The Importance of Native Controls

If you’re going to write apps for the iPhone or iPad, the most powerful (and most complicated) solution is to use Apple’s free Xcode compiler and write your app using Objective-C or the much simpler Swift programming language. The huge advantage of using Objective-C/Swift and Xcode is that your apps will automatically change its appearance when Apple introduces each new version of iOS.

If you have an app that retains its original look despite the visual changes in iOS that means the developer used a different programming tool that didn’t use what’s called “native controls.” Native controls basically means that the programming tool uses the Cocoa Touch framework, which is a library of Objective-C code that Apple has created to define the appearance and behavior of iOS apps. If a programming tool uses “native controls,” every time Apple changes the appearance of iOS, your app’s appearance automatically changes without any extra effort on your part.

Many programming tools “cheat” by not using native controls. Instead, they let you create an iOS user interface that looks like native controls. However, each time Apple changes the appearance of iOS, the app still continues mimicking the appearance of the previous version of iOS.

In addition, native controls come with built-in features that most people expect such as spell checking. If a programming tool doesn’t use native controls, you not only have to mimic the appearance of native controls, but also the behavior. For many programming tools, this requires either writing additional code or buying a third-party add-on, which simply complicates the programming task.

That means if you’re developing apps for iOS, you want to use a programming tool that uses native controls since that will completely eliminate the need to update your app’s user interface and behavior every time Apple changes iOS. If torturing yourself with Objective-C and Xcode isn’t your idea of a good time and you still find Swift too challenging, you can choose two other programming tools like LiveCode or Xojo.

Both programming tools have limitations. LiveCode currently lets you write a program and compile it for Android and iOS. The big problem is that it doesn’t use native controls. That means any iOS apps developed with LiveCode could retain an antiquated look when a new version of iOS appears. That won’t affect the actual function of the app, but it may risk making the app look dated.

The current problem with Xojo is that it only offers limited iOS support. However , Xojo will use native controls so your app, created with Xojo, will change its appearance every time Apple changes iOS.

As a developer, you probably want to use a programming tool that uses native controls. As a consumer, you’ll be able to tell which apps used native controls and which ones don’t by seeing if they change their user interface each time Apple changes iOS.

January 17th, 2015 by
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