App Showcase #3: FindMoreInternships by Vin Lee

As you know, from time to time, we feature apps developed by our readers, in particular for those who released their very first app. Here comes to the third app showcase. This time we talked to Vin Lee, the app developer behind FindMoreInternships, an app that provides internship information for college and high school students.

Vin will share with us how he came up with the app idea, learned to code and built the app. I encourage you to check out FindMoreInternships especially you are a student. If you’re still considering whether you should learn iOS programming, I hope Vin’s story will inspire you to kick start your app development journey.

AppCoda is Three Years Old!

Today marks quite a huge milestone for us. AppCoda is 3 years old! Time flies when you’re having fun. It’s been three years since I hit the Publish button and put out the first post on AppCoda. I started AppCoda as a side project and began to publish programming tutorials on a weekly basis. It’s a lot of fun and a rewarding experience. I really enjoyed helping people learn to code. I have learned a ton about the iOS SDK while developing the tutorials. The blog has also opened up some amazing opportunities to meet great people around the world.

The last two years has been a fantastic time of change. AppCoda is no longer a one-person blog. Gabriel and Joyce joined me as our regular tutorial writers. From time to time, we have some great developers contributing tutorials and sharing their development experience. Over the past three years, we have published more than 100 detailed programming tutorials and released three books. The blog has been visited by 2,600,000 people since its launch. This is fascinating. I never imagined it would reach so many readers all over the world.

AppCoda is three years old

We would like to say a big thank you to all of you that make our business possible. It’s so gratifying to know how many of you out there reading our tutorials to learn to code and build apps. Your feedback inspires us to grow and improve our materials. We will continue to create high quality programming tutorials (of course they are free) and develop more products to help you thrive.

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Introduction to Custom View Controller Transitions and Animations

Looking at the built in apps from Apple on your iOS device, you will notice the various animated transitions as you move from one view to another for example the way view controllers are presented in master-detail views with a swipe that slides the detail view controller over the master view controller as seen in the Messages app or Settings app and the various transitions that represent a segue to another view controller.

iOS 7 introduced custom view controller transitions which make it possible for developers to create their own animated transitions from one view controller to the next in their apps. In this tutorial, we’ll take a look at how to do this. We’ll also look at how to create gesture driven transitions called interactive transitions. To follow along, download the starter project which we’ll be using throughout the tutorial.

custom-view-transition

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Developing iBeacons Apps with Swift

Since the introduction of iBeacons with iOS 7 by Apple, a lot of things have been said and written about. iBeacon technology consist of a revolutionary way to keep track of the position of a device indoors and use location services, similarly to the GPS outdoors, and it’s based on the signal transmitted through Bluetooth (Bluetooth Low Energy specifically, or BLE) by beacon devices. iOS devices can do that also, as long as they run a proper application.

However, the most important thing is that iOS SDK allows to develop applications capable of monitoring for iBeacons, and then perform various actions, depending always on specific requirements. The use of iBeacons can be applied in a wide range of cases, especially for marketing purposes. For example, using iBeacons in retail stores targeted advertisements can be displayed on the customers’ devices once the device enters a beacon’s region, or keep track of the traffic in such stores. Actually, the example that I just described is already being used, and it can be evolved even further.

ibeacons-featured-photo

From the developer’s point of view, an iBeacon area can be monitored and handled almost like a location, therefore the meaning of regions exist in this case too. The only difference is that such a region is actually called beacon region. If you’ve ever worked in the past with location services, then you already know that the Core Location framework provides API to work with regions. With this, an app can be aware of whether and when a device enters or leaves a beacon region, how to identify and manage any found beacons and a lot more. Additionally, it’s possible for an app to track changes in the bluetooth state, so it can automatically stop monitoring for beacons and save resources when the bluetooth for some reason doesn’t operate.

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Building Action Extensions in iOS 8

Action extensions allow users to transform content originating in a host app without leaving the app. You can, for example edit images, change the text format, change the text itself, e.t.c. At WWDC 2014, Apple showed us a demo of an Action extension that translated the text of a web page to another language without leaving Safari.

Unlike the other extensions whose usage and purpose is clear, Action extensions do not have this clear-cut usage policy. For example, you can create an Action extension that shares content to social networks or one that can perform photo edits. In the Extensibility Programming Guide, Apple caution on picking the wrong extension point. In the case of Action extension, you should make sure that it’s appropriate for what you are trying to achieve and that another extension point won’t be more suitable for your purposes. In the previous given example, it would probably be more appropriate to use the share extension and the photo editing extension respectively instead of Action extensions.

ios8-action-extensions-featured

Action extensions are made available to users only when the extension specifies that it can work with the type of content the user is currently using. For example, if the extension specifies that it only works with text, it isn’t made available when the user is viewing images.

When you create a new Action extension, Xcode creates a template which when used without changing its configurations, will appear in every single action sheet by default. It won’t perform any checking of the content types to determine whether or not it’s appropriate for the host app. If you attempt to submit it like this to the App Store review, it will be rejected – you need to specify under what circumstances your extension should appear.

You can create two types of Action extensions – one with a user interface and one without. If you chose the latter, it will be limited to Safari, but if you provide a user interface, then the extension can be made available to other apps given that the extension supports the type of content to be transformed. We’ll look at both types of Action extensions.
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Announcing Intermediate iOS 8 Programming with Swift

At the time of this writing, the Swift programming language and iOS 8 have been around for more than 6 months. The new programming language has gained a lot of traction and continues to evolve. It is definitely the future programming language of iOS. If you are planning to learn a programming language this year, Swift should be on the top of your list.

I love to read cookbooks. Most of them are visually appealing with pretty and delicious photos involved. That’s what gets me hook and makes me want to try out the recipes. When I started off writing this book, the very first thing that came into my mind was why most programming books were not well designed. iOS and its apps are all beautifully crafted. But why do a majority of technical books just look like an ordinary textbook?

Intermediate Swift Programming

I believe a visually stunning book will make learning programming much more effective and easy. With that in mind, I set out to make one that looks really great and is joyful to read. That being said, it doesn’t mean I just focus on the visual elements. With over 300 pages and 30 Xcode projects, the book is written for developer with some programming experience on the Swift programming language and with an interest in developing iOS apps. The tips and solutions covered in this book will help you learn more about iOS 8 programming and empower you to build fully functional apps more quickly.

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App Showcase #2: Runr by Sam Spencer

Here comes to the second app showcase. Previously, we showed you an app created by a 17 year old developer. Since we published that story, we received emails from several young developers who also wanted to share their programming experience and app development stories. The world needs more programmers. It’s truly wonderful to see more young people learn to code and create something amazing.

In this app showcase, we talked to Sam Spencer, a 16 year old iOS developer who has released an app called Runr. The app allows you not just to track your runs, jogs and walks but save calories and distance of your runs to the Health app. Runr app is beautifully designed and has been featured by Apple in Health & Fitness “Apps For Your Run”.

runr-featured

Read on and check out Sam’s app development story.

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Xcode 6 Tips: Vector Images, Code Snippets and Many More

As a developer, no matter whether your are a professional one, or you are just doing programming for fun, it’s definite that you are going to spend endless hours in front of your monitor until your project is ready. Feeling comfortable with the programming tools you use is more than important, as they consist of your virtual workplace and everything defines the working conditions. And when I say “everything”, I mean it: From the applications that you’ll choose to use as tools, down to the last possible setting you may apply to any of them. Undoubtably, a friendly environment can boost up your performance; a less friendly, non-customizable programming tool can have the exact opposite effects, as your productivity can be dramatically reduced. For example, you may feel that you are fed up working with the same “ice-looking” tool without being able to modify its display settings, or you feel eye strain because characters are too small, or because you have to use the mouse because setting your own key combinations isn’t possible.

xcode6

So, hoping that I’ve made my point clear, let me make things more specific. As an iOS (and probably a Mac) developer, it’s quite possible that you use Xcode as your primary IDE (Integrated Development Environment) for developing your projects. I’m saying that is possible, because there are alternate applications you could use instead of Xcode. However, as most of developers use it, I’m going to stick to it. Anyway, Xcode is a powerful IDE, with numerous options and possibilities, and in its sixth version (in the time of writing) has nothing to be jealous of other IDEs. Each new version of it brings new features, making programmers’ lives easier. However, we all have to admit that Xcode is not perfect; It still has flaws, some of them quite annoying. But yet, it’s a great tool, and thankfully, Apple makes remarkable efforts to eliminate all flaws and bugs with every new update. In short, despite any flaws, Xcode is a great tool to work with.

Xcode, as any other programming tool, comes with some predefined settings. Its initial state serves the majority of the developers even from the first use, once it has been installed. With no doubts, Xcode has a great number of features, and for new developers or first-timers might look chaotic. Well, it’s a fact that not all options are for everybody. For example, if you don’t use versioning control, you’ll probably never going to use the respective feature. Or, unless you develop a really large project, you’ll probably never going to use bots for testing. But, no matter what you’re going to use or not, you must face one thing: Xcode is not made of stone, and it can be customized in many ways, so you can feel as comfortable as possible when working with it, and at the same time being extra-productive.
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Creating a Sidebar Menu Using SWRevealViewController in Swift

As promised, here is the Swift version of the slide out sidebar menu tutorial. Again we will make use of an open source library called SWRevealViewController to build the sidebar menu. Though the library was written in Objective-C, you can easily integrate it into any Swift project. You will see how easy you can access and interact with Objective-C classes using Swift.

Okay, let’s get started.

In this tutorial, I will show you how create a slide-out navigation menu similar to the one you find in the Gmail app. If you’re unfamiliar with slide out navigation menu, take a look at the figure on the right. Ken Yarmost gave a good explanation and defined it as follows:

“Slide-out navigation consists of a panel that slides out from underneath the left or the right of the main content area, revealing a vertically independent scroll view that serves as the primary navigation for the application.”

Slideout sidebar menu demo in swift

From what I know, the slide-out sidebar menu was first introduced by Facebook. Since then it quickly becomes a standard way to implement navigation menu. Nowadays, you can easily find this design pattern in most of the popular content-related apps such as Inbox, Digg, LinkedIn, etc.
The slide-out design pattern lets you build a navigation menu in your apps but without wasting the screen real estate. Normally, the navigation menu is hidden behind the front view. The menu can then be triggered by tapping a list button in the navigation bar. Once the menu is expanded and becomes visible, users can close it by using the list button or simply swiping left on the content area.

You can build the sidebar menu from the ground up. But with so many free pre-built solutions on GitHub, we’re not going to build it from scratch. Instead, we’ll make use of a library called SWRevealViewController. Developed by John Lluch, this excellent library provides a quick and easy way to put up a slide-out navigation menu in your apps. Best of all, the library is available for free.
The library was written in Objective-C. But it is very straightforward to integrate it in your Swift project. You will learn how it can be done in a minute.

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Building a Text to Speech App Using AVSpeechSynthesizer

iOS is an operating system with many possibilities, allowing to create from really simple to super-advanced applications. There are times where applications have to be multi-featured, providing elegant solutions that exceed the limits of the common places, and lead to a superb user experience. Also, there are numerous technologies one could exploit, and in this tutorial we are going to focus on one of them, which is no other than the Text to Speech.

Text-to-speech (TTS) is not something new in iOS 8. Since iOS 7 dealing with TTS has been really easy, as the code required to make an app speak is straightforward and easy to be handled. To make things more precise, iOS 7 introduced a new class named AVSpeechSynthesizer, and as you understand from its prefix it’s part of the powerful AVFoundation framework. The AVSpeechSynthesizer class, along with some other classes, can produce speech based on a given text (or multiple pieces of text), and provides the possibility to configure various properties regarding it.

text-to-speech-app

The AVSpeechSynthesizer is the responsible class for carrying out the heavy work of converting text to speech. It’s capable of initiating, pausing, stopping and continuing a speech process. However, it doesn’t interact directly with the text. There’s an intermediate class that does that job, and is called AVSpeechUtterance. An object of this class represents a piece of text that should be spoken, and to put it really simply, an utterance is actually the text that’s about to be spoken, enriched with some properties regarding the final output. The most important of those properties that the AVSpeechUtterance class handles (besides the text) are the speech rate, pitch and volume. There are a few more, but we’ll see them in a while. Also, an utterance object defines the voice that will be used for speaking. A voice is an object of the AVSpeechSynthesisVoice class. It always matches to a specific language, and up to now Apple supports 37 different voices, meaning voices for 37 different locales (we’ll talk about that later).

Once an utterance object has been properly configured, it’s passed to a speech synthesizer object so the system starts producing the speech. To speak many pieces of text, meaning many utterances, doesn’t require any effort at all; all it takes is to set the utterances to the synthesizer in the order that should be spoken, and the synthesizer automatically queues them.

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