Xcode, Xojo, and LiveCode

Three popular programming tools are Xcode, Xojo, and LiveCode. If you haven’t heard of Xojo or LiveCode, it’s not because they’re not good. It’s because they’re not as well known since they come from independent companies and not from some behemoth like Apple or Microsoft.

If you want to develop OS X or iOS programs, Xcode has many advantages. It’s free, it’s powerful, and it’s guaranteed to always be up to date so you can take advantage of Apple’s latest technology whether it’s ResearchKit (for collecting medical data), HomeKit (for home automation), CarPlay (for in-dash entertainment), or Apple Watch (for wearable computers). Best of all, Apple has basically dumped Objective-C and turned their attention to a much friendlier language called Swift. If you’re going to use Xcode, learn Swift and forget about Objective-C.

Many older OS X and iOS programs are still written in Objective-C, but in the long run, you’ll be much better off learning Swift and taking a little time to understand Objective-C. Since you can mix Swift and Objective-C in the same project, you can update existing OS X and iOS programs using Swift even if they were originally written in Objective-C. It will be messy, but it can be done.

Now both Xojo and LiveCode offer free versions but if you want to compile anything, you’ll need to buy a license. The main advantage of Xojo and LiveCode  is that it lets you create cross-platform programs for Windows, Linux, and OS X. For an extra fee, Xojo can also create iOS apps but LiveCode does not charge an extra fee. Instead, LiveCode lets you create Windows, Linux, OS X, Android, and iOS software. In that regard, LiveCode is more versatile.

Here’s why you might want to use Xojo. If you’re familiar with classic Visual Basic (Visual Basic 6 or earlier), you’ll find Xojo very similar. This lets you retain your Visual Basic programming skills to create Windows, Linux, or OS X programs, or iOS apps as well. One problem with Xojo is that its iOS features will always be behind Apple’s Xcode. Want to create fancy iOS apps with Xojo? Right now you can’t do that because Xojo only offers limited features for iOS support. Want to write Apple Watch apps with Xojo? Too bad. You have to wait for Xojo to offer Apple Watch features.

Xojo is a great tool for creating cross-platform programs for desktop/laptop PCs if you already know Visual Basic. If you don’t know Visual Basic, you might still find Xojo useful since it’s easier to learn than C++. However, it’s difficult to make a living as a Xojo developer and if you want to create fancy iOS apps, you’ll always be waiting for Xojo to update it’s iOS support.

LiveCode is also great for creating cross-platform programs, but its programming language is so different from other languages that experienced programmers will likely find it confusing. However, complete novices will likely find LiveCode much easier to learn than traditional programming languages. In addition, LiveCode’s $299 price lets you create Windows, Linux, and OS X programs along with Android and iOS apps. Xojo’s $299 price just lets you create iOS apps. If you want to create Android apps with Xojo, you can’t. If you want to create Windows, Linux, or OS X programs with Xojo, that’s an additional cost.

So Xojo ultimately costs more than LiveCode and offers less flexibility. LiveCode can be harder for experienced programmers to learn and like Xojo, will always be behind in iOS support. Want to create an Apple Watch app? Right now your only choice is Apple’s Xcode. Xojo and LiveCode won’t have Apple Watch support available for a while. By the time they do get that support, Apple will likely introduce something new that will put Xojo and LiveCode behind once more.

Looking at cost, Xcode wins because it’s free.

Looking at versatility, LiveCode wins because it lets you create Windows, Linux, OS X, Android, and iOS programs.

Looking at ease of use, LiveCode wins for novices and Xojo wins for Visual Basic programmers.

Looking at having access to the latest features, Xcode wins.

Looking at developing mobile apps for Android and iOS, LiveCode is the only choice.

There’s nothing wrong with Xojo or LiveCode. It’s just that if you’re going to develop iOS apps, you should focus on Xcode and Swift first, and Xojo and LiveCode second. Despite the complexity of Xcode, it’s ability to give you access to the latest iOS features means you’ll always be up to date with the latest technology. Waiting for Xojo or LiveCode to catch up means you’ll always be behind.

For speed of development, Xojo and LiveCode win. That’s why you should focus on more than one tool to expand your own versatility. Start with Xcode and master Swift. Then look at Xojo and LiveCode. If you need to create Android apps, LiveCode is the only choice and is far easier to learn than using Java to create Android apps.

Learn Xcode and Swift first. Depending on your background, learn Xojo or LiveCode next. The world is shifting to mobile so in the long run, Xcode will always keep you in the forefront of iOS development.

April 23rd, 2015 by
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