Hello World! Build Your First iPhone App

Update: This tutorial only works for Xcode 4.6 or lower. If you’ve upgraded to Xcode 5, please check out the updated Hello World tutorial. We also published a new screencast to walk you through the process and updated the tutorial for Xcode 6..

I hope you have configured your development environment properly with Xcode installed. If you haven’t done so, check out our previous article about what you need to begin iOS programming. We’ll use Xcode 4.3.2 to work on the tutorial. However, you can also Xcode 4.2 to build the app in case you can’t upgrade to the latest version of Xcode.

You may have heard of “Hello World” program if you have read any programming book before. It has become the traditional program for first-time learner to create. It’s a very simple program that usually outputs “Hello, World” on the display of a device. In this tutorial, let’s follow the programming tradition and create a “Hello World” app using Xcode. Despite its simplicity, the “Hello World” program serves a few purposes:

  • It gives you a better idea about the syntax and structure of Objective C, the programming language of iOS.
  • It also gives you a basic introduction of the Xcode environment. You’ll learn how to create a Xcode project and create user interface with the built-in interface builder.
  • 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. 🙂

Take a Look at Your First App

Before we go into the coding part, let’s first take a look at our version of the “Hello World” app. The final deliverable will look like this:

Hello World Deliverable

Your First iPhone App – Hello World

It’s very simple and shows only a “Hello World” button. When tapped, the app prompts you a message. That’s it. Nothing complex but it helps you kick off your iOS programming journey.

Start Coding!

First, launch Xcode. If you’ve installed Xcode via Mac App Store, you should be able to locate Xcode in the LaunchPad. Just click on the Xcode icon to start it up.

Xcode Folder

Once launched, Xcode displays a welcome dialog. From here, choose “Create a new Xcode project” to start a new project:

Xcode - Welcome Dialog

Xcode – Welcome Dialog

Xcode shows you various project template for selection. For your first app, choose “Single View Application” and click “Next”.

Choose Xcode Template

Xcode Project Template Selection

This brings you to another screen to fill in all the necessary options for your project.

Xcode Project Options

Project Options for Hello World App

You can simply fill in the options as follows:

  • Product Name: HelloWorld – This is the name of your app.
  • Company Identifier: com.appcoda – It’s actually the domain name written the other way round. If you have a domain, you can use your own domain name. Otherwise, you may use mine or just fill in “edu.self”.
  • Class Prefix: HelloWorld – Xcode uses the class prefix to name the class automatically. In future, you may choose your own prefix or even leave it blank. But for this tutorial, let’s keep it simple and use “HelloWorld”.
  • Device Family: iPhone – Just use “iPhone” for this project.
  • Use Storyboards: [unchecked] – Do not select this option. You do not need Storyboards for this simple project.
  • Use Automatic Reference Counting: [checked] – By default, this should be enabled. Just leave it as it is.
  • Include Unit Tests: [unchecked] – Leave this box unchecked. For now, you do not need the unit test class.

Click “Next” to continue. Xcode then asks you where you saves the “Hello World” project. Pick any folder (e.g. Desktop) on your Mac. You may notice there is an option for Source Control. Just deselect it. We’ll discuss about this option in the later tutorials. Click “Create” to continue.

Select Xcode Project Folder

Pick a Folder to Save Your Project

As you confirm, Xcode automatically creates the “Hello World” project based on all the options you provided. The screen will look like this:

Main Xcode Window for Hello World Project

Main Xcode Window for Hello World Project

Familiarize with Xcode Workspace

Before we move on to code your app, let’s take a few minutes to have a quick look at the Xcode workspace environment. On the left pane, it’s the project navigator. You can find all your files under this area.

Xcode Project Navigator

Project Navigator in Workspace

The center part of the workspace is the editor area. You do all the editing stuffs (such as edit project setting, class file, user interface, etc) in this area depending on the type of file selected.

Xcode Editor Utility Area

Editor and Utility Area in Xcode

The rightmost pane is the utility area. This area displays the properties of the file and allows you to access Quick Help. If Xcode doesn’t show this area, you can select the rightmost view button in the toolbar to enable it.

Lastly, it’s the toolbar. It provides various functions for you to run your app, switch editor and the view of the workspace.

Xcode Toolbar

Toolbar in Workspace

Run Your App for the First Time

Even you haven’t written any code, you can run your app to try out the Simulator. This gives an idea how you build and test your app in Xcode. Simply hit the “Run” button in the toolbar.

Xcode Run Button

Run Button in Xcode

Xcode automatically builds the app and runs it in the Simulator. This is how the Simulator looks like:

Run Hello World First Time

The Simulator

A gray screen with nothing inside?! That’s normal. As your app is incomplete, the Simulator just shows a blank screen. To terminate the app, simply hit the “Stop” button in the toolbar.

Xcode Stop Button

Terminate the Running App

Back to Code

Okay, let’s move on and start to add the Hello World button to our app. Go back to the Project Navigator and select “HelloWorldViewController.xib”.

Hello World XIB File

Select HelloWorld XIB File

As you select the file, the editor changes to an Interface Builder and displays an empty view of your app like below:

Hello World Interface Builder

Interface Builder in Xcode

In the lower part of the utility area, it shows the Object library. From here, you can choose any of the UI Controls, drag-and-drop it into the view. For the Hello World app, let’s pick the “Round Rect Button” and drag it into the view. Try to place the button at the center of the view.

Hello World Drag Rect Button

Drag the Round Rect Button to the View

To edit the label of the button, double-click it and name it “Hello World”.

Edit Hello World Button

Try to run the app again and you should have an app like this:

Run Hello World with Button

Now Hello World with a Button

For now, if you tap the button, it does nothing. We’ll need to add the code for displaying the “Hello, World” message.

Coding the Hello World Button

In the Project Navigator, select the “HelloWorldViewController.h”. The editor area now displays the source code of the selected file. Add the following line of code before the “@end” line:

Your code should look like this after editing:

HelloWorldViewController Show Message

Next, select the “HelloWordViewController.m” and insert the following code before the “@end” line:

After editing, your code should look like below:

Source Code of HelloWorldViewController

Source Code of HelloWorldViewController After Editing

Forget about the meaning of the above Objective-C code. I’ll explain to you in the next post. For now, just think of “showMessage” as an action and this action instructs iOS to display a “Hello World” message on screen.

Connecting Hello World Button with the Action

But here is the question:

How can the “Hello World” button know which action to invoke when someone taps on it?

Next up, you’ll need to establish a connection between the “Hello World” button and the “showMessage” action you’ve just added. Select the “HelloWorldViewController.xib” file to go back to the Interface Builder. Press and hold the Control key on your keyboard, click the “Hello World” button and drag to the “File’s Owner”. Your screen should look like this:

Hello World Button File Owner Connection

Release both buttons and a pop-up shows the “showMessage” action. Select it to make a connection between the button and “showMessage” action.

Send Event Pop-up from File's Owner

Send Event Pop-up from File's Owner

Test Your App

That’s it! You’re now ready to test your first app. Just hit the “Run” button. If everything is correct, your app should run properly in the Simulator.

Hello World App

Hello World App

Congratulation! You’ve built your first iPhone app. It’s a simple app however, I believe you already have a better idea about Xcode and how an app is developed.

In the next post, I’ll further explain the Objective-C code we’ve done here and how the HelloWorld app actually works. Stay tuned.

As always, if you come across any problem while creating your app, head over to our AppCoda Community forum and post your question.

Update: You can download the Xcode project here.

Building an RSS Reader Using UISplitViewController and UIPopoverViewController
A Beginner’s Guide to Access Levels in Swift
Parse Migration: How to Setup and Deploy Parse Server on Heroku or AWS
  • SimonZA


    Author Reply

    Great start!

    First tutorial was fun! I hope next time we learn a little more about the difference between the ‘.m’ and ‘.h’ files, etc.

    But great work Simon! Look forward to the next one.:)

    • Simon Ng

      Simon NgSimon Ng

      Author Reply

      Thanks for your comment! In the upcoming post, I’ll definitely explain the difference between the .m and .h files.

    • Simon Ng

      Simon NgSimon Ng

      Author Reply

      The 2nd tutorial about iOS programming basic is now available. In the tutorial, you’ll find my explanation about the difference between the .m and .h files. Check it out and let me know if it gives you a better idea.

  • Randall


    Author Reply

    That was very cool, and shall I say quite a “painless” introduction.

    I’m looking forward to the next lesson!


  • Daniel


    Author Reply

    Awesome! Tks! Looking forward for the next!

  • Paulo


    Author Reply

    Never knew this could be so simple!

  • Vijay


    Author Reply

    Crisp and made simple…Thanks Simon! Eagerly waiting for the next tutorial..

  • William


    Author Reply

    This was a great tutorial, thank you Simon! I’m really looking forward to the next one.

  • Tom


    Author Reply

    Great start, looking forward to the upcoming tutorials! Especially learning the difference between all the different files!


  • DarkxFuneral

    Great start. thanks.!

  • Vince


    Author Reply

    A concise one suitable for all.
    Eager to know more about the concept of File’s Owner, Responder etc in the next tutorials.

    • Simon Ng

      Simon NgSimon Ng

      Author Reply

      Thanks for your comment! I’ll cover more about responder and file’s owner in later tutorial. At the mean time, you can refer to this tutorial that the event flow and how the Hello World app actually works.

  • D


    Author Reply

    Best tutorial I’ve found. One caveat seems to be if you run xcode as root on MacOSX 10.7.3, the simulator doesn’t work right (took awhile to figure that out).

    • Simon Ng

      Simon NgSimon Ng

      Author Reply

      Great to hear your feedback!

  • Parvesh


    Author Reply

    Hi, thanks for the tutorial. Looking to get started with ios programming.
    I did some basic programming on python at school, and i have some java programming knowledge. Can you tell me if its enough or do i need to know C ?

    • Simon Ng

      Simon NgSimon Ng

      Author Reply

      As you already have some programming experience (and I believe you also know about OOP), it’s not too difficult to pick up iOS programming. Yes, you need to learn C. For iOS programming, you’ll use Objective-C to create your app.

      Don’t just read book about Objective-C. My suggestion is to take action, get your hands dirty and try to build some simple apps. It’ll be more fun.

  • davidchen


    Author Reply

    Great ….thanks for the tutorial.

  • surabhi


    Author Reply

    Very nice tutorial. Thank you!!!

  • eric


    Author Reply

    nice post….
    One of the very nice website from where you can get iOS material and source code “”.

  • champcar2000

    Thanks for your tutorials!

    In the source code, it automatically has ‘Created by’ followed by my name, and ‘Copyright’ by ‘__MyCompanyName__’.

    Where does Xcode get the values for these, so that I can change them? Thanks in advance.

    • Simon Ng

      Simon NgSimon Ng

      Author Reply

      You simply edit your contact in address book to change the company name. Alternatively, select the project in Xcode, select “File Inspector” in Utility pane. Change the organization name under Project Document section.

  • Tommy Crush

    Great tutorial! Thanks!

  • Vladimir


    Author Reply

    Great tutorial!!! Thank you! 🙂

  • Erin


    Author Reply

    Great tutorial thank you

  • l073x


    Author Reply

    tanks for tut great job …good luck

  • Meganewbie


    Author Reply

    Did this tutorial stop working on xcode 4.5? =/

  • Vinoth sivanandam

    how to works all functions in ios like application did finish launch in with options and what work done by delegates, responder and uiviewcontroller

  • James Cozzi

    I keep getting errors for [helloWorldAlert show]; any ideas?

  • daniel Jackson

    Super piece of information about app development. surely its useful for the mobile app beginners. Surely they will use in their 1st app development processes. If you in need of any development of any platform visit

  • Htun Lin Aung

    I want to show data from SQL server 2008 database on app. It can be done or not? If it can, pls show me how to do it.

  • holmes


    Author Reply

    Hello,when I try the first code,I had a misstake in my progamming like the pic show,please give me a hand.thank you.

    • Simon Ng

      Simon NgSimon Ng

      Author Reply

      I’ve just uploaded the Xcode project for your reference. You can download it and compare it with yours.

    • George


      Author Reply

      Is this code in your .h, or .m file?

    • Cyrus


      Author Reply

      Maybe “Message” should be replaced by “message”

  • weblancer23

    I followed all the steps shown but it is still not working. Is there anything that I need to configure first before running the program that is not shown here. Thanks!

  • Justin Thomson

    It’s one of well written source! The whole concept is truly solid about how to make our first iPhone app. The massive look of this post is authentically knowledgeable and promising for the beginners. It’s completely amazing and worthy experienced info for the newcomers in the field of iPhone app development. I am also one of iphone app developer and I bookmarked this site to getting better help.

  • Jeremy


    Author Reply

    Hello! Cool tutorial! Should the same code do the same thing on the iPad simulator?

  • bucksnort2


    Author Reply

    I have a newer version of Xcode and I cannot figure out how to connect the button to the code to display the message.

    also, in my code, it says that the
    – (IBAction)showMessage

    is missing a semicolon at the end, even though I have the stuff in the brackets copied down verbatim.
    I have no Idea what is wrong, please help

  • Untitled


    Author Reply

    Great tutorial to get your feet wet with Xcode. Thanks!

  • Prabodha Dissanayake

    nice post bro this help me to step in to iOS world

  • Jason


    Author Reply

    Any chance you’ll be updating this tutorial for Xcode 5? Seems like there are some pretty significant changes between Xcode 4 and 5. I sure would love to see your Xcode 5 steps so I can follow along.

  • Internet Surface

    I’ve started this tutorial series and they’re great! Thank you for publishing this fantastic courses.

  • Sanjeev Anand

    thanks you very much…. this explanation make me easy to learn …..

  • yeah dude

    yeah dudeyeah dude

    Author Reply

    Nice work. Does the UIAlertView have to be so complicated with titles and such??? Was it not possible to just make it simple and display the text only?? forget including anything about titles and delegate?? and such whatever???

  • BichaDoDemonio

    Hi, i have the same problem that holmes, it shows that error message, what can i do?? All the youtube videos show about labels, but i like it more like this, the message box!!

  • Gul


    Author Reply

    Hello, I saw the same problem, and compared, the code is exactly the same but mine doesn’t do anything when I click the button. I do not see any errors in the code..
    when I downloaded your code, it works… I am not sure what may be the problem because my code matches yours…

  • Lilzee


    Author Reply

    How come I don’t have “helloworldviewcontroller.xib” ? On the left of the window?

  • Mister_Vicious

    As some others have noted, Xcode 5 appears to be much different. We don’t have the three checkbox options (use storyboards, use automatic reference counting, include unit tests). I’ve done some scouring of the web and it seems that storyboards are on by default in Xcode 5. Because of this we don’t see the “helloworldviewcontroller.xib” file. So we’re pretty much stuck in the beginning of the tutorial. Is there a workaround to this? Everything I’ve searched so far includes some pretty complex and over my head things that I’m not even sure pertain to the issue.

  • josephcruise101

    really good explanation… i want to add one tip.. if you are not good at coding.. android app development will be really tough for you.. For non technical persons they can use app creator for building an iphone app..

  • alina thomas

    Developing iPhone applications is something that almost everyone wants to be able to do nowadays. Something that is typically the first app that you create when learning a new development terminology. I assume you’ve hit on the
    most essential aspect which is really helpful to the beginner and the expert’s developers.I wish I would have discovered this previously would have save my time while exploring all this things.

    iphone app development Melbourne

  • jenny


    Author Reply

    Simon can u send me the link to download xcode… i m unable to download it from apple official website

  • orit


    Author Reply

    we work on Xcode 6.0, and things are different and we can’t run the project properly. Any one can help us?

  • Dana Cunningham

    Check out how Lehigh University students created a web app for the 150th Rivalry game! Everything is their orignial ideas, code, illustrations, and graphics.

  • Anon


    Author Reply

    Hey, the login for AppCoda Screencasts is below:

    Login: swiftbook
    Password: LearnSwift2014)()(

  • Trần Ngọc Khánh

    This is my hello world app, its is amazing to learn code ios. 🙂

  • Baymediasoft

    I enjoyed your article richly expanded but still wrapped as one topic. I would like to follow more of your future articles. I really enjoyed this one.

  • Kathy Johnson

    What an amazingly written post… The in-depth research about Build Your First iPhone App is really impressive and worth reading!
    Keep up the awesome work of sharing information so comprehensively.

  • Sonal Mehta

    Hi Simon Thanks for sharing such great introduction about ios app development guideline.