Creating iOS Apps without Storyboard – Part 1

What are “nibless” apps?

Apps which are designed without the help of Storyboard are called as “Nibless” apps. Normally we design an app with the help of a Storyboard file. Earlier they were called Xib files or Nib files. Hence the term “Nibless”.

Why should we create Apps without storyboard?

There are a number of reasons.

  1. It makes for a better experience when implementing along with version control.
  2. Allows us to create UI elements dynamically.
  3. Makes reusable UI Components easier to distribute and reuse.

How can we create Apps without Storyboard?

There are a couple of things that need to be done. Firstly the Main.storyboard file needs to be removed and the project settings need to be updated to reflect this change.. We are doing this since we won’t be using the storyboard file.
Everything will now have to be started up by us manually. Many of these tasks were taken care of by storyboard, but since that was removed we will have to do it. This means we have to manually create the window, create the view controller set it as a the root view controller.
We also have to manually create each and every component on our own. That is the very thing we were trying to achieve.

This example is implemented on Xcode 10.3 on macOS 10.14.5. We are not implementing auto layout in this article. We will look at implementing that programmatically in the next article.

  1. Let us start with an empty project. Open Xcode.
  2. Select File > New > Project
  3. Give it any name. Select the language as Swift & leave the checkboxes unchecked.
  4. Once the project loads select the Main.storyboard file and delete it.
  5. Switch to the Project settings file.
  6. Remove the entry for the main interface.
  7. It is a good idea to leave the LaunchScreen.storyboard file. The reason for this is to give the launch process a reference of the screen size it needs to produce. Else it will default down to the 0,0,320,480 which is the old iPhone size.
  8. Switch to the AppDelegate.swift file.
  9. Add the following property below the UI Window declaration.
      
    let mainScreenController : ViewController = ViewController() 
    
  10. Add the code to create the window and set root view controller in the didFinishLaunchingWithOptions method
       
    //1. Create the UIWindow object   
    self.window = UIWindow(frame: UIScreen.main.bounds)   
    
    //2. Set the root view controller   
    self.window?.rootViewController = self.mainScreenController   
    
    //3. Make the window key and visible  
    self.window?.makeKeyAndVisible()  
    
  11. Switch to the ViewController.swift file.
  12. Declare the following variables
      
    //UI Variables  
    var labelDemo   : UILabel?  
    var imageDemo   : UIImageView?  
    var buttonDemo  : UIButton = UIButton(type: UIButton.ButtonType.roundedRect) 
    var dataField   : UITextField?
    
  13. Implement the function to create labels. The process of creating a view programmatically is fairly straightforward. Barring a few variations depending on the view component nothing is drastically different.
      
    func createLabel() 
    {      
         //1. Specify the dimensions      
         let labelRect : CGRect   = CGRect(x: 100.0, y: 50.0, width: self.view.frame.size.width - 130.0, height: 60.0)     
    
         //2. Create the view object      
         labelDemo                = UILabel(frame: labelRect)      
    
         //3. Customise the view attributes      
         labelDemo?.text          = "This is my first Programmatic App."                
         labelDemo?.textColor     = UIColor.yellow      
         labelDemo?.textAlignment = NSTextAlignment.left  
         labelDemo?.numberOfLines = 0      
         labelDemo?.font          = UIFont.boldSystemFont(ofSize: 20.0)      
    
         //4. Add the view to the subview      
         self.view.addSubview(labelDemo!) 
    } 
    
    Let us examine the steps one by one.
     
    //1. Specify the dimensions 
    let labelRect : CGRect = CGRect(x: 100.0, y: 50.0, width: self.view.frame.size.width - 130.0, height: 60.0)
    
    This will define the dimensions of the view. As we are not implementing auto layout we will need to do this manually.
     
    //2. Create the view object
    labelDemo = UILabel(frame: labelRect) 
    
    Now that we have the dimensions we can go ahead and instantiate an instance of the label object using those dimensions. These 2 parts are the same as dragging a label from the object library onto the storyboard and placing it onto the storyboard per our requirements.
    //3. Customise the view attributes 
    labelDemo?.text          = "This is my first Programmatic App."     
    labelDemo?.textColor     = UIColor.yellow 
    labelDemo?.textAlignment = NSTextAlignment.center      
    labelDemo?.numberOfLines = 0 
    labelDemo?.font          = UIFont.boldSystemFont(ofSize: 20.0)
    
    This part is the same as changing the attributes in the attributes inspector. This is where we customise the label.
     
    //4. Add the view to the subview 
    self.view.addSubview(labelDemo!) 
    
    This last part also forms one part of dragging the label on to the storyboard. When we drag a view on to the storyboard it is placed within the main view that belongs to the ViewController. This statement completes the above process.
  14. Repeat the above steps for showing an image.
    func createImage()
    {
         //1. Specify the dimensions
         let imageRect  : CGRect  = CGRect(x: 30.0, y: 50.0, width: 60.0, height: 60.0)
    
         //2. Create the image model
         let imageModel : UIImage = UIImage(named: "logo.png")!
    
         //3. Create the view object
         imageDemo                = UIImageView(frame: imageRect)
    
         //4. Customise the view attributes
         imageDemo?.image         = imageModel
         imageDemo?.contentMode   = UIView.ContentMode.scaleAspectFit
    
         //5. Add the view to the subview
         self.view.addSubview(imageDemo!)
    }
    
    The code above is almost similar to the one created for labels except for the fact that we had to explicitly create a model object for the view. Images being different from strings, require this process to be done explicitly.
  15. Similarly let us implement the code for creating buttons
    func createButton()
    {
         //1. Specify the dimensions
         let buttonRect : CGRect = CGRect(x: 30.0, y: 220.0, width: 100.0, height: 50.0)
    
         //2. Provide the frame to the button
         buttonDemo.frame = buttonRect
    
         //3. Customise the view attributes
         buttonDemo.setTitle("Click Me", for: UIControl.State.normal)
         buttonDemo.addTarget(self, action: #selector(ViewController.clickMeTapped), for: UIControl.Event.touchDown)
    
         //4. Add the view to the subview
         self.view.addSubview(buttonDemo)
    }
    
    @objc func clickMeTapped(
    {
         print("Click me tapped!")
    }
    
    Again just minor variations here. Mainly the step to add a target function to be invoked when the button is tapped. We also need to write the target function itself.
  16. We will also implement the code to create a text field.
    func createTextField()
    {
        //1. Provide dimensions for the view
        let tfRect : CGRect             = CGRect(x: 30.0, y: 140.0, width: self.view.frame.size.width - 60.0, height: 50.0)
            
        //2. Create the view object
        dataField                       = UITextField(frame: tfRect)
            
        //3. Customise the attributes of the view
        dataField?.placeholder          = "Enter Name"
        dataField?.borderStyle          = UITextField.BorderStyle.roundedRect
        dataField?.keyboardType         = UIKeyboardType.namePhonePad
        dataField?.keyboardAppearance   = UIKeyboardAppearance.dark
        dataField?.returnKeyType        = UIReturnKeyType.go
            
        //4. Add the view to the subview
        self.view.addSubview(dataField!)
    }
    
  17. Next we need to call all these functions. I have implemented a single creator function for that.
    func createUIElements()
    {
         self.createLabel()
         self.createImage()
         self.createButton()
         self.createTextField()
    }
    
  18. Lastly we will call this function in the viewDidLoad method. Add the following lines to the viewDidLoad method.
    self.view.backgroundColor = UIColor.lightGray
    self.createUIElements()
    
    I have also added code to change the background colour so that we can see the background clearly.
  19. Run the project. Everything should appear normally.

Are there any benefits of creating apps without storyboard?

The points mentioned in the “why should we make programmatic apps?” section are some of the advantages. Beyond that there aren’t too many.
If you are looking at a team based project development then this approach is good.
There is no difference in terms of memory or performance when it comes down to apps design with or without storyboard.

Are there any drawbacks?

As can be seen from the example above, there are a couple of drawbacks

  1. The main drawback is that you can’t get a quick preview of how your app looks. You have to run the simulation every time you wish to see the end result.
  2. There is a lot more coding involved. Which can be daunting to those who are overly accustomed to designing with the help of storyboards

Note

A small point. I have left the LaunchScreen.storyboard file. I did not delete it. The reason I did that was to allow the app to allow the system to determine the dimensions on the device. If we do delete the file then the UIScreen.main.bounds return (0.0, 0.0, 320.0, 480.0) which are the old iPhone screen size settings.
While you can go ahead and make changes programmatically it is a lot easier to just leave the LaunchScreen.storyboard file there.

Carrying on from the previous point. It actually is okay if you leave the Main.storyboard file as is too. In which case you will have to skip steps 5,6,8,9,10. The code is still running programmatically but you do not have to create the main ViewController manually.

Download the Source Code

You can download the Xcode Project from this link.

Advertisements

Creating your own Drag and Drop DMG

What are Disk Images?

Disk images are a means of archiving data. They are created using a tool called Disk Utility which is a File System Management Utility of macOS. Disk Images follow the extension ‘.dmg‘ and are only compatible with macOS.

Disk Images are a popular way of distributing applications for macOS. They provide the capability of compressing large files and make delivery over the internet very easy.

In this article we are going to look at how we can create disk images for application distribution.

Creating the DMG Folder for distribution

  1. Create a Background image. This can have any design. It’s a good idea to have arrows or other visual aids to assist others during installation.
  2. Create a new Disk Image. Open Disk Utility.
  3. Click on File > New Image > Blank Image
  4. Leave the default settings as is. Choose the size that you desire.
  5. Mount the Disk Image.
  6. Create a folder called background in the mounted volume.
  7. Save the background image in the folder we just created.
  8. Now we will hide the background folder. Switch to terminal and run the following command.

     
    cd /Volume/InstallDMG/
    mv background .background
    


    Here we are simply renaming the background folder with a ‘.’ before it. This hides the folder from the GUI.

    Now we will prepare the payload. This can be any file or folder we wish to install. For the sake of this demo I will be choosing Mozilla FireFox. In reality you would be distributing your own application.
  9. Copy the FireFox app into the mounted volume.
  10. Open “Show View Options“.
  11. Restrict the mounted volume to icon view only. Feel free to customise the other settings as you wish. This includes icon size.
  12. Drag and arrange the icons in your mounted window to match the background.
  13. Eject the disk image. 
  14. Make a duplicate copy of the image file. This can act as a reference for future images you wish to create.
  15. Now we will convert the disk image into a read only compressed disk image. This will be the one that we will use for distribution. Open Disk Utility.
  16. Click on Images > Convert
  17. Select the InstallerDMG.dmg from Desktop or wherever you had saved it.
  18. Give it a new name and convert it to compressed format.

That’s it. You now have your own drag drop window ready for distribution.

Creating reusable UI Components for iOS App Development

In an earlier article I had discussed how we can create our own frameworks to easily share reusable code. In this article we will take this a little further and create our own reusable UI Components.

Points to Note:

  • The reusable component we will be creating is based on UIKit. For that reason this component can only be used in iOS Apps. However, you can follow the same steps to create a reusable component for macOS using Cocoa.
  • UI Components, distributed through a framework, do not render in the project storyboard file.
  • You should be familiar with creating Embedded Binaries (your own Framework). If you aren’t then please read this article first.
  • These projects are created on Xcode 10 with Swift 4.2

Getting Started

We will complete the implementation as a 2 step process. Here is the screen that we are planning to implement.

Creating the Reusable Framework

  1. Open Xcode and create a new Framework project.
    Screen Shot 2018-09-06 at 1.21.04 PM
  2. Name the project “UIVIdentityCard”.
    Screen Shot 2018-09-06 at 1.23.05 PM
  3. Save the project in any folder.
  4. Create a new Swift file File > New > File > Swift.
  5. Name the file “GenderType.swift”. This is where we will declare the enum that holds the Gender type that we are creating.
  6. Add the following code to the file.
     
    import Foundation 
    /** Possible scores that can be given. 
    *values* 
    `Male` 
    
    `Female` 
    
    `NotSpecified` 
    
    *functions* 
    `func toString() -> String` 
    Used to get the `String` version of the value 
    
    - Author: Arun Patwardhan 
    - Version: 1.0 
    */ 
    public enum GenderType 
    {      
         case Male      
         case Female      
         case NotSpecified 
    } 
    
    /** This extension adds the Enum to String converions capability 
    - Author: Arun Patwardhan 
    - Version: 1.1 
    */ 
    extension GenderType 
    {      
         /** This function converts from enum value to `String`         
         - important: This function does not do validation         
         - returns: `String`.         
         - requires: iOS 11 or later         
         - Since: iOS 11         
         - author: Arun Patwardhan         
         - copyright: Copyright (c) Amaranthine 2015         
         - version: 1.0 */      
         @available(iOS, introduced: 11.0, message: "convert to String")      
         func toString() -> String      
         {           
              switch self           
              {                
                   case .Male:                     
                        return "Male"                
                   case .Female:                     
                        return "Female"                
                   case .NotSpecified:                     
                        return "Not Specified"           
              }      
         } 
    } 
  7. Create a new Swift file called “PersonDetailsModel.swift”.
  8. Add the following code to the file.
    import Foundation
    
    /**  This struct represents the data that is to be shown in the ID card  
    **Variables**  
    `personName`  
    
    `personIcon`  
    
    `personDob`  
    Date of Birth  
    
    `personAddress` 
     
    `personPhone` 
     
    `personEmail` 
     
    `personCompany`
      
    `personHeight`
      
    `personWeight`  
    
    `personGender`  
    
    **Important**  There is a variable with the name `entryCount`. This variable keeps tracks of the number of stored properties that exist. The value of this variable will be used to determine the number of rows in the table.The computed property `numberOfRows` is the property used to access the value of `entryCount`.  
    
    - Author: Arun Patwardhan  
    - Version: 1.0
    */
    public struct PersonDetailsModel
    {     
         internal var entryCount : Int = 7     
         public var personName   : String = ""     
         public var personIcon   : UIImage     
         public var personDob    : Date     
         public var personAddress: String = ""     
         public var personPhone  : String = ""     
         public var personEmail  : String = ""     
         public var personCompany: String = ""     
         public var personHeight : Double? = 0.0     
         {          
              willSet          
              {               
                   if newValue == nil & personHeight != nil               
                   {                    
                        entryCount -= 1               
                   }               
                   else if newValue != nil & personHeight == nil               
                   {                    
                        entryCount += 1               
                   }          
              }     
         }     
    
         public var personWeight : Double? = 0.0     
         {          
              willSet(newValue)          
              {               
                   if newValue == nil & personWeight != nil               
                   {                    
                        entryCount -= 1               
                   }               
                   else if newValue != nil & personWeight == nil               
                   {                    
                        entryCount += 1               
                   }          
              }     
         }     
    
         public var personGender : GenderType?     
         {          
              willSet          
              {               
                   if newValue == nil & personGender != nil               
                   {                    
                        entryCount -= 1               
                   }               
                   else if newValue != nil & personGender == nil               
                   {                    
                        entryCount += 1               
                   }          
              }     
         }     
    
         public var numberOfRows : Int     
         {          
              return entryCount     
         }     
    
         public init(withName newName : String, icon newIcon : UIImage, birthday newDob : Date, address newAddress : String, phone newPhone : String, email newEmail : String, Company newCompany : String, height newHeight : Double?, weight newWeight : Double?, andGender newGender : GenderType?)     
         {          
              personName = newName          
              personIcon = newIcon          
              personDob  = newDob          
              personAddress = newAddress          
              personPhone = newPhone          
              personEmail = newEmail          
              personCompany = newCompany  
            
              if newGender != nil          
              {               
                   entryCount += 1          
              }          
              if newWeight != nil          
              {               
                   entryCount += 1          
              }          
              if newHeight != nil          
              {               
                   entryCount += 1          
              }          
    
              personHeight = newHeight          
              personWeight = newWeight          
              personGender = newGender     
         }
    }
    
    /**     This extension adds protocol conformance for the `CustomStringConvertible` protocol.     
    
    - Author: Arun Patwardhan     
    - Version: 1.1
    */
    extension PersonDetailsModel : CustomStringConvertible
    {     
         public var description: String     
         {          
              return """               
                   NAME: \(self.personName)               
                   DATE OF BIRTH:\(self.personDob)               
                   ADDRESS: \(self.personAddress)               
                   EMAIL:\(self.personEmail)               
                   PHONE:\(self.personPhone)          
              """     
         }
    }
  9. Now we will focus out attention on the View. Create a new file File > New > File > View.
    Screen Shot 2018-09-06 at 2.18.32 PM
  10. Name the view “UIVIdentityCard.swift”.
  11. Design the view as shown in the screenshot below.
    Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.22.49 PM
  12. Create the corresponding“UIVIdentityCard.swift” file.
  13. Make the IBOutlet & IBAction connections for the different UI elements.
  14. Add the following code. This is how your file should look after its completed.
    /**     The UIVIdentityCard class     
    **Functions**     
    `public func load(data newPerson : PersonDetailsModel)`     
    Used to load the data for the view.     
    
    - Author: Arun Patwardhan     
    - Version: 1.0
    */
    @IBDesignableopen class UIVIdentityCard: UIView, UITableViewDelegate, UITableViewDataSource
    {     
         //IBOutlets --------------------------------------------------     
         @IBOutlet public weak var personIcon : UIImageView!     
         @IBOutlet public weak var personName : UILabel!     
         @IBOutlet public weak var personDetails : UITableView! 
    
         //Variables --------------------------------------------------     
         public var localTableData : PersonDetailsModel!     
         let nibName : String = "UIVIdentityCard"     
         var view: UIView!     
         let cellIdentifier : String = "IDCard"     
         //Functions --------------------------------------------------     
         /**     This function does the initial setup of the view. There are multiple things happening in this file.     
         1) The first thing that we do is to load the Nib file using the `nibName` we saved above. The UNIb object contains all the elements we have within the Nib file. The UINib object loads the object graph in memory but does not unarchive them. To unarchive them and get the ibjects loaded completely for use we have to instatiate the object and get the arry of top level objects. We are however interested in the first object that is there in the array which is of type `UIView`. The reference to this view is assigned to our local `view` variable.     
         2) Next we specify the bounds of our view     
         3) Finally we add this view as a subview     
    
         - important: This function does not do validation     
         - requires: iOS 11 or later, the varibale that contains the name of the nib file.     
         - Since: iOS 11     
         - author: Arun Patwardhan     
         - copyright: Copyright (c) Amaranthine 2015     
         - version: 1.0     
         */     
         @available(iOS, introduced: 11.0, message: "setup view")     
         func setup()     
         {          
              //1)          
              self.view = UINib(nibName: self.nibName, bundle: Bundle(for: type(of: self))).instantiate(withOwner: self, options: nil)[0] as! UIView          
         
              //2)          
              self.view.frame = bounds          
              
              //3)          
              self.addSubview(self.view)     
         }     
    
         public func tableView(_ tableView: UITableView, numberOfRowsInSection section: Int) -> Int     
         {          
              if let count = localTableData?.entryCount          
              {               
                   return count - 2          
              }          
              return 0     
         }     
    
         public func tableView(_ tableView: UITableView, cellForRowAt indexPath: IndexPath) -> UITableViewCell     
         {          
              var cell : UITableViewCell? = tableView.dequeueReusableCell(withIdentifier: cellIdentifier)          
    
              if nil == cell          
              {               
                   cell = UITableViewCell(style: .default, reuseIdentifier: cellIdentifier)          
              }          
    
              switch indexPath.row          
              {               
                   case 0:                    
                        let formatter = DateFormatter()                    
                        formatter.dateStyle = .medium                         
                        cell?.textLabel?.text = "Birthday\t: "+ formatter.string(from: (localTableData?.personDob)!)      
    
                   case 1:                    
                        cell?.textLabel?.text = "Email\t: " + localTableData.personEmail               
    
                   case 2:                    
                        cell?.textLabel?.text = "Phone\t: " + localTableData.personPhone               
    
                   case 3:                    
                        cell?.textLabel?.text = "Address\t: " + localTableData.personAddress               
    
                   case 4:                    cell?.textLabel?.text = "Company\t: " + localTableData.personCompany               
    
                   case 5:                    
                        cell?.textLabel?.text = "Gender\t: " + \(localTableData.personGender?.toString())!               
    
                   case 6:                    
                        cell?.textLabel?.text = "Height\t: \((localTableData.personHeight)!)"               
    
                   case 7:                    
                        cell?.textLabel?.text = "Weight\t: \((localTableData.personWeight)!)"               
                   default:                    
                        print("error")          
              }          
    
              cell?.textLabel?.font = UIFont.boldSystemFont(ofSize: 12.0)          
              cell?.textLabel?.setContentCompressionResistancePriority(.defaultHigh, for: .horizontal)          
              return cell!     
         }     
    
         //Inits --------------------------------------------------                    
         override public init(frame: CGRect)     
         {          
              super.init(frame: frame)          
              self.setup()     
         }     
         
         required public init?(coder aDecoder: NSCoder)     
         {          
              super.init(coder: aDecoder)          
              self.setup()     
         }     
    
         override open func layoutSubviews()     
         {          
         super.layoutSubviews()     
         }
    }
    
    /**     This extension adds the function to load data     
    - Author: Arun Patwardhan     
    - Version: 1.1
    */
    extension UIVIdentityCard
    {     
         /**          
         This function loads the data for the view          
         - important: This function does not do validation          
         - parameter newPerson: This is the object representing the person whose information will be displayed on the screen.          
         - requires: iOS 11 or later          
         - Since: iOS 11          
         - author: Arun Patwardhan          
         - copyright: Copyright (c) Amaranthine 2015          
         - version: 1.0     
         */    
         @available(iOS, introduced: 11.0, message: "load data")     
         public func load(data newPerson : PersonDetailsModel)     
         {          
              self.localTableData = newPerson          
              self.personIcon.image = localTableData.personIcon          
              self.personName.text = localTableData.personName          
              self.personDetails.reloadData()     
         }
    }
  15. Add the placeholder image for the image view.
  16. Select any of the simulators from the list.
  17. Press ⌘ + B to build the project.
  18. From the Project navigator select the Framework file.
    Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.29.44 PM
  19. Control click and select “Show in Finder”.
  20. Copy the framework to the “Desktop”.

We are done creating the reusable framework. We will not shift our focus towards testing this framework.

Using the Framework in a project

Let us now test the framework we created. We will do this by incorporating the code in our iOS App.

  1. Create a new project. Call it “IdentityCardTest”.
    Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.33.52 PM
    Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.33.49 PM
  2. Save the file in a folder of your choice.
  3. Select the Project file and Embed the Framework into your project. 
    Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.36.14 PM
  4. Add an image to your project, this will be the image that will be displayed in your custom view.
  5. Switch to the Main.storyboard file. Drag a UIView into the ViewControllers view.
  6. Set its identity to the UIVIdentityCard in the identity inspector. Also set its module to UIVIdentityCard.
    Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.38.11 PM
  7. Create an IBOutlet for this custom view.
  8. Switch to the ViewController.swift file. Import the UIVIdentityCard framework at the top of the file.
    Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.41.13 PM
  9. Add the following code to the file. We will be creating test data and displaying it on the screen using the Custom view we just designed.
    //Functions --------------------------------------------------
    /**
        This function prepares and loads the data that is to be shown in the custom view
    
    
        - important: This function does not do validation
        - requires: iOS 11 or later, the UIVIdentityCard framework.
        - Since: iOS 11
        - author: Arun Patwardhan
        - copyright: Copyright (c) Amaranthine 2015
        - version: 1.0
    */
    @available(iOS, introduced: 11.0, message: "prepares data to be shown on the ID card")
    func prepareIDCard()
    {
         let displayData : PersonDetailsModel = PersonDetailsModel(withName: "Arun Patwardhan", icon: UIImage(named: "iconHolder.png")!, birthday: Date(timeIntervalSince1970: 44_97_12_000), address: "Mumbai, Maharashtra, India", phone: "91-22-26486461", email: "arun@amaranthine.co.in", Company: "Amaranthine", height: 5.11, weight: nil, andGender: GenderType.Male)
    
         myIDCard.load(data: displayData)
    }
  10. Your completed ViewController.swift should look like this.
    Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.44.32 PM
  11. Run the project. See if the view loads the way we wish.

Link to Sample Code

https://github.com/AmaranthineTech/ReusuableUIFramework

Video

Creating Reusable UI

Migrating to Swift from Objective-C

This article explores some of the advantages and challenges faced by developers while migrating to Swift from Objective-C.

1. Do we want to migrate?

Before you start the migration process remove the old adage:

If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it!

Start by identifying the reasons why you wish to migrate. Here are some possible reasons why.

  • The code is old and not updated for a very long time. You now wish to add new features.
  • The frameworks/libraries you are using in your project have upgraded to modern Swift and no longer support your old Objective-C syntax. *You may still want to just update to modern Objective-C, but this would be a good time to jump onto swift.
  • You see potential for improvement in code size/speed/performance by using new Swift features not available in Objective-C. For example: Generic Programming.
  • The developers who developed the app in Objective-C have left and the new employees are proficient at Swift. *Again not a strong reason, but a valid reason if there is no other alternative. Asking people to sit down and learn Objective-C may not be practical, especially if they don’t have a background in C Programming.
  • The app is due for a performance, stability, & bug fix update. This is a good time to consider migration to Swift.

Factors to keep in mind before considering migration.

  • The cost of migration. This is the cost of keeping a certain number of developers occupied in migrating the code. The cost is in terms of time as well as money.
  • Potential risks. Any change to the code increases the risk of bugs. The chances of introducing limits on backward compatibility also increase.
  • Benefits gained. An assessment needs to be done as to whether there are any benefits of migrating to Swift. The Return on Investment needs to be figured out.
  • Compatibility with 3rd Party or in house libraries that you might use.

After having thought through all this you are ready for the next step: “Prepare to Migrate”

2. Preparing to Migrate

This is where you actually begin to work on the migration of the App.

  1. As a first step perform a full code review of the app.
  2. The next step is a major decision. Should you rebuild your entire app from scratch or do a piece by piece migration. We will explore the advantages a little later in the article.
  3. Look for Swift versions of 3rd frameworks/libraries you use. This is not strictly required, however, this is a good time to check for new APIs.
  4. Identify parts of the project to migrate. This is to be done if it is a piecemeal migration. This marks you as ready for the next step: “Starting the Migration”.

3. Starting the Migration

Once you have everything in place you are ready to begin.

Migrations happen class by class. Select an Objective-C class to migrate and start working on converting it to Swift.

If you have any pure C functions then you can either choose to make them work with Swift or rewrite them in Swift.

While migrating pay special attention to your code. Here are some conversions that you can make.

  • See if you can make it simpler by using Generic Programming instead of usingVoid *
  • Replace the use of NSError * with exceptions.
  • Use extensions to give types new capabilities.
  • Consider creating your own Data structures. You may use Swift Arrays, Dictionaries if you wish. But this might be a good time to improve performance by building your own data structures.
  • Embrace closures and protocols a lot more.
  • Make extensive use of the @available attribute to describe your changes and mark availability
  • Start incorporating Swift Markup to make the comments from your Objective-C code more readable.
  • Enums pulled in from Objective-C can be made more powerful in Swift by adding methods which work with enums as a part of the enum itself.
  • Use property observers to make code more reactive. In some situations this might be easier than setting observers.

Migration Steps

Here are some general steps you can follow. The steps below are for both a full app conversion or a piece meal conversion.

Note: The steps mentioned below are sample steps and not necessarily the only way to achieve this.
  1. If its a full app conversion then create a new project. Else duplicate the existing project.
  2. Start by looking for the frameworks you need and importing them in the necessary Swift files.
  3. Identify class(es) that you have in your Objective-C project. Start by creating empty versions of those in your Swift project. It is very likely that you may not need all the classes as you might be optimising or reworking your App’s architecture. Also it is possible that you may need new classes.
  4. Next identify data structures used in the class. Either convert them to their swift equivalents or explore other options.
  5. Migrate the functions directly associated with the data structures.
  6. Migrate the variables used in the Objective-C class.
  7. Lastly migrate the remaining functions to Swift.
  8. Do this till you have converted all the classes that you wish to convert.

One point left to talk about is testing. Thoroughly test you app after each step you complete. If you are using XCTests, migrate a single Unit test at a time. Corresponding to the changes that you have made above.

5. Things to watch out for

There are many things to keep in mind while migrating your code.

  • In a mixed language project (Swift and Objective-C) Swift only features won’t be supported. So Generic Programming cannot be implemented.
  • Blind copying of the code from Objective-C to Swift may not result in the best output. Try to examine each line for potential optimisation opportunities.
  • Watch out for OS version compatibility. You may have to choose your Swift version accordingly.

6. Full Conversion versus Part by Part Conversion

Full Conversion

PROS:

  • The advantage of building the app from scratch is that your overall development time is less as different parts of the app can be refactored at development time.
  • You also have the advantage of adopting new development approaches or architectures such as Model View View Model (MVVM) or Test Driven Development (TDD).
  • You are in a better position to take advantage of all the Swift features as there won’t be any challenges with compatibility.
  • The advantages of Swift viz: Speed, Safety, and compact code are more easily achieved
  • If you want to support older versions of iOS then having a pure Swift and pure Objective-C version helps.

CONS:

  • Of course this means that your development time is large.
  • There is a potential for writing duplicate code in Swift especially if it is being reused in Objective-C projects. You may end up with 2 code bases for the same feature.

Part Conversion

PROS:

  • The advantage of migrating parts of your app is that you can split the migration over a larger period and use your resources on other projects.
  • In terms of cost this is less expensive and more resource friendly
  • The potential for duplicate code is reduced

CONS:

  • But on the flip side every time you take a new part to migrate you will have to make changes to the Swift code written earlier. This increases the development time and may affect the quality of the app in the long run.
  • You cannot take advantages of all the Swift features.
  • There is a chance that once the migration is complete the App may have to undergo an overhaul to take advantage of the Swift features & improve on Speed, Safety & Size.

This article just talks about some of the advantages and challenges with Migration to Swift. There are multiple approaches available and you will have to pick and choose the approach based on your needs or situation. I had written an article some time back about choosing between Swift & Objective-C, you can have a look at that too. Here is an article, for your reference, written by Apple on Migrating to Swift. Good luck & Happy Programming! Do feel free to share your experience migrating to Swift.

 

Using Swift Package Manager

About Swift Package Manager

The Swift Package Manager is the tool used to build Applications and Libraries. it streamlines the process of managing multiple Modules & Packages. Before we go ahead and learn to use Swift Package Manager we need to get familiar with some basic terminology.

Modules

Modules are used to specify a namespace and used to control access to that particular piece of code. Everything in Swift is organised as a module. An entire app can fit into a module or an app can be made using multiple modules. The fact that we can build modules using other modules means that reusing code becomes a lot easier. So, when we make an iOS App with Xcode and Swift. The entire app is considered a single module.

Targets

Targets are the end product that we want to make. So an app for iOS is a separate target. A library is a target. An app for macOS is a separate target. You can have many targets. Some can be for testing purposes only.

Packages

Packages group the necessary source files together. A package can contain more than one target. Normally one would create a package for a family of products. For example: you want to make a photo editing app that runs on macOS & iOS. You would create one package for it. That package would have 2 targets: an iOS App & a macOS App.

Products

This is a categorisation of your packages. There are 2 types of products. Executables or Libraries. A library contains the module which can be reused elsewhere. Executables are application that run & may make use of other modules.

Dependencies

Dependencies are the modules or the pieces of code that are required to make the different targets within the package. These are normally provided as URLs.

End Products

*NOTE: Before you get started you must be familiar with Setting up Swift on Linux. If you haven’t done that then please go through the updated article: UPDATE: Swift on Linux. This also makes use of Swift Package Manager.

Example

So let us get started with an example. We are going to learn how to create:

  • a library package called ErrorTypes
  • a library package, called MathOperations, that uses the ErrorTypes library package
  • an executable package called Calc that makes use of the MathOperations package.

We will see how to create all three elements. Also I have uploaded the ErrorTypes & MathOperations packages to the http://www.github.com repository to demonstrate the use of dependencies. You can also create your own local git repositories if you wish.

To illustrate the folder hierarchy: I have created a folder called “Developer” in my Ubuntu linux home folder. Within that I have created a folder called “SPMDEMO“. All the paths that I will be using will be with reference to these folders. You should see a structure like this:

/home/admin/Developer/SPMDEMO/ErrorTypes
/home/admin/Developer/SPMDEMO/MathOperations
/home/admin/Developer/SPMDEMO/Calc

You are free to follow this exercise using your own folder locations. Just modify the paths accordingly.

swift package init
swift package init --type executable
swift build

If you need help with the commands run:

swift package --help
swift --help

Creating a Package

  1. First let us start off by creating the ErrorTypes package.
    mkdir ErrorTypes
  2. Navigate to the folder and create the package:
  3. cd ErrorTypes
    swift package init
    

    By default init will create a library package type.

  4. Navigate to the folder containing the source files:
    cd ./Sources/ErrorTypes/
  5. Open the ErrorTypes.swift file and write the following code
    public enum ErrorCodes : Error
    {
         case FileNotFound(String)
         case DivideByZero(String)
         case UnknownError(String)
    }
    
    public struct MathConstants
    {
         static let pi : Float = 3.14159
         static let e  : Float = 2.68791
    }
    

    Feel free to add some code of your own. The above is just an example.

  6. Run the command to build to make sure that there aren’t any issues. You shouldn’t have any as there are no dependencies of any kind. Its a simple straightforward piece of code.
    swift build
  7. If everything is fine check your code into a git repository. This can be local or on the web. Remember that we will need the URL to this repository.
  8. Navigate back to the SPMDEMO folder.
    cd ~/Developer/SPMDEMO/
  9. Create a folder called MathOperations.
    mkdir MathOperations
  10. Navigate to the newly created folder and run the command to create a library package.
    cd MathOperations
    swift package init
    
  11. Navigate to the sources folder:
    cd ./Sources/MathOperations/
  12. Open the MathOperations.swift file and write the following code.
    import ErrorTypes
    
    public struct MathOperations
    {
         public static func add(Number num1 : Int, with num2 : Int) -> Int
         {
              return num1 + num2
         }
    
         public static func mult(Number num1 : Int, with num2 : Int) -> Int
         {
              return num1 * num2
         }
    
         public static func div(Number num1 : Int, by num2 : Int) throws -> Int
         {
              guard num2 > 0
              else
              {
              throw ErrorCodes.DivideByZero("You are dividing by zero. The second argument is incorrect.")
              }
    
              return num1 / num2
         }
    
         public static func sub(_ num1 : Int, from num2 : Int) -> Int
         {
              return num2 - num1
         }
    }
    
  13. Before we build we need to modify the Packages.swift file to indicate there is a dependency.
    Notice that in the MathOperations.swift file we are importing a module called ErrorTypes. We just created it. But just because we created it doesn’t mean it will be added automatically. We need to pull that module into our own

    Also notice that I have provided access specifiers “public” everywhere. This ensures that the code written in one module is accessible in the other.

    Navigate to the MathOperations parent folder.

    cd ~/Developer/SPMDEMO/MathOperations/
  14. Open the Packages.swift file and make the changes as shown below:
    // swift-tools-version:4.0
    // The swift-tools-version declares the minimum version of Swift required to build this package.
    
    import PackageDescription
    
    let package = Package(name: "MathOperations",
         products: [
              // Products define the executables and libraries produced by a package, and make them visible to other packages.
              .library(name: "MathOperations", targets: ["MathOperations"]),
         ],
    
         dependencies: [
              // Dependencies declare other packages that this package depends on.
              .package(url:"https://github.com/AmaranthineTech/ErrorTypes.git", from:"1.0.0"),
         ],
    
         targets: [
              // Targets are the basic building blocks of a package. A target can define a module or a test suite.
              // Targets can depend on other targets in this package, and on products in packages which this package depends on.
              .target(name: "MathOperations", dependencies: ["ErrorTypes"]),
              .testTarget(name: "MathOperationsTests", dependencies:   ["MathOperations"]),]
    )
    
  15. Once these changes are made save the file and run the command
    swift build

    If you typed everything correctly then you should see the source code for the ErrorTypes module being pulled in and the build being successful.Here are some common mistakes:
    – Forgetting to write the import ErrorTypes statement
    – Error in the URL
    – The from tag not matching the tag in the repository
    – Access specifiers are incorrect or missing
    – Not mentioning the dependencies in the target

  16. Just like with the ErrorTypes module create a git repository for the MathOperations module.
  17. Now let us make the Calc executable that will use the MathOperations library. First navigate back to the SPMDEMO folder and create a folder called Calc.
    cd ~/Developer/SPMDEMO/
    mkdir Calc
    
  18. This time we are going to create an executable package. Run the command:
    swift package init --type executable

    This also creates a similar folder structure as in the case of the library.

  19. Navigate to the folder containing the main.swift file.
    cd ./Sources/Calc/
  20. Modify the main.swift file as shown below:
    import MathOperations
    
    //testing addition
    var result : Int = MathOperations.add(Number: 33, with: 29)
    print("Result of adding 33 with 29 is: \(result)")
    
    //testing multiplication
    result = MathOperations.mult(Number: 33, with: 29)
    print("Result of multiplying 33 with 29 is: \(result)")
    
    //testing division
    do
    {
         result = try MathOperations.div(Number: 33, by: 0)
         print("Result of dividing 33 by 29 is: \(result)")
    }
    catch let error
    {
         print("ERROR: \(error)")
    }
    
    //testing subtraction
    result = MathOperations.sub(3, from: 29)print("Result of subtracting 3 from 29 is: \(result)")
    
  21. Navigate back to the main Calc folder.
    cd ~/Developer/SPMDEMO/Calc/
  22. Modify the Packages.swift file as shown below:
    // swift-tools-version:4.0
    // The swift-tools-version declares the minimum version of Swift required to build this package.
    
    import PackageDescription
    
    let package = Package(name: "Calc",
    dependencies: [
         // Dependencies declare other packages that this package depends on.
         .package(url: "https://github.com/AmaranthineTech/MathOperations.git", from: "1.0.1"),
    ],
    targets: [
         // Targets are the basic building blocks of a package. A target can define a module or a test suite.
         // Targets can depend on other targets in this package, and on products in packages which this package depends on.
         .target(name: "Calc", dependencies: ["MathOperations"]),
    ]
    )
    
  23. Save the file and run the build command:
    swift build
  24. Like before you should see both the MathOperationsErrorType module being pulled in. We are ready to run the executable. Navigate to the debug folder which contains the executable. Make sure you are in the main Calc folder when you run this command.
    cd ./build/debug/
  25. You should see an executable file called Calc. Run it.
    ./Calc
  26. If everything went okay then you should see the output on the console.

As you can see it is pretty straightforward to develop Applications written in Swift on Linux.

Adding System Modules

In the previous example we saw how to import our own custom made modules. However, there are some modules provided by the system which offers functionality we may wish to use. For example if we wanted to use the random number generator in our application we would need to use the random() method. This is in the glib module.

  1. Quickly create a package called SystemLibs. This is an executable.
  2. Write the following code in the main.swift.
    #if os(Linux)
    import Glibc
    #else
    import Darwin.C
    #endif
    extension Int
    {
         func toString() -> String
         {
              return "\(self)"
         }
    }
    
    var luckyNumber : Int = Int(random())
    
    var luckyNumberStr : String = luckyNumber.toString()
    
    print("The lucky number is \(luckyNumberStr)")
    
  3. Build the code and run the executable.

Adding system modules is direct and simple. The glibc module contains aspects of the standard library. The condition check is to make sure that we are importing the correct module based on the system that we are developing the application on.

Handling Sub-dependencies

As we saw in the earlier example, sub dependencies are handled automatically. So when our Calc application marked the MathOperations module as a dependency it was pulled during the build. However, the MathOperations module itself marked ErrorTypes module as a dependency. We did not have to modify the Packages.swift file belonging to Calc to indicate that ErrorTypes module also needs to be pulled. This was handled automatically by Swift Package Manager.

Conclusion

In this article we have seen:

  • How to create a library package
  • How to create a library package that depends on another library package
  • How to create an executable that depends on a library package
  • How to import the system Glibc module into our executables.

The Swift Package Manager simplifies many aspects of the development process for us. Many of the things we have discussed also work on macOS. Going forward reusing code and planning for the same should be done keeping Swift Package Manager in mind.

UPDATE: Swift on Linux

This article is an UPDATE for Writing Swift Programs on Linux

This article uses Command Line Interface(CLI) to write Swift Programs. If you are new to CLI then you should read the following articles: Terminal Commands for OS X – BasicTerminal Commands for OS X – Part 2.

This article has been written using Ubuntu version 16.04 LTS

For the best part the process is still the same.

  1. Download the Swift tools for Linux from: Swift Download Page
  2. Untar the downloaded files
  3. Copy them to a folder of your choice. I have created a folder called “Developer” in my home folder. So I copied the untarred contents there. This is important because we will be needing the location later.
  4. Switch to Terminal on your Ubuntu System.
  5. First we will install clang. Run the command
    sudo apt-get install clang
  6. Next we will make sure we set the PATH to the path where we copied the Swift tools. For example if the Untarred swift folder is called “swift-4.0-DEVELOPMENT-SNAPSHOT-2017-12-04-a-ubuntu16.04/usr/bin:”${PATH}” and it is in the Developer folder I created earlier then the command would be:
    export PATH=/home/admin/Developer/swift-4.0-DEVELOPMENT-SNAPSHOT-2017-12-04-a-ubuntu16.04/

    The folder name will vary from system to system. The path above is just an example.

  7. Let us check to make sure that everything installed okay. We can do this with 2 commands:
    which swift

    This should show you the path to the folder.
    or

    swift --version

    This should print out the swift version.

  8. Next let us test the REPL. Run the command:
    swift

    This will result in a prompt that looks like:

    Welcome to Swift version 4.0.3-dev (2dedb62a0b, Clang ab7472e733, Swift 64ab6903b2). Type :help for assistance.
     1>
    
  9. Type some of the commands mentioned below:
    12 * 8
    let hello = "Welcome to Swift in Linux"
    print(hello)
    
  10. Now that we know that the REPL is working well, let us move on to the next stage. Let us quit from the REPL:
    :q

Creating Single File Projects

  1. Next let us use Swift Package Manager to create a single file project. I will be creating the project in the Developer folder. So I will navigate to it:cd ~/Developer/
  2. Create a folder of your choice, lets call it Hello World:
    HelloWorld
  3. Enter the folder:
    cd HelloWorld
  4. Create a manifest file for the Package with the command:
    swift package init

    This will create some content for you. The structure should look as shown below.Screen Shot 2018-03-27 at 10.24.02 AM

  5. If we run the command to build it will simply create a module for us. To do that type and run:
    swift build
  6. But we would like to create an executable application. In the sources folder create a file called main.swift. You can use the command:
    touch main.swift

    to quickly create a new swift file.

  7. Open the main.swift file. Write the following code in there:
    let object : HelloWorld = HelloWorld()
    print(object.text)
    print("End of program...!")
    
  8. To create the executable we will first build our code:
    swift build
  9. Now we will run the executable, assuming that you are still in the HelloWorld folder within the sources folder navigate to a hidden build folder. To do that first we will navigate to our main HelloWorld package folder.
    cd ../..
  10. To view all the folders including the hidden folders run the list command:
    ls -la
  11. Navigate to the hidden folder and the debug folder inside it to locate the executable:
    cd .build/debug/
  12. To run the executable:
    ./HelloWorld
  13. If you want to build and directly run & avoid doing steps 9-13 repeatedly the command is:
    swift run

Next we will see how to create multi file projects

Create Multi File Projects

    1. In the previous project go back to the HelloWorld folder within the Sources folder. Create a file called converter.swift:
      touch converter.swift
    2. Write the following code in that file:
      //note the code below is for demonstrating multi file projects & may not necessarily be accurate or correct
      
      //note the code below is for demonstrating multi file projects & may not necessarily be accurate or correct
      func centigrade_to_fahrenheit(temperatureInCentigrade : Float) -> Float
      {
           return ((temperatureInCentigrade*9.0/5.0)+32.0)
      }
      
      func string_to_float(input : String) -> Float
      {
           var number : Float = 0.0;
           var result : Float = 0.0
           var decimalFound : Bool = false
           var numberOfDigitsAfterDecimal : UInt8 = 0
      
           for charac in input
           {
                switch charac
                {
                     case "0":
                          number = 0.0;
                          result = (result * 10.0) + number;
                     case "1":
                          number = 1.0;
                          result = (result * 10.0) + number;
                     case "2":
                          number = 2.0;
                          result = (result * 10.0) + number;
                     case "3":
                          number = 3.0;
                          result = (result * 10.0) + number;
                     case "4":
                          number = 4.0;
                          result = (result * 10.0) + number;
                     case "5":
                          number = 5.0;
                          result = (result * 10.0) + number;
                     case "6":
                          number = 6.0;
                          result = (result * 10.0) + number;
                     case "7":
                          number = 7.0;
                          result = (result * 10.0) + number;
                     case "8":
                          number = 8.0;
                          result = (result * 10.0) + number;
                     case "9":
                          number = 9.0;
                          result = (result * 10.0) + number;
                     default:
                          decimalFound = true
                          break
                }
                if decimalFound
                {
                     numberOfDigitsAfterDecimal += 1
                }
           }
      
           for _ in 0..<numberOfDigitsAfterDecimal-1
           {
                result = result / 10.0
           }
           return result
      }

 

  1. Write the following code in the main.swift file:
    let object : HelloWorld = HelloWorld()
    if CommandLine.arguments.count != 2
    {
            print("USAGE: centigradeToFahrenheit 33.4")
            print("You are missing an argument")
    }
    else
    {
            let temperatureInCentigrade = string_to_float(input: CommandLine.arguments[1]) 
    
            print("\(temperatureInCentigrade) is equal to \(centigrade_to_fahrenheit(temperatureInCentigrade: temperatureInCentigrade))")
    }
    print(object.text)
    print("End....!")
    
  2. Build and run the code. To run it while passing arguments in:
    ./HelloWorld 33.4

So that is how you can build single file & multi file Swift applications on Linux.

Programming Style Guide: Documentation

Now we will shift our attention to that part of programming which is often ignored. Documentation.

Documentation is a key part of programming. In fact, some might go as far as saying that Documentation is the most important aspect of Programming. Let us understand what we mean by documentation by looking at some key points. Later we will look at different ways of documenting our code.

We document our code so that:

  1. Anyone who is reading our code can understand what we are trying to achieve.
  2. Anyone who wishes to make changes to our code knows where to make the changes.
  3. Anyone who issuing our code can easily find out its capabilities and limitations.
  4. Other programmers can figure out how to use our code.
  5. Developers can find out when and where changes were made to a code. This is useful to understand the evolution of our code.
  6. We can easily recollect what, why, when, where & how something was done by us. This is necessary if we are revisiting code that we have written a long time back.
  7. We can add warnings and disclaimers

There may be some other reasons why we may want to document our code, but the list above summaries the most common reasons. This can easily be seen from a simple example.

func fahr_to_cent(Centigrade temp : Float) -&amp;gt; Float
{
return (32 + (temp * 1.8))
}

It is clear to use what the function does simply from its name. However, there is a lot more information that we can provide. Let us modify the implementation a little bit to make it more informative and readable.

/**
This function takes temperature in Centigrade and converts it to Fahrenheit.
- important: This function does not do data validation
- parameter temp: This is the temperature in Centigrade. It can be a negative value too.
- returns: This is the temperature in Fahrenheit.
- requires: `temp > -273.0 && temp < 1000.0`
- Note: The requirement mentioned is not enforced.
- Since: iOS 11
- author: Arun Patwardhan
- copyright: Copyright (c) Amaranthine 2015
- version: 1.0
*/
func convert_to_fahrenheit_from(Centigrade temp : Float) -&amp;gt; Float
{
     return ((temp * 9.0 / 5.0) + 32.0)
}

The code above looks a lot better now. We made the function name better, but more importantly we have added documentation that better describes the function. This includes range of permitted values, version number, important notes. The comments haven’t been written randomly. They have been formatted in a way that will make them appear in quick help. So now if we have to use the function we know what to watch out for.

Now that we know why we need to document our code let us look at some of the ways this can be done.

Comments

The most common form of documentation is by using comments. Most programming languages support comments. Comments are text which is ignored by the compiler. As such they are not used to build the actual software. The sole reason why they exist is because there has to be some mechanism to write notes.

Single Line Comments

// This is a comment

A single line comment as the name says is a piece of text that can fit in one line.

Good when a short description is required. Normally this is placed before or after a variable as most variables would need a short description.

You can have multiple lines using the Single comment mechanism too.

// This is a comment
// This is a comment on the next line

Multi Line Comments

There is a better way to implement multi line comments. We can enclose the text in a /* */ range.

/* This is a comment
   This is a comment on the next line
   Useful when we have to write really large pieces of comments&amp;amp;amp;lt;span 				data-mce-type="bookmark" 				id="mce_SELREST_start" 				data-mce-style="overflow:hidden;line-height:0" 				style="overflow:hidden;line-height:0" 			&amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;lt;/span&amp;amp;amp;gt;
*/

Use Case

Here are some examples of when comments can or should be used.

/*
        File Name.   : main.cpp
        Date Created : 13th February 2017
        Created By   : Arun Patwardhan
        Project Name : String Parser
        File Contents:
                - Command Line Option selector
                - Different entry points for the remaining code
        Contact      : arun@amaranthine.co.in
*/

This is a classic example of a multi line comment. This comment provides useful information about the name of the file, when it was created, who created it, contact information, the code that is found in this file.

/*
    Exception Possibilities while Reading/Writing from/to Database
    write_error : This is thrown when there is duplicate data that is being
                  written into the database.
    db_empty.   : This is thrown when you attempt to read from an empty data
                  base.
                  Use the func is_empty() method.
    invalid_data: This is thrown when the data to be written is not valid.
    data_missing: This is thrown when insufficient data is passed. If the write
                  operation requires mandatory data an exception is thrown
                  instead of writing default values.
*/
enum DBExceptions : Error
{
    case write_error(String)
    case db_empty(String)
    case invalid_data(String)
    case data_missing(String)
}

This example shows the necessary documentation while declaring a new type. In short its purpose and situations when different values might be used.

Here is an example of code for functions.

@interface Converter : NSObject
/*!
    @brief This is a temperature conversion function

    @discussion This functions takes floating point values and does a floating point conversion to make sure that we get a precise conversion.

    @param temperature This is the value in centigrade that is passed in. Note, negative values can also be passed in. Values whose results exceed the range supported by float will produce un predictable results.

    @return float Returns a floating point value
*/
-(float) convert_to_fahrenheit_from_centigrade:(float) temperature;
@end

The comment gives information about different aspects of the function. Including the rage of values supported. Note that it also uses special markup to allow for the code description to show up in the Help menu bar or when you option click the method.

Comments

This is how the comments with markup look like. They appear in the ⌥ click menu as well as the help menu on the right hand side.

Read Me Files

Another thing one can do along with comments is to create Read Me files. Read Me files are plain text files that are bundled as a part of the project. Unlike comments which give information about a specific piece of code or an entire file, Read Me files give information about the entire project as a whole. Since they are text files we actually treat them as text.

Here is some typical information that is found in a Read Me file:


Project Name : String Parser
Project Request/Ticket Code: 13788
Orignal Project Author : Arun Patwardhan
Contact Details :
– arun@amaranthine.co.in
http://www.amaranthine.in

Platforms on which Application Can Run
– macOS 10.10 or later
– Windows 7 or later
– Linux (Ubuntu 14 or later)

Compiler Supported – g++

Building the Application

make

Testing

strParser -f Test1 -o myOutput1
strParser -f Test2 -o myOutput2

Files
– makefile
This is the file used to build the Application.

– main.cpp
This is the entry point file. The selection of execution path on the basis of command line options is done here.

– Parser.h
This file contains the declaration for the Parser class as well as its internal structure.

– Parser.cpp
This file contains the implementation of the Parser class

– DataStructure.h
This file contains the declaration of the internal structure of the data structure.

– DataStructure.cpp
This file contains the implementation of the internal structure of the data structure.

– Validator.h
This file contains the declaration of the internal structure of the data structure.

– Validator.cpp
This file contains the implementation of the internal structure of the data structure.

– Test1
Runs a basic set of strings as input.

– Output1
Expected output after running Test1. Compare your results with the results of this file.

Libraries Required – Standard Template Library


The above is just a sample Read Me file. In real world implementations these can get a lot bigger with references to links and future developments. Some of the other things that can be mentioned are:

  • Future additions
  • Bugs fixed (potentially with the bug fix request ticket)
  • Limitations
  • Tools that are required to make this code
  • Additional tools that need to be installed
  • Project Status

Naming Conventions

Documentation becomes a lot easier if we follow good naming conventions. Variables, functions, types, files… which are well named in itself become self explanatory and at the very least reduce the amount of documentation required.

Additional Tools Documentation in C++, Objective-C

Doxygen

HeaderDocretired You may come across some projects that use this.

Additional References for Documentation for Swift

Here is an article on Markups for Swift.

 

Adding formatted text to Swift in Xcode

Formatting in Playgrounds and Xcode projects is achieved using Markups in comments. The following article describes some of the things that you can do. Note that there are many more ways of acheiving some of the effects shown here.

The idea behind markups is to make your code more readable whether you are using Playgrounds or Xcode.

If you can only see the commented code in playgrounds and not the rendered markup then click on Editor > Show Rendered Markup to view the rendering. You can use this option to toggle back and forth.

Formatting in Playgrounds

Plain Text

There are different kinds of text you can place in a Playground. Let us look at the code below to see what all is achieved.

//: # Documentation
//: ## Contents
//: * Text Description
//: * Documentation for Functions
//: * Documentation for Types
//: * Formatting Text
//:  - Code
//:  - Italics
//:  - Bold
//: * Inserting Items
//: * Links
//: * Assets
//: * Callouts

The comments here are in the format //:.

Rendered Output

This is how the rendered output looks.

Line 1 shows how to render a Title Text. This is achieved using the # before the text.
Line 2 shows how to get a lower sized text by using ## instead of #. We can achieve more levels if we wish.

For multi line text with bullets use the *, +, – symbols. This is seen on lines 7-13.

It is also possible to create numbered lists too. Simply type the numbered list & it renders accordingly.

//: * Inserting Items
//: 1. Links
//: 2. Assets
//: 3. Callouts

This renders as:

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 11.25.27 AM

Playground Pages

It is possible to have multiple pages in Playgrounds. This way we can create a more readable experience that makes the code structured, compartmentalised and easier to understand.

To do that open a playground and then simply add a playground by clicking File > New > Playground Page.

To move from one page to the next simply write the comment.

//: [Next Topic](@next)

This will automatically place a link to jump to the next page.

Similarly you can add a link to move to the previous page.

//: [Previous](@previous)

Code block

We can even show a code block in the text. It is formatted in a different manner to tell the user that it is a code block.

//: ### Code block
/*:
Loop to print characters
````
for char in "Arun Patwardhan"
{
    print(char)
}
*/

This is how it appears:

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 11.30.45 AM

Function Help

There is also some formatting that can be done for functions, types and other pieces of code written in a playground. This also appears on the quick help of the sidebar.

We will look at how to create formatted markup for playgrounds.

/*:
## This function takes temperature in Centigrade and converts it to Fahrenheit.
- important: This function does not do data validation
*/
/*:
- Note: "Please refer to Quick Help for more information."
*/
/*:
- Callout(Custom Callout): This is how you create a custom callout ` - Callout(Custom Callout):`
*/
/*:
- Example: `convert_to_fahrenheit_from(Centigrade: 32.0)`
*/

This renders as:

Formatted Markup for Functions

Formatted Markup for Functions.

We will look at formatting the comments to appear in Quick Help in the Formatting for Xcode section.

Inserting Links

The last bit is related to inserting links. We have already seen how to insert links for moving between Playground pages.

Redirecting to URL

/*:
For more articles on Programming, see [Programming articles @ arunpatwardhan.com](https://arunpatwardhan.com/category/programming/)
*/

This renders as:

Screen Shot 2017-11-09 at 11.14.24 AM

Formatting for Xcode

Function Help

As we saw in the earlier section we can create a lot of documentation for Functions. The approach is similar to the one we used in Playgrounds. We will be using callouts to provide information. We will use some callouts for Playgrounds, however, there are many more callouts available for Xcode Symbol Documentation as compared to Playground. The main difference here is the fact that the comments begin with /** instead of /*:.

“The code shown below will work in both, regular Xcode projects as well as Playgrounds.”

/**
This function takes temperature in Centigrade and converts it to Fahrenheit.
- important: This function does not do data validation
- parameter temp: This is the temperature in Centigrade. It can be a negative value too.
- returns: This is the temperature in Fahrenheit.
- requires: `temp > -273.0 && temp < 1000.0` - Note: The requirement mentioned is not enforced. - Since: iOS 11 - author: Arun Patwardhan - copyright: Copyright (c) Amaranthine 2015 - version: 1.0 */
func convert_to_fahrenheit_from(Centigrade temp : Float) -> Float
{
    return ((temp * 9.0 / 5.0) + 32.0)
}

This renders as:

Formatted Markup for Playgrounds as well as Quick Help

Formatted Markup for Playgrounds as well as Quick Help

Note that the quick help appears in the Right hand side sidebar. That too only after you select the function.

As we can see this makes the function a lot more readable. The real advantage of Quick Help comes in the fact that the documentation is now easily accessible no matter which file we are in within the project. The also helps the developer put in the right kind of information, required for proper usage of the function, in the help section.

Note that the rendered markup for Playgrounds will only appear in Playgrounds. 

Inserting Links

Just like in the previous section where we introduced links we can add links to the symbol documentation.

/**
   For more articles on Programming [Programming articles @ arunpatwardhan.com (https://arunpatwardhan.com/category/programming/)
*/
func recursiveFunction(count : inout Int)
{
   while 0 <= count
   {
      count -= 1
      recursiveFunction(count: &count)
   }
}

This renders in Quick Help as:

Screen Shot 2017-11-09 at 11.26.53 AM

Callouts supported by Playgrounds

  • Custom Callout
  • Example

Callouts supported by Symbol Documentation

  • Attention
  • Author
  • Authors
  • Bug
  • Complexity
  • Copyright
  • Date
  • Invariant
  • Precondition
  • Postcondition
  • Remark
  • Requires
  • See Also
  • Since
  • Version
  • Warning

Callouts supported by both Playgrounds & Symbol Documentation

  • Experiment
  • Important
  • Note

Programming Style Guide – The Need for programming standards

Programming Style Guide refers to the conventions followed while writing programs. This guide is going to be a series of blogs highlighting different programming standards. The series will try to cover as many standards as possible, focus will be on common and popular standards.

But why the need for programming standards? Standards help software developers design software in such a way that it is easy to read, understand, maintain & expand. It provides a consistent experience & also speeds up the way in which software development is done.

A program written with the best standards kept in mind is self explanatory, easy to read, can be built on, & is a stable piece of software

This specific article will act as a Content list for all the articles written as a part of this series. The examples are from the Swift & C++ programming languages.

  1. Naming Conventions
  2. Code Refactoring
  3. Programming Style Guide: Documentation
  4. Programming Style Guide: Command Query Separation

 

 

Programming Style Guide: Naming Conventions

Today we are going to look at Naming conventions you can follow while writing code.

Naming conventions lay down the basic rules for naming different elements in your code. The objectives are simple:

  • Make the element easy to read
  • Should be self explanatory
  • Should contain information in a compact and concise manner.

Ideally a well named variable or function should not need a comment to explain what it is for.

With the above objectives in mind let us look at some of the naming conventions that can be followed. The examples are from the Swift & C++ programming languages.

Naming Conventions

Camel Case Names

In camel case naming convention the entire name of the element is constructed by forming a sentence joined into a single word. So for example if we have a variable for keeping track of the price of oil in US dollars then the variable name might be priceOfOilUSD.

Here are some examples of naming conventions with the camel case.

SWIFT

var priceOfOil : Float = 23.49

C++

float priceOfOil = 3.45;
class PersonInfo
{

};

Underscore Separated Names

In the underscore separated naming convention the entire name of the element is constructed by forming a sentence joined together with the help of underscores in-between them. So if we take the example of the variable keeping track of the price of oil in US dollars the the variable name might be price_of_oil_usd.

Swift

var price_of_oil : Float = 45.71

C++

float price_of_oil = 99.87;

void print_value_of_pi()
{
     //print something
}

Names with type information

A naming convention that is quite popular is the one that mixes the previous 2 naming conventions, with the underscore used to separate the type description in the prefix. So if we take the example of the variable keeping track of the price of oil in US dollars then the variable name might be f_priceOfOil or float_priceOfOil. Either of the design styles work. The prefix is popularly abbreviated and you can create your own rules for abbreviating the type description.

This style is often referred to as the Hungarian notation. The additional information that is provided as a part of the prefix can be:

  • Whether the variable is a pointer
  • Whether the variable is an object
  • The scope of the variable
  • Type size
  • Whether the data can vary or is a constant

Swift

var f_priceOfOil : Float = 0.0

C++

float f_priceOfOil = 22.3;
int *ptr_memmoryBuffer = NULL; //ptr indicates variable is a pointer

Naming Rules

There are some rules that are typically followed while designing names for variables and  functions. Like the conventions themselves the rules are not binding but they are very useful an give the added punch that naming conventions provide.

  1. Variable names always start in lower case.
  2. Type names always start in upper case.
  3. The naming conventions is consistently applied through all the projects
  4. Names should be kept as small as possible without sacrificing on the description

Naming Strategies

As far as strategies are concerned there are multiple approaches that one can follow. Here are some potential strategies.

  • Follow one naming convention for variables and another convention for functions.
  • Let constants be all upper case
  • Prefix types with your companies initials.

Summary

The above illustrate just some of the naming conventions that can be followed. By no means are they comprehensive or complete. Also it is not necessarily true that everyone follows the above naming conventions. You may find that many software development firms have their own unique naming convention. This article should give you an an idea about naming conventions. Feel free to share some naming conventions that you have come across.