All we need are apps, for each and every one! That’s a sort of motto that our tech era can well be characterized by. Today, mobile experts across the world emphasize the overall "appification" of business, underlining that regardless of the app type — be it hybrid or multiplatform — native experience is in demand, quite naturally. Unsurprisingly, cross-platform development gets on the rise with redoubled force to take the restless minds of the industry insiders, with Xamarin getting in position to be the major provider of native on the international arena.
Now that the hefty Microsoft team brought into the fold Xamarin cross-platform jugglers, the stakes in the game of tech thrones get higher, and the game itself is about to grow more complex. Sure enough, we’re excited to see what the future holds for the top-tier Windows-Xamarin partnership. The juggernaut squad keeps on heavily investing in next-gen services intended to tailor Xamarin for a full-stack development along with the entire product life cycle support. Indeed, we should give credit to the guys, as they’re working really hard to ship their product to as many members of the developer community as possible by adding Xamarin to every single edition of Visual Studio, free ones included.
As the story goes, mobile development insiders report Xamarin tools getting pretty much on a par with expectations on what is needed to build non-trivial native apps. Ultimately, C# is a good option to consider for extending programming skills. As a side note, for Xamarin beginners the entry barrier is quite the same as for Android developers, but somewhat higher than for those native iOS engineers. The language is also considered to be preferable for .NET programmers who are eager to learn mobile development but don't have Java or Swift experience.
So, what we’re aiming to do now is to hash out why Xamarin becomes that very special game changer aiding Microsoft to struggle for the tech industry supremacy. Let’s dive into the tech aspects of the topic.
Larger Than Life: the Xamarin-Microsoft Deal’s Tidbits
Once Microsoft started employing Xamarin tools to bring apps from other platforms to Windows, Project Astoria bridging strategy unveiled at last year's Build Conference was predestined to fade away for being no longer relevant. In February Microsoft stakeholders officially acknowledged bringing Astoria to an end. Seems like the bridge cycle that was set to enable Android apps to run on Windows 10 and Universal Windows Platform had initially been somewhat vicious. Today, Xamarin.Forms UI controls quickly map to native functionality rendering apps on both Android and iOS target devices.
So far, Microsoft’s decision makers readily celebrate the easy route towards native UX on iOS, Mac OS X, Android, and Windows 10 versions. Xamarin apps are even rumored to soon make it to smartwatch platforms, both Apple and Google ones. And that’s exceptionally exciting for the teams having an eye towards wearable tech. Well, let’s take a look at the enticing benefits Xamarin offers to the developer community.
Xamarin Workbooks: Let the Code Out of the Bag
Ever checked Swift Playgrounds out? Then you’ll easily get in with scratchpad-like Workbooks that are much alike their Xcode predecessor. What’s that special and new about this live interactive coding tool? First, Mono deliverables gave way to Roslyn ones. The editing window shows each change brought into the code, let alone providing in-line diagnostics, syntax coloring, multi-line statements support, as well as a full set of text editing options. Quite enjoyably, apart from C# support, workbooks enable to directly render mobile constructs including maps, colors, and others, due to close integration with platform-specific APIs.
Automating Mobile UI Testing with Test Cloud: Recorder to Recover
Test Cloud is a winningly nice and easy cloud-based service that enables testing mobile apps from the cloud, thus covering a whole lot of target devices. No wonder that programming community appreciated the tool at first experience. With Test Recorder in Visual Studio, there’s no need to wrangle around unit tests. It’s enough to check out your app as a simple user would, and get UI test automatically generated, ready for submission to the Test Cloud. What is exceptionally tempting, the service enables to remotely access a device to check out and debug an app in real-time. Xamarin’s former CEO and co-founder noted that the tool tests user code on a physical device in a data center, and the number of phones connected to the service broke thousands. Microsoft even considers starting a West Coast data center to pump up capacity.
The Recorder’s noble mission is to save efforts for testing, and it would obviously be a considerable backup for the teams that lack automated testing specialists. Even those with little programming experience will easily deliver neatly coded UI tests.
Nifty DevOps for Mobile
The density of audacious teams all under the Microsoft roof increased manifold in recent times: Xamarin Insights joined HockeyApp to make a powerful tandem for seamless crash reporting and event tracking. The testing platforms provide a comprehensive device information, thus bringing to the table a clear picture of the way users employ the app.
All Sorts of Mobile Debugging with Simulators: Fake It Till You Make It
The services for testing and debugging iOS apps remotely from Visual Studio on Windows seem quite an icing on the Xamarin cake. Featuring a rich toolbar, the iOS Simulator supports multi-touch interactions — all the way pinching, tapping, swiping, and device rotation, let alone enabling to take screenshots and simulate location changes. Notably, the all-prudent Xamarin team even added to their web page a separate section touchingly named ‘Known Issues’ where the service creators acknowledge that their brainchild is still somewhat flawed, going as an excuse into details on how to get away with possible troubles.
Another exciting part of the offer that’s still lurking in wait but rumored to soon be available for preview is iOS USB Remoting. The challenge of the Xamarin mobile application development tool is to indulge developers in an exclusive opportunity to deploy and debug iOS apps from Visual Studio to a device connected to a Windows 10 machine via USB. Still, programming geeks note that despite the flare those tools bring into the development process, they aren’t of much aid under the hood. Instead, Mac machine will be that same indispensable for iOS solutions testing.