Programming languages abound on the web. There’s the legendary BASIC, C, Java, PHP, C++…we’re going to just stop there, because in fact there are hundreds of programming languages out there. Some are literal jokes and still others are dialects of major languages. ALL are essential to the development of applications and websites, not to mention software.
Similar to the proliferation of web development tools like Laravel, it can be hard to figure out which language is best for your project. Today, we’re going to cover one specific topic: Apple’s newest language, Swift.
A little while ago, Apple announced at one of its events the release of a new programming language. The Swift programming language was set designed to replace Objective-C, Apple’s go to language since Jobs’ founded the company NeXT in the 1990s. This change, after nearly two decades of use, caught the tech world majorly off-guard.
That being said, the majority of developers were quite pleased with the change. Not only did Swift work excellently with Apple’s object-oriented app programming interface (Cocoa & Cocoa Touch) but, more importantly (in the eyes of our developers, at least) it moved away from the dreaded Objective-C.
Chris Lattner spent nearly 15 months building Swift on his spare time – because if there is one thing Apple employees are known for is having a lot of extra time. After that first year and a half, Lattner finally revealed his side project to the head honchos at Apple (yep, he did this all on his own at first – no one even knew he was working on it!) and Swift became a top priority for the company.
Not to take away from how good Swift is as a programming language, but to truly understand why Swift was such a big deal, one needs to understand how much developers disliked Objective-C.
As mentioned above, Objective-C was Apple’s programming language for 18 years. It was created by Brad Cox in the early 1980s and was adopted by the company NeXT as their only programming language. And, to be clear, Objective-C was one of the first languages to approach programming from an object-oriented perspective. When it first came out, it was cutting edge and an excellent tool.
In 1996, Apple began to use the code themselves and thus began the preeminence of Objective-C in the Apple world. Apple definitely improved upon the language, most noticeably with the inclusion of a Garbage Collector and Apple’s own compiler, but Objective-C didn’t truly take off until the iPhone. With the iPhone developers could only use Objective-C so, by necessity, the language became quite popular.
Objective C had some serious issues – namely the fact that it tracked complex objects using a tool known as “pointers.” Pointers (the address where the first byte of an object is stored). Pointers can be confusing, especially to non-programmers. With pointers, it is ridiculously easy to screw up an application’s code. A screw up here could mean something as serious as creating a security hole or causing a system to crash.
But the major problem with Objective-C wasn’t the pointers, or even really an issue with the code itself. It was that by 2010, it was just old. It was based off the legacy language, C. C was a great programming language – 20 years ago. Plenty of new programming languages had been written and most of them had features that simply did not work with a legacy code like C. And thus Swift was born.
Swift is everything Objective-C is not. Whenever a new code is released, it can take a while to be adopted. This is for several reasons, including loyalty and preference, but one big reason is functionality. When devices, programs and applications are specifically designed to work with one language, a new language can really cause some problems.
Swift was different. Swift was adopted with a rapidity that was frankly stunning. Part of this is because Apple was really, really smart about the release. Not only did they keep it under wraps until they were ready, but it functioned perfectly with Cocoa, Cocoa Touch and with Objective-C. Essentially they solved the major issues that most new languages face before it was even released to the public.
Combined with an overall dislike of Objective-C by many developers, this led to a quick adoption of Swift as a programming language, especially for mobile apps (this isn’t to say Objective-C is dead; many thousands of apps are still designed using it). Of course, Swift is much more than a newer version of Objective-C – it brings new features that developers can use and is truly a modern language.
Swift App Development Tutorial
Let’s take a look at some of Swift’s key features, and how they help in the development of mobile applications and programming in general.
- Teaching: this feature is going first because it’s really cool. Swift has what Apple has termed as “playgrounds.” Essentially areas where you can play around and actually learn how to code from Swift itself. Cool, right?
- Swift was designed with the average coder in mind which means it’s relatively accessible by anyone who has sometime to learn code. You don’t need to worry about troublesome details like pointers or other complex coding tricks. You just need a general understanding of programming. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t hire a Swift developer – after all, we’re the experts and know how to leverage Swift to its hilt.
- Swift uses code more concisely and in better ways, meaning that the resulting app is not only easier and faster to build, but the possibility of coding errors is driven way down.
To sum up, Swift is a programming language built for the modern age and for the modern programmer. It approaches issues from a different perspective than that of Objective-C, a perspective much more in keeping with issues coders have today. It isn’t perfect, but it is a huge step up from Objective-C.
Software Developers India is an app, software and web development company based in the heart of Silicon Valley. We have extensive experience in all of Apple’s programming language, from Objective-C to Swift, not to mention all of the tech world’s major programming language.
As a global company, we have the experience and the exposure to many different coding styles and each of our programmers brings something new to the table. Check out some of our amazing work, and then give us a call at 408.802.2885. Contact us today for 30% off your first project!