In Praise of Xcode

by Fraser Speirs

Xcode is, I think, one of the unsung heroes of the Mac OS X era. Apple's smart decision to invest in developer tools - and to make them available for free - has been one of the factors that really jump-started the small and independent developer scene on Mac OS X.

Central to this package of tools is Xcode, Apple's Integrated Developer Environment. The first IDE that Apple delivered in the early days was Project Builder and it was good for what it was at the time. Over the past few years, Project Builder became Xcode and Xcode has really gone from strength to strength. The Developer Tools package seems to be set apart from the normal cycle of software enhancements, in that the team seem able to deliver new features as and when they're ready rather than to meet the demands of a predetermined announcement schedule.

I use Xcode a lot, and I really do like it. People do tend to complain a bit about its compilation performance, and that would be my biggest grumble too, but I enjoy seeing the enhancements that are delivered with each successive version.

That Famous Checkbox

One place in which Xcode got a lot of exposure recently was during Steve Jobs' WWDC keynote in which he announced the Intel transition. Heavy emphasis was placed on the fact that, if you're using Xcode, you're a long way along the road to being Intel-compatible.

Having spent the past week or so building all my projects as Universal Binaries, I can attest that it really is (almost) as easy as popping down that little sheet and clicking the "Intel" checkbox. The Xcode team have done a great job in smoothing the path to Intel for developers.

My one-item wish-list

If there's one thing I could have in my Xcode life, it would be this. Xcode has a feature called Code Sense - this maintains an index of all the symbols in your project and enables a very smart kind of autocomplete in the Xcode editor. However, there are features of other editors that I sometimes prefer - TextMate's code folding feature, for example. If Apple were to define a method by which other editors could hook into the Code Sense index and use it for autocompletion in their own documents, I would be in programming nirvana. As it stands, however, I'm happy for now with Xcode's own editor.

So, to Apple and their Developer Tools team - thank you for a great product and for all your efforts in supporting it, enhancing it and for making the life of this developer a happier one with each release.

Are you an Xcode fan?


2005-11-18 03:28:40
I managed to build my first application using Xcode, AppleScript Studio & Interface builder.

I've written AppleScripts before but decided to give Xcode a go. To say I have no programming training is an understatement but my little app works.

I think Xcode is one of the best written and thought out apps for OSX.