My Journey - iOS Development

I love learning new things. One of the most obvious and also a long time member on my "do it,… just do it already" list is iOS development. Every time I want to learn something new I browse the web and try to find a way that fits my work / learning flow. But iOS resources seem to be rare and not always up to date. So I decided that it would be a good idea to blog about my journey becoming an iOS developer.

Before I start with all the little details I should say that I know and worked with C++ for some years. I believe it was back in 1996 or 97. Back then Borland C++ Builder was one of the best products (at least for me) to build graphical applications for Windows. A great and useful debugger was included and after I started working on a bigger project I understood why everyone was always telling me that a debugger more important than an IDE.

I believe it was around 2000 when my focus shifted. I was bored developing graphical applications or low level stuff in C++. I did not really like the language, I did not have any interesting projects and I just have not seen a point in focusing on it. After a short brain storming what I could do I came to the conclusion that it was time to use Perl for more than scripts that solve boring administrative tasks. I once have written a tournament planing system for one of our LAN parties so I knew the capabilities. I started working on smaller web project.

There is no way to give you a 100% correct year but according to people that knew me back in 2006 and sometimes visited me I believe it was around Christmas when I started switching to Python and Django. I was still doing web projects, declaring Internet Explorer users as the most stupid people I have ever met (disclaimer: those who knew it sucked but used it anyway because "it was just there") and wasted hours and hours figuring out this damn response object.

I was sold on web development. Today it pays my bills. iOS and mobile applications are important and will not just die, no matter what some people blog. Looking at the requests I receive there is, especially in the enterprise market, a great chance to get new customers. Since quality matters and I refuse to deliver something else there are currently only two options for my company.

  1. learn how to write quality software for iOS
  2. outsourcing

I will not elaborate number two, since this is stuff for another post in my awesome "Let us talk business" series that is currently changing lives, saving kittens and,… okay I will stop here.

How To Start Learning Objective-C and Cocoa (Touch)

The most confusing point was that I am not working with a scripting language anymore. I nearly forgot the pain of compiling before checking if everything works. Thanks to modern systems it is better than 199x when you could get a coffee and cure cancer while waiting for your application that used more templates than a web project to finish compiling.

After browsing the web I decided that the easiest way and a new way of learning I wanted to try would be iTunes U. A short search and I found "CS193P: iPad and iPhone App Development (Fall 2011)" provided by Stanford. Fall 2011 is a good starting point since they already cover iOS5 with all those shiny new features that do not force you to care about memory management and make it a lot easier to shoot yourself in the foot.

Since I prefer reading I came up with a backup solution and obtained a copy of "Einstieg in Objective-C 2.0 und Cocoa - 2009" published by Galileo Verlag. 2009 is the keyword. They should show how memory management works and it should make it easier porting my applications to iOS4 so I can cover more potential users. I hope that this will not be necessary since automatic reference counting sounds awesome - if it works as promised.

I watched the first lesson and thought "okay - pretty strange syntax" but this model - view - controller stuff sounds somehow familiar. Before I continued to the second one I also watched the "debugger special". While watching the second lesson I coded the project that was shown and sometimes had to count all those bracers. I am just not used to so much overhead. But it makes sense so I will not complain. The elegance of Python is still not even nearly reached. I am also not sure if the dot notation makes more sense than bracers but I will just stick with it.

After the second session I worked on the first assignment. And there I have seen what I was looking for. How powerful Xcode is in reality. I love it. Beside all those important features like "look up this function name as Twitter user name" I can only say so much till now: the integrated documentation rocks. If you understood how you send messages to objects and classes you do not need to browse the documentation outside of Xcode. Just type your object or class name and you will see everything you need.

I still consider Objective-C ugly and I am still not sure how much I hate the way you pass arguments to methods (only talking about the notation) but I think I can handle it.

This post was primarily meant as an introduction. More detailed posts will follow but I should first get some stuff done before I give you some hints. If you are planning on watching the Stanford videos to learn iOS development I hope you have some C(++) background. If not you will maybe just feel lost. In the first four videos are a lot references to C(++) you just will not get and that are necessary to understand what the tutor is talking about.

>> posted on June 23, 2012, midnight in mobile, software engineering