Swift is an innovative multi-paradigm and compiled programming language developed by Apple for iOS app development and OS X development. It was introduced by Apple in 2014 at Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), designed to work with Apple’s Cocoa and Cocoa Touch, which are the programming frameworks for Mac OS X and iOS respectively. Writing code in this language is interactive and fun with its syntax being concise and expressive, making the apps run at lightning speed. In other words, Swift is a user friendly version that is designed to make it much easier to program Mac OS X and iOS devices. Though Swift is a new programming language, it is however designed to work concurrently with the existing Objective-C programs (all current Mac OS X and iOS programs support this language). This lets developers to add Swift code to existing apps without the necessity to replace the older Objective-C code. Named parameters that have been brought forward from Objective-C are expressed in a clean syntax, making APIs in Swift even easier to read and maintain. This blog provides an overview of the Swift language, its features and other details.
Advantages of using Swift over Objective-C code
Some of the advantages of Swift over Objective-C are as follows:
Apple Swift is designed to be a simpler programming language to read and code. The syntax of Swift doesn’t require semi-colons at the end of each line and functions are user friendly. Take for instance, the familiar humble-Print command, which in Swift is far more familiar ‘println’. It requires fewer symbols to code and generally speaking, it is much more efficient than Objective-C. Let’s understand this by a simple Hello World program in both Objective-C and Swift. Objective-C: Hello World Here is how the Hello World program appears in Objective-C:
Here is how the Hello World program appears in Swift:
The above code reveals how Swift is much cleaner and simpler code to read and learn. Here are some of the features that Apple lists as vital in ensuring that code is expressive:
- Closures unified with function pointers
- Tuples and multiple return values
- Fast and concise iteration over a range or collection
- Structs that support methods, extensions and protocols.
- Functional programming patterns, e.g.: map and filter
This is one of the major advantages for developers, since developers need not manage memory allocations. In Swift, variables are initialized before use, arrays and integers are checked for overflow and memory is managed automatically. Moreover, syntax is tuned to make it easy to define your objective – for instance, a simple three character keywords define a variable (var) or constant (let). All this makes Swift the most attractive, appealing and a safer language for developers, who are at the basic level of coding. With Swift’s memory management feature, you can make apps that are reliable, benefitting both developers and non-developers.
Playgrounds make writing Swift code really simple and fun. You need to just type a line of code and lol! You can view the result instantly. If your code runs over time, say, through a loop, you can track its progress in the timeline assistant. The timeline displays variables in a graph, draws each step when composing a view and can play and animate the scene. After you have perfected your code in the playground, just move that code into your project. Typical uses of playgrounds include:
- Design a new algorithm, tracking its results in a step by step fashion
- Create new tests to verify they work properly before you migrate into your test suite
- Experiment with new APIs to brush up your Swift coding skills
The debugging console in Xcode includes a built-in interactive version of the Swift programming language that you can use to evaluate and interact with your running app. You can even use this Swift syntax to write a new code to check how it works in a script-like environment. This is available within the Xcode console or in a Terminal.
FAST AND POWERFUL
Swift was built to be fast. This is accomplished by the high performance LLVM compiler, which transforms the Swift code into an optimized native code. The syntax and standard library have also been tuned to ensure the code you write performs the best. Swift is the successor of the C and Objective-C languages. It includes several low level primitives like types, flow control and operations and also includes object oriented features such as classes, protocols and generics, enabling Cocoa and Cocoa Touch developers the performance and power they need.
What does it mean for an iOS Developer?
Considering the several advantages that Swift offers over Objective-C, it makes sense for novice developers to learn Swift or even existing developers to switch over to Swift. Swift is similar to Python, another highly regarded programming language and is much simpler to Objective-C. However, one major disadvantage is the migration aspect – you cannot easily migrate the Swift code from Mac OS X and iOS to other platforms, such as Android. As of now, Apple is supporting both Objective-C and Swift code for building Cocoa and Cocoa Touch apps, but may eventually make everyone to switch over to the Swift code. After reading this blog, as a developer, you may be interested to kick start the process of learning the Swift programming language. You can pick up the Xcode 6 beta from the Apple Developer connection, for which you need to be a registered iOS or Mac OS X developer, which costs £69 per year. Apart from that, Apple has already released a book on Swift programming language on the iBooks Store. Anybody can download the book. Incidentally, you don’t need to be a registered Apple Developer.