided to switch to pods again … needles to say I haven’t heard about a single incident ever since.

So to wrap this up, use pods if you want to have a quick and cool access to third-party resources but please make sure you just don’t import every piece of crap you find out there without doing some due diligence first. I have seen projects with 20-30 pods installed without a proper reason or to just use one single method from the entire project. This is wrong on so many levels and if I find out you do stuff like that I won’t ever friend you on Facebook!!!! :))))

Cocoapods are completely free to use.

CocoaPods

 

So, the list might be concluded here but I would still love to hear your opinions on what are the best tools you have used while developing iOS apps.

Ondrej :)

Ondrej Rafaj

Ondrej is a developer, director in several startups and manages XPROGRESS just like that, just for fun!

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