Creating Simple Animations with Facebook’s Pop Framework

Editor’s note: When Facebook released its Paper app, it generated a lot of buzz in the app world. If you’ve used Paper before, the visual news feed reader, you should be amazed by its beautiful and fluid user interface. The design and attention to detail on the app is unmatched. The app refrains from using buttons and menus, but was built to be gesture-driven, to a degree that was uncommonly found in iOS apps at the time of its release. It went beyond Core Animation. The team has built its own animation engine to support all the smooth animations and coordinate animations with touch inputs. When I first tried out the app, I was wondering how some of the animations were implemented. Honestly I didn’t know how. A couple months later, the company open-sourced Pop, the animation engine behind its iOS Paper app. As a Facebook’s engineer described, Pop drives the scrolling, bouncing, and unfolding effects that bring Paper to life. Thanks to Facebook team. With the Pop framework, this means you can create similar animations that were found on Paper in your own apps.

The Pop framework was first released in late April, 2014. So far we haven’t written any tutorials about the framework. Thanks to Hossam who is kind enough to share with us an introduction of POP and show us how to create a few simple animations.

Enter the Pop tutorial.

pop-animations

In this tutorial, we will talk about Facebook POP framework to make great and easy animations in your own iOS apps. Like any other tutorials on AppCoda, I will help you understand and master Pop by examples. We will create four simple animations together to explore the framework.

Pop is an extensible animation engine for both iOS and OS X. In addition to basic animations including Linear, Ease-In, Ease-Out, Ease-In-Ease-Out animations, it supports spring (at the time of its release, spring animation was not supported in iOS), decay and custom animations:

  • Spring – dynamic animation that creates a nice bouncing effect.
  • Decay – dynamic animation that brings a movement to a smooth halt.
  • Custom – because the engine is designed to be extensible, you can create your own custom animations.

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Creating Interactive Local Notifications in iOS 8

Notifications are the way of an application to communicate with users, especially when it’s not running in the foreground. A notification, as its name implies, is used to *notify* a user either about an event, or just to remind something important. In fact, notifications are extremely useful in reminding applications, but they’re also quite handy in a number of other cases. For example, a notification can be shown when a user enters a predefined region (that’s new in iOS 8), when a download is complete, or when a friend has sent a message to a chat application. No matter what, the purpose of notifications is to pull the users’ attention, so they act on the message they see.

From the programming point of view, notifications consist of a quite standard aspect that can be easily implemented into an application. As there’s no much room for improvisation, developers almost always follow a predefined path to add notification features in their applications. That is to specify the details of the notification that will be delivered by the system, to handle the app launching due to a notification, and finally, starting from iOS 8, to handle any actions that have been set regarding them. The per application logic is the only thing that gets changed.

ios8-local-notification

Up to iOS 8 there were essentially two kinds of notifications:

  1. Local notifications: These are notifications specified by the developer and are triggered by the app itself. The exact time that they’ll appear is always scheduled.
  2. Remote notifications: In this case, the notifications can be split in two subcategories: (a) The push notifications, which are initiated into a web server, then go through the Apple Push Notification servers and finally they’re shown to users at the moment they arrive to the device. (b) The silent notifications, which are actually push notifications, but they’re not shown to the user straight away. Instead, they’re handled internally by the application in order to perform a task, and when everything is ready, a local notification is scheduled to inform the user.

Apart from the above, iOS 8 introduces the location notifications. These are actually local notifications, but they’re fired only when a user enters or exits a specific geographical or iBeacon region. Even though we won’t see much details, they’re easy to be implemented.

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Building a QR Code Reader in Swift

So, what’s QR code? I believe most of you know what a QR code is. In case you haven’t heard of it, just take a look at the image below. That’s QR code.

QR (short for Quick Response) code is a kind of 2-dimensional bar code developed by Denso. Originally designed for tracking parts in manufacturing, QR code has gained popularity in consumer space in recent years as a way to encode URL of a landing page or marketing information. Unlike the basic barcode that you’re familiar with, QR code contains information in both horizontal and vertical direction. Thus this contributes to its capability of storing larger amount of data in both numeric and letter form. Here I don’t want to go into the technical details of QR code. If you’re interested, you can check out the official website of QR code to learn more.

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In recent years, the use of QR code has been on the rise. It appears in magazines, newspapers, advertisement, billboards and even name cards. As an iOS developer, you may wonder how to empower your app to read QR code. Some time earlier, Gabriel wrote a great tutorial on QR code. In this tutorial, we will build a similar QR code reader app but in Swift. After going through the tutorial, you will understand how to use the AVFoundation framework to discover and read QR code in real-time.

Let’s get started.

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Working with iOS 8 Handoff Part 2: Using Continuation Streams

In my last tutorial we met for first time the Handoff capability that was introduced in iOS 8.0. With it, an activity that is started in one iOS device can be continued to another from the point that was left off. Also, an activity can be continued on a Mac too, as long as the operating system is the version 10.10 (Yosemite) and a respective application exists. Obviously, it is a nice new feature that developers can take advantage of in order to create cool applications based on an entirely new philosophy.

Through the demo application of the previous post we managed to see the basics of the Handoff: How it’s integrated into an application, how a user activity is defined and how it can be continued to another device. In this tutorial we’ll extend that application and we will learn a bit more advanced techniques which can become handy in several cases. If you haven’t read the previous tutorial regarding Handoff, then I encourage you to read it first so it’s easier for you to follow here. Before you proceed make sure that you’ve perfectly understood what the prerequisites of the Handoff are, and what a user activity is, as it consists of the base of the Handoff and everything else regarding it.

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A user activity object contains various useful properties, such as the user activity type which uniquely identifies an activity, and a user info dictionary, which contains the data that should be handed off. The most important data is transferred with this dictionary from device to device. However it’s not possible to transfer a lot of data to another device using this dictionary, and to be precise, Apple recommends to send data that it’s less than 3KB in size. In most cases this limit is more than enough, but a question arises here: How is it possible to send more data if needed so? The answer lies to the use of streams, which in the case of Handoff are called continuation streams, and this is exactly the topic of this tutorial.
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Working with Handoff in iOS 8

I am going to start this tutorial with the following wonderful scenario: Imagine that you are working with an application in your Mac, and then you decide to continue in your iPad while lying on your couch in your living room. After a while, you’re leaving home, but you keep working on the same application in your iPhone. Simply put, you keep doing what you do, no matter where you are. Wouldn’t be something like that really cool? Well, now that’s feasible! How?

iOS 8 introduces a brand new capability named Handoff. What it does is simple; it allows us to start working with an app on an iOS device, and continue to another one, assuming that all devices run the latest version of the operating system. It is also supported by the new Mac OS named Yosemite.

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The basic idea behind Handoff is that whatever a user does to an app consists of an activity, and such an activity can be associated with a specific user in more than one device. Programmatically, the class representing an activity is called NSUserActivity, and we’ll work a lot with it. Also, all devices must be physically near so the Handoff can work. Further than that, there are two prerequisites: The first is that a valid iCloud account is needed, and users should be logged in to every device that’s about to be used. Actually, by using the same iCloud account to all devices if possible for user activities to be continued uninterrupted when switching between them (devices) and to be associated with the same user. The second prerequisite is useful in the case where two or more different apps must be able to hand off and continue the same user activities. In this case the apps must be signed with the same team identifier (Team ID) in Xcode.

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Understanding Photo Editing Extensions in iOS 8

The Photo Editing Extension allows a user to edit a photo or video within the Photo app using third party apps. Previously users had to take a picture with the Camera app and then switch to the photo editing app to make edits, or they had to import pictures from their Camera Roll. Now, this app switching can be eliminated, enabling users to edit their photos and images without leaving the Photos app. After editing is done and the user confirms the changes made in a Photo Editing extension, the adjusted content is available in Photos. The original version of the content is kept so that the user can revert the changes made in an extension.

We are going to look at how to create a Photo Editing Extension. So as to concentrate on creating the extension and not a full app from scratch, I have created a starter project that you can download so as to follow along.

Photo Editing Extension

The project is of a simple application that detects faces in an image and pixellates the faces. If no faces are detected, the image will not be changed. This app will be the container app of our extension. Extensions have to be shipped as part of a containing app. You cannot have a stand-alone extension. For more on this and for a deeper explanation on how extensions work, you can read through the introduction of a previous article we did on the Today extension.

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Working with Localization in iOS 8 and Xcode 6

One of the greatest concerns of all developers is whether their applications will be accepted and used by a big audience. It’s a fact that the bigger that audience is, the more sales or downloads will be achieved, resulting to applications that sit at the top of the rankings and of course, applications that make a better profit. There are many factors that take part to the success of an application. Undoubtably, the most important one is the implemented features in it, but not only. Another factor that matters a lot, is whether an app is localized or not. A localized application will definitely meet a greater acceptance by the users who natively speak other languages, as it will be looking much more friendly and accessible than an application with the same features that supports just one localization, i.e. in English.

Deepening a bit more to what I just said, think that a French, a Greek, or a Chinese user won’t download easily an application that isn’t translated and localized to his language, unless there are great features in it. Many developers believe that by creating an app to a well known language that is spoken or learnt by the biggest part of the population, such as English, and by providing it worldwide, there is no need to do any localization, as the potentials users are too many, so it’s not a big deal to “lose” some of them because of the language. However that’s a wrong way to think. Making an application available to as many languages as possible, will result to a better user experience, while at the same time it will maximize the resonance by the users.

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Localization is strongly related to another term, the internationalization. According to Apple:

Localization is the process of translating your app into multiple languages. But before you can localize your app, you internationalize it.

And:

Internationalization is the process of making your app able to adapt to different languages, regions, and cultures
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Creating a Custom Keyboard Using iOS 8 App Extension

Prior to iOS 8, developers could provide custom keyboards or supplement the system keyboard with custom keys within only their application. With iOS 8, Apple has made it possible to create custom keyboards that will be able to be used system wide in other apps. You can now ship a custom keyboard with your app and users will be able to choose it as the keyboard to use for every app that requires text input.

To create a successful keyboard that users are more likely to keep on using, you have to meet some of the expectations that they have for what a keyboard should do. Since they will have been using the system keyboard for a long time, it is a good place to look at when deducing what your keyboard design and functionality should be.

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The system keyboard is fast, responsive and capable. It doesn’t interrupt the user with requests or information. Users have come to expect the following features from their keyboard. These are not requirements for creating custom keyboards, but just examples of what you could include in your keyboard to increase the chances of it being popular in a competitive market.

  • Auto suggestion and auto correction
  • Inserting period upon double space
  • Caps lock support
  • Keycap artwork
  • Multistage input for ideographic languages
  • Appropriate layout and features based on keyboard type trait for example presenting appropriate keys for easy email input when the user switches to an email field.

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Creating Hello World App in Swift Using Xcode 6

The Hello World tutorial was the first programming article written for our iOS programming course. As Apple released Xcode 6, the tutorial is no longer up-to-date. We received quite a lot of emails about the tutorial update. So here you are. Instead rewriting the same tutorial in Objective-C, we’ll show you how to create the Hello World app in Swift. What’s more, we create a screencast for you.

If this is the first time you come across the tutorial, you may wonder why we teach you building a Hello World app. This programming tutorial is written for absolute beginners. We want to encourage you to learn programming. So the first app should be very simple. Despite its simplicity, the “Hello World” app serves a few purposes:

  • It gives you an overview about the syntax and structure of Swift, the new programming language of iOS.
  • It also gives you a basic introduction to the Xcode 6 environment. You’ll learn how to create a Xcode project and lay out your user interface using Storyboard. Even if you’ve used Xcode 5 before, you’ll learn what’s new in the latest version of Xcode.
  • You’ll learn how to compile a program, build the app and test it using the Simulator.
  • Lastly, it makes you think programming is not difficult. I don’t want to scare you away from learning programming. It’ll be fun.

You’ll need to use Xcode 6 (or up) to work on the Hello World project. If you haven’t upgraded to Xcode 6, just download it via this direct iTunes link.

Okay, let’s get started.
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Introduction to iOS 8 App Extension: Creating a Today Widget

In iOS 8, Apple introduced app extensions which let you extend functionality beyond your app and make it available to users from other parts of the system like in other apps or from the Notification Center. iOS defines different types of extensions, each tied to an area of the system such as the keyboard, Notification Center, e.t.c. A system area that supports extensions is called an extension point. Below is a list of the extension points in iOS.

  • Today – Shows brief information and can allow performing of quick tasks in the Today view of Notification Center
  • Share – Share content with others or post to a sharing website
  • Action – Manipulate content in a host app
  • Photo Editing – Edit photos or videos within the Photos app
  • Document Provider – Provide access to and manage a repository of files
  • Custom Keyboard – Provide a custom keyboard to replace the iOS system keyboard
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We will cover all these extension points in this and subsequent tutorials. With this article, we will focus on the Today Extension.
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