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This chapter is from the book

Getting Started

The biggest assumption at this point is that you have a Mac computer already, as without that, you cannot install Xcode, Apple’s Mac and iOS Integrated Development Environment (IDE).

Launch the App Store app on your Mac, search for Xcode, and click to install the software. Once the installation is complete, Xcode is listed in your /Applications directory.

Take a Look Around

When you open Xcode, you may be greeted with prompts asking whether you want to install extra tools; go ahead and install them. This should only happen the first time you launch Xcode. Once Xcode is open, you see a standard menu window with options to create a playground, create a new project, or open an existing project, and on the right side is a list of recent projects and playgrounds you’ve opened (if you’ve opened any). The window should look like Figure 1.1.


FIGURE 1.1 The Welcome to Xcode screen, where you can choose to create or edit projects and playgrounds.

Although in this book we predominantly work in playgrounds, it is good to become familiar with the IDE, so let’s do that quickly. Click Create a New Xcode Project to create a new Xcode project. The next screen asks you what type of project you want to create, and for this experiment, just use Single View Application, as seen in Figure 1.2, and click Next.


FIGURE 1.2 The project template chooser screen.

Next you are asked to name your project. Choose an Organization Name, Identifier, Language (Swift or Objective-C), and Device(s) to run on, and indicate whether you want to use Core Data, as shown in Figure 1.3. All this information is useful for future projects you will create, but for our testing purposes, we don’t need to worry about it yet. The Organization Identifier is usually a reverse-DNS name of your personal or company URL to ensure uniqueness at an organizational level, and the Bundle Identifier tacks on the Project Name to the end of the Organization Identifier to ensure uniqueness per app bundle. Once you submit an app to either the Mac App Store or the iOS App Store, your bundle identifier needs to be unique.


FIGURE 1.3 Enter your project-related information.

Here you also have the choice for device type, such as iPhone or iPad, and that is so that Xcode can properly create the Storyboard files needed for the device or devices you plan to write your app to be used on. This way you can target different interfaces on different devices, but still use the same code to manage them both, such as with Universal apps.

Name your project TestApp, since we just want to get to Xcode to get acclimated (you can remove this project later), choose Swift for the language, and click Next. Xcode opens, and you see the new project you created. It should look something like Figure 1.4.


FIGURE 1.4 The initial Xcode IDE layout. The Navigation Pane is on the left, Inspector Pane is on the right, and main content area is in the center. In the top toolbar are buttons to run or stop a build, see error and warning info, and show or hide views.

Xcode is nicely partitioned off into logical sections, as you may be accustomed to from other IDEs; however, it also has some nice features to note. The pane on the left-hand side is called the Navigator Pane. Here, you can choose between different Navigators to view files in your project, warnings and errors, breakpoints, Unit Tests, and more. The pane on the right-hand side is called the Inspector Pane. This dynamic pane changes depending on what element is clicked, such as editing a selected button’s text property, or adjusting a control’s position in a window.

The main content area in the center is where you’ll spend most of your time when working on an actual Mac/iOS project. The content area is where you can change project settings, and most importantly create your app by either writing code or designing the interface in a Storyboard.

The bar along the top left has several useful functions available. Toward the left, you have your standard Mac Red/Yellow/Green buttons for window management. Next, the play and stop buttons are actually Build and Run and Stop when referring to compiling, building, and running your apps on the Simulator or devices. To the right of that is where Xcode notifies you of current information, such as how many warnings or errors are in your project, and build status.

Finally, the upper right-hand set of buttons can adjust the views you see to show or hide the Navigator Pane, Inspector Pane, Debug Pane, or Assistant Editor, as well as view code comparisons, source code “blame” views, and logs.

Xcode Playgrounds

One of the excellent new features of Xcode 6 is something called playgrounds. A playground is a scratch pad, if you will, for testing out code to ensure you receive proper results from code segments, before adding the code to your app. It is because of this functionality that playgrounds are so powerful; you can get immediate feedback if your code is going to give you the results you expect without having to compile your code and run it on the Simulator or a device.

You can create a new playground at any time, and you can choose to have it be a part of your project or just as an independent playground file. Since we’re already in an open project, click File > New > File, and then in the Source set of files (for either iOS or Mac), choose playground, then click Next. In the Save As dialog, name your playground file (the name MyPlayground is fine for our purposes), and then click Create. Don’t worry about the Group or the Targets for now, we aren’t building an app yet so we don’t care about that.

Notice that your new playground comes equipped with a few lines of Swift code for your learning convenience. Let’s touch on a few of these basics first before moving on. Your playground should look something like this:

// Playground – noun: a place where people can play
import UIKit
var str = "Hello, playground"

The first line in the preceding code is a comment and is ignored by the compiler. You can use comments to annotate certain parts of code to be human readable, perhaps explaining for other coworkers (or even yourself) what this particular section of code is for. The // (double forward slash) signifies that the remainder of the line is to be treated as a comment. You can also comment entire sections of code or paragraphs of text, either on the same line or on multiple consecutive lines by enclosing them in /* and */. Swift even allows you to nest comment blocks inside comment blocks, such as /* ... /* ... */ ... */.

The remainder of the preceding code performs a simple task in that it assigns the string “Hello, playground” to a variable str. Even though the code doesn’t directly print any output, the playground by default displays “Hello, playground” in the playground’s results pane to show the contents of the variable and any subsequent variables or constants you create. This comes in handy when you want to test logic, math, and other operations.

In the preceding Try It Yourself example, you assigned a value of 42 to myNewValue in Step 1. Then, in Step 2 you inserted the value inside a sentence, using something called string interpolation, which is a convenient way to interpolate variables or constants inside output. The next hour discusses string interpolation in more detail. The println() statement prints output to the console, which is handy for quick debugging or viewing contents of data.

The Swift Read-Eval-Print-Loop (REPL)

Swift also comes packaged with a nice feature called a Read-Eval-Print-Loop, or a REPL for short. The REPL is an interactive command-line based version of what we just experienced with playgrounds. Using the REPL is nice for quick tests to make sure code works the way you expect, similar to what you get with a playground, but rather than creating a new file in your project, you can just use this ephemeral REPL to get in, test your code, and get out. Whether to use a playground or the REPL is largely a matter of preference of what you feel comfortable with. If you are already using Terminal.app, or some other command-line utility, it may be easier for you to just open the REPL. On the other hand, if you’re already in Xcode, it may be quicker for you to just create a playground and go from there.

To access the REPL, you simply type the following:

$> xcrun swift

xcrun is a command-line tool provided by Xcode for running or locating development tools or properties. So in the preceding line, we’re telling xcrun to run the Swift REPL. When you press the Return key, you see the following:

Welcome to Swift!  Type :help for assistance.

The 1> is the Swift REPL prompt where you can start typing Swift code, one instruction per line, and it interprets your code for you, much like the playground did. Let’s try another example of writing code, this time in the Swift REPL.

You’re doing great! The Swift REPL keeps constants and variables (as well as Classes, Structs, Enums, and others) in memory for the duration of your REPL session. This means that you can reference variables, constants, classes, and so on, several lines later, which helps you work on tackling problems quickly and easily before you write the code in your actual app. The completed Try It Yourself example should look like Figure 1.5.


FIGURE 1.5 The completed Try It Yourself example using the Swift REPL.

To quit the Swift REPL, type a colon (:) to invoke command mode; then type q for quit and press Return. You are returned to your regular Unix shell prompt.

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