Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Xcode 8 And First Impressions

For the first time in a while, when I woke up this morning, I raced down the stairs like a kid on Christmas. Unfortunately, there was no tree with presents. Santa Claus didn’t come early, but the next best thing did. Yesterday, Apple officially unveiled Xcode 8 and all the goodies that go with it.

Technically, Xcode 8 has been available in beta for a while now, but if you’ve refrained from spoilers and are waiting for the official release, then you’re in luck. I wouldn’t even mind if you stopped reading this article to upgrade right this second. You can always finish reading while the update downloads (and the anticipation increases).

I haven’t gotten much time to use it in a practical setting, but I did get the chance to play around with it this morning. Here are some of my first impressions.

Right from the start, there are some much needed improvements. The workflow for creating a new project has been redesigned. Tabs for platforms have been moved to the top of the screen and the entire list of project templates for each platform is now scrollable. There are also options for those new, fancy iMessage extensions and sticker packs.

And one of the tabs is called “Cross Platform”, something you don’t hear very often from Apple. I’m assuming they mean games that run on both iOS and Mac OS, not non-Apple ecosystems.

On the next screen of the setup wizard, there’s a new option to select a development team. It’s not relevant for everyone but could be a handy feature for freelancers, working for many different clients.

Once the editor opens up, there are a variety of new features. If you’re familiar with other IDEs like Visual Studio or IntelliJ, you’ll be pleased to know that the line containing the cursor is now highlighted. On numerous occasions, I’ve lost track of the cursor, but now you’ll never again forget where you were typing.

Onto the storyboard, there are a lot of changes to get excited about. There’s the much-hyped feature where the storyboard can be edited at any zoom level, which is great if you’re like most people who don’t have the 5K iMac. And gone are the days of abstract layout buckets like “Any” and “Compact”. You can now preview layouts and create alternate designs for specific device types. That leaves little excuse to only support phones or a certain device orientation. Creating alternate layouts is now a much more straightforward process.

Other than that, Xcode 8 should work just like Xcode 7. There is of course, Swift 3 and a host of new APis for iOS 10. The simulator even has an iMessage app, and John Appleseed actually responds! Welcome to the future.

I’m not saying Xcode 8 is groundbreaking (oh wait, Apple made it, so it is), but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. In particular, I spent a lot of time harping about the feature that highlights the line containing the cursor. It’s not that this is overly important, but it shows that Apple is taking cues from other IDEs to continually improve Xcode. Maybe Xcode 9 will continue this trend with more Source Control options or refactoring for Swift?

For now, Xcode 8 is certainly something to be excited about. In the coming days, more articles on Swift 3 and the new SDKs will be released so make sure to slap that share, follow, and like button. AdiOS amigos!

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