10 cutting-edge mobile development tools
Mobile development made easier
The path from the flash of genius to the working mobile app has been long and treacherous. The good news is that help is on the way as companies develop tools and frameworks that smooth the journey.
Here is a collection of 10 tools that are revolutionizing the way we create apps. Often, there’s no need to learn the complexities of Objective-C (iPhone) or Java (Android, BlackBerry) because the frameworks are simpler to understand. In some cases, back-end clouds make life even easier. Developers don’t need to build their own databases or maintain the app. They just open up an account and point their app to the cloud.
AppGyver makes a number of tools for mobile app development, including a PhoneGap extension called Steroids. Prototyper may be the most eye-opening, though, because it lets you glue together a few pages into a flexible prototype for testing your ideas. It will deploy the result to your device through a QR code or let you test the prototype on the AppGyver website.
Data is the lifeblood of any app, and with Firebase. storing and sharing all that info is easier than ever. You set up your project, and Firebase handles all the hassles of setting up a key-value store. Then it offers tools so that you can build out the apps juggling the data. It’s especially tuned to push changes among the other users of your app, so collaboration is simpler. It’s the back end that lets you concentrate on the front end.
Intel may be known for its hardware, but it’s tossing its hat in the ring to support HTML5 development. Intel XDK. built as a Chrome extension, knits together your favorite editor with a simulator for testing your project right in the browser. Most of the power is built into Chrome already, but the XDK unlocks it by making it easier to edit and debug in place.
Appscend offers cloud-based development of content-centric apps using an XML markup language and/or PHP. It bundles together a template-based design system and a cloud-based CMS to juggle your content. Then you can add some ads, push some buttons, and upload your result directly to the App Store or Google Play.
This browser-based tool lets you build, test, and ship HTML5 apps for iOS or Android. The building and testing is done in your browser, but the shipping is done with a version of the Apache Cordova library. Icenium packages up the HTML5 you write and wraps it up with the Cordova library to create a working app.
If you’re a Java programmer, you can have a good time programming for Android or BlackBerry. Apple iOS, though, is strictly for Objective-C developers. Tabris lets developers build native apps in Java for iOS as well as Android. The Java code runs on a server and sends out the data in JSON packages to iPhones and Androids, which use native widgets to interpret and display the JSON code. It’s a path for developers who need to build a heavy Java server application and deliver handheld interaction.
The company also offers a set of cloud applications that handle the back-end work for your app. Whether it’s storing information or sending email, the Appcelerator cloud handles it. There are also specialized tables for geographic information, photographs, and what the social media world calls “friends.”
Sencha built its name on the Ext platform for Web applications and the Touch platform for tablets and smartphones. Now it has created a visual designer for building the applications.
Sencha Architect lets you drag and drop your widgets into an outline of an iPhone, Kindle Fire, BlackBerry, Microsoft Surface, or custom-sized screen. Then the framework handles the layout, widget management, and event juggling. Your code can be limited to figuring out what happens with each event. The tool runs on Mac OS X, Windows, or Linux. The code it produces runs in a WebKit browser and can be turned into an app by wrapping it with PhoneGap or Cordova.
The cross-platform Corona SDK has all the usual features for creating an app that runs on iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, and Nook, along with one indispensable addition: a physics engine. Corona apps can take objects and simulate them bouncing around a real world. Writing your own Angry Birds-like game is much easier.
The company also offers a cloud for storing information from your game. Access is simple from the app code. You’ll find the usual repositories for bits as well as custom formats for game builders. Your code can create leaderboards, track achievements, offer chat sessions, and integrate with social networks, all through the Corona cloud.