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Ben Halpern
Ben Halpern

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Explain iOS development like I'm five

I've been getting into iOS development and Swift, and I'm getting to like it. I sort of know how I could do most things, and I've happily been going through Stack Overflow and some videos, but I'm still nervous about a lot of conceptual things. I'd love an explanation for dummies on things like:

  • Where do I put reusable functions?
  • What is AppDelegate's role?
  • Where would I put my models?
  • Is it more of a "one right way" or a "many right ways" culture?
  • Is Swift "culture" different from Obj C in any meaningful way?
  • What do web developers typically least understand about iOS development?

And on and on and on. I mostly feel like I don't know what I don't know. Eventually I'll get all of this, but I feel like any and all tips on things I should look out for would be super helpful to me (and many others I'd imagine).

Thanks a lot!

Top comments (15)

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xhan profile image
John Doe

Where do I put reusable functions?
I think that depends on where or how you plan to reuse them. If a function is shared by related classes, perhaps you can place it somewhere along the class heirarchy where they can be inherited by subclasses. If a function is shared by classes that are not exactly from the same hierarchy, you can look into using extensions.

Another option would be to create a Helper/Utility class that can be used anywhere, although some people say that having utility classes can violate the purpose of object-oriented design.

What is AppDelegate's role?
I like to think of it as the middle man between your app and the operating system. iOS calls the AppDelegate to inform your app about its lifecycle events so your app can handle them accordingly. Examples of these events are: when the app is about to go to the background, when it's about to be terminated, and when it's opened from a URL. Delegates are a huge and important part of iOS development.

Where would I put my models?
The link posted by Casey Brooks is similar to how projects I have worked on are usually organized. I think it's a good jump off point. :)

Is it more of a "one right way" or a "many right ways" kind of culture?
I'm no expert, but I think there's always several ways of building something. Your design should depend on what works for your situation. Although there are prevalent best practices and design patterns, at the end of the day it's still best to tailor-fit all these to your specific needs.

What do web developers typically least understand about iOS development?
I dabble on some web development from time to time, and if I am to put myself in the shoes of a web dev with no prior experience in iOS development, I think it would take a while for me to wrap my head around how building for iOS (or mobile development in general) takes you a bit closer to the hardware. You have to optimise for smaller screens, smaller memory, and sometimes you have to communicate with lower-level elements. The OS can also meddle with your app's life cycle. For example, if your app takes too long to wrap things up while performing background processes, iOS will terminate it.

Again, I'm no expert myself. But I hope these somehow shed more light into the world of iOS development :D

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hugh_jeremy profile image
Hugh Jeremy

I recently started diving into Swift as well. My hot tip would be to skip all the google results, and go straight for Apple's docs. Kind of the opposite of what I've experienced with other ecosystems. For example, their HTTP guide and JSON decode/encode guide are super comprehensive. The inbuilt documentation feature in Xcode is really good, I didn't even realise it was there until a few months in (Try option+click on a type).

Function re-use within a project

Go straight for a protocol. The whole language seems to be designed for 'protocol oriented programming', and Cocoa leans on it heavily. Create protocols with default implementations of functions with generic types. For example, the EntityObject protocol in Amatino Swift.

Function re-use across projects

Re-using functionality across projects seems to be a bit of a hair-ball. Whereas in Python or JS we can create self-contained modules, publish them to PyPi/NPM, and use them across projects, in Swift the community seems split between Carthage and CocoaPods. Neither are as turn-key as pip install x or npm install y.

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stevewight profile image
Steve

+1 for using the Apple docs. They are the best way I've found to get a real understanding of how a framework is used and the functionality it provides. The Xcode builtin docs are really great as well and save a ton of time when you just need a quick method definition or signature.

I'm in the CocoaPods camp myself. It's what I used when building open source frameworks, mainly because I started using it before Swift and Carthage came around and I'm waiting for Swift Package Manager to become more stable before I switch over.

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rapidnerd profile image
George

I've done a little bit of swift in before and can answer a handful of the questions.

Reusable functions

Swift allows methods to be static meaning you can call them without having to call a new instance of the class, similar to Java. I tend to make a class dedicated to them if needed for example:

class Helper {
  static func postRequest() -> [String:String] {
    return ["something here" : "something also here"]
 }
}
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Can then be called like so

Helper.postRequest()
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Additionally i found it's possible to use structs as well as extensions

struct BackendError {
    var message : String
}

struct SuccessCall {
    var json : JSON

    var containsError : Bool {
        if let error = json["error"].string {
            return true
        }
        else {
            return false
        }

    }
}

typealias FailureBlock  = (BackendError) -> Void
typealias SuccessBlock  = (SuccessCall) -> Void

typealias AlamoFireRequest = (path: String, method: Alamofire.Method, data: [String:String]) -> Request
typealias GetFunction = (path: String , data: [String : String], failureBlock: FailureBlock, successBlock: SuccessBlock) -> Void

class Backend {
   func getRequestToBackend (token: String )(path: String , data: [String : String], failureBlock: FailureBlock, successBlock: 

}
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Extension example


extension Array {
    func sampleItem() -> T {
        let index = Int(arc4random_uniform(UInt32(self.count)))
        return self[index]
    }
}
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AppDelegate

It kind of acts like a template of basic code needed to run the project out of the box. From this example it shows that its using the UIKit framework, and by seeing this we can see that the class needs to have some form of connection to the user interface

import UIKit

@UIApplicationMain
class AppDelegate: UIResponder, UIApplicationDelegate {

  var window: UIWindow?
}
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The @UIApplicationMain attribute indicates that the application delegate is using this function and passing the class's name as the name of the delegate class.

Ways

I think that with swift there is multiple right ways, with the little experience I found that multiple methods and ways of doing something can always work as intended.

I believe majority of this info is correct, my swift knowledge is pretty low. But hope it can help in some way :p

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Great!

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furkanvijapura profile image
FURKAN VIJAPURA

Superb man

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val_baca profile image
Valentin Baca

Where do I put reusable functions?

It depends :) If, say, you wanted to have a function that does something with a string, like see if a string ended with "!" and you used it a lot. This might be a good candidate for a Category extension (similar to monkey patching in other languages).

It's easy to go overboard with this, but IMO it's a wonderfuly powerful tool.

You can still make "static" methods (called class methods in ObjC) and put them in some Util class.

What is AppDelegate's role? Other have answered this much better than I could.

Where would I put my models? Separate from your View for sure! iOS is super heavy on MVC. Your model should strive to be as decoupled from your view as possible. This makes it easy (or possible) to write good unit tests for your model.

One mental trick is to consider writing your Model in C++. You don't have to actually do this but it helps enforce how separate your model should be from the rest.

Is it more of a "one right way" or a "many right ways" culture?
I think it leans a bit toward "one right way" but it's not super strict. There is a tendancy toward protocols (equivalent to other languages), verbosity, and common design patterns.

Is Swift "culture" different from Obj C in any meaningful way?
The main "culture" difference is that ObjC is for apps that were originally written before Swift (or before Swift was a couple years old).

No one is doing a full rewrite of their existing ObjC app in Swift (at least they shouldn't be).

You can use the two together, so most new code should be in Swift (with some exceptions as always).

However, there is still a lot of apps that are mostly written in ObjC, so it's not going away anytime soon.

The only other culture difference is that ObjC is pretty loose with nil, while Swift is very explicit about it with Optionals.

What do web developers typically least understand about iOS development?

With app dev (iOS or Android), you're pretty locked into your API design. On web, if you want to add a new field or remove an existing field from some request, it's pretty easy. Update the backend, deploy the change to your web servers and done.

With app, you can have old versions of your app in the wild years later, so backwards compatibility is king.

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stevewight profile image
Steve

I've done a good amount of iOS (Swift/Objective-C) development, so I'll give my experience on some of this:

What is AppDelegate's role?

The AppDelegate delegates events from the system to your app like launch, going to the background, etc.. Delegation is an important concept in iOS dev and is used a bunch throughout the system (i.e. UITableViewDelegate. UICollectionViewDelegate) and leverages Protocols to allow objects to communicate with each other.

Where would I put my models?

I structure my iOS apps similar to Rails app/ (with less starting directories) using an MVC pattern. So I'll start with a Models, Controllers and Views directories, then add other folders/groups like Services, Presenters/ViewModels, etc.. as necessary. There are some other app architectures like MVVM, Viper that are gaining popularity, but iOS and the underlying API's have been built following MVC.

Is it more of a "one right way" or a "many right ways" culture?

This is an interesting question I haven't really thought about before. I would say it's more of a "one right way" culture. Apple normally hint's (sometimes subtle, sometimes not) about how they wan't things done in there WWDC presentations

Is Swift "culture" different from Obj C in any meaningful way?

I don't know if it would be considered a cultural difference but Objective-C is a very object oriented language, while Swift is a protocol-oriented programming language and although you can solve any thing in Swift in an object-oriented way, there seems to be a strong push to solve things using Swift's protocol oriented features.

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cjbrooks12 profile image
Casey Brooks

While I'm an Android dev and have never personally worked with iOS, a guy on the iOS side of my project at work had recently written an article for my company's blog about how to structure code for iOS apps which might be helpful for you.

Organizing an iOS Project

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Cool thanks!

Still open to any and all pro tips on this subject :)

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soterox profile image
SoteroX

I'm currently learning iOS on my free time and would also like to know these things.

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eonist profile image
Eon

Legos but for grown ups 💥

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