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Best Tools for Developing Mobile Apps

So, you’ve decided to develop a mobile app. Congratulations! You couldn’t have picked a better time, since today developing mobile applications is easier than ever! Yes, this sounds like an infomercial. But really, with so many useful app development tools, creating a mobile application has become much easier and quicker, regardless of the platform. Native IDEs are improving with each new release, cross-platform app development tools become more elaborate, not to mention the text editors galore. Let’s look at the best tools to use when developing mobile apps.

Design and Prototyping

I know you’re dying to code, but hold your horses. First the app needs modeling to see the big picture and simply have a plan. You can either resort to lightweight sketching or profound prototyping. There are a lot to choose from.

Marvel App is a browser-based prototyping tool that is very simple to use – perfect for beginners. It has little image editing capabilities but lots of ready templates for different devices. However, with the ease of use comes limited functionality.

If you’re starting the prototype, Fluid UI offers built-in image libraries, more than 2000 wireframe UI widgets and claims to get your prototype running in 15 minutes.

If you seek more advanced prototyping tools, there’s Axure RP. It is great for wireframing and rapid prototyping, though more complex than the two mentioned above.

Framer.js is pure hardcore for the geek in you. Forget drag-and-drop – this tool is genuine coding. Framer.js promises simple syntax, preloaded actions and autocomplete commands to create prototypes quickly.

Development

Ah, yes, the sweet sensation of writing code… Depending on your project constraints, you can choose to write either a cross-platform app or a native one.

Cross-platform App Development

There are plenty of cross-platform solutions to choose from. If you’re on a tight budget, have a strict timeline and only web developers available, PhoneGap is your One Ring. With PhoneGap, you’ll basically get a web app that runs in the WebView with device serving as the server (pun intended). This makes all applications across different mobile platforms look similar. You’ll also get plenty of plugins to work with the device’s accelerometer, camera, contacts and more.

If you have more money to invest in development and fancy good support, then Appcelerator or Sencha will be right for your case. With Appcelerator you’ll get an IDE, an SDK and a mobile back end. It also reuses up to 90% of code across device platforms, which is pretty awesome. Sencha comes in three frameworks. If you’re a front-end developer who has previously worked with the Ext JS framework, choose Sencha Ext JS. If you haven’t – Sencha Touch is for you. And if you know Java, Sencha GXT is your call. Either way you’ll get a neat cross-platform app built from a single codebase.

And of course having a team of C# developers gives you the key to using Xamarin to develop your mobile app. The tool offers native UI elements, performance testing, native API access and many more.

Native App Development

Native apps offer many advantages. After all, their IDEs were created specifically for each platform, and the developed apps look and feel, well, native.

Android Studio, the official IDE from Google, allows building apps for all devices running on the Android OS: phones, tablets, smartwatches, Android TV, etc. Based on IntelliJ IDEA, Android Studio is free to use, regardless of the project scale and the number of team members. What you’ll need for sure is Java and maybe C++ knowledge.

Xcode IDE is your only option for native iOS app development, including Apple Watch and Apple’s OS X. Thanks to the Model-View-Controller pattern offered by Xcode, the code is easy to maintain. Up until 2014 you could only use Objective-C for iOS app development, but now you can also use Swift for that – an Apple original language designed specifically to build iOS products. It is easier to learn than Objective-C, it’s safe and increasingly popular – Swift has become one of the fastest adopted programming languages in history, just as the name suggests. Still, you can use both languages and mix them in the same Xcode project. No one will judge.

Let’s not forget Windows mobile apps and the IDE to create them – Visual Studio. Windows 10, Windows Mobile, Xbox apps are all a product of Visual Studio. Microsoft’s official IDE includes a code editor, a debugger and lots of built-in tools. But the real gem is that it allows plugins of all shapes and sizes that skyrocket Visual Studio’s functionality, adding editor plugins, source-control systems or productivity tools. Plus it offers integration with Xamarin, if you’re interested. Visual Studio has built-in support for C, C++, C#, VB.NET and F#. And with appropriate language-specific plugins installed, you can work with Python, Ruby, Node.js and more.

If you want to give back to the development community and invest your time and effort in an open mobile platform, there’s Tizen. For those of you who are not familiar with it, here’s a little intro. Tizen is a Linux-based cross-architecture software platform that runs on smartphones, tablets, PCs, smartwatches, smart TVs and other smart household appliances of electronics giants like Samsung, Panasonic, Huawei, Fujitsu, Vodafone and other members of the Tizen Association. All you need to develop Tizen apps is an installed Tizen SDK and some experience with HTML5 and JavaScript or C++ (since version 2.0 of Tizen SDK) and a text editor. By the way, working with PhoneGap, Appcelerator and Sencha also requires one.

Enter Sublime Text – the most popular text editor for code and markup, available for Windows, OS X and Linux. The main reason developers like Sublime is that it allows you to focus on writing awesome code, with no restrictions, minimal code completion, smart interface and Distraction Free Mode. Sublime is fast, intuitive flexible and highly customizable thanks to various plugins.

Testing

Great! You’ve done a terrific job developing your mobile app. But you’ve still got one more milestone to cover before sharing it with the world – testing. We know it’s the least fun thing to do for a developer. But don’t worry if mobile application testing is not your favorite thing – it is ours. Skelia will gladly help you test your mobile app. Contact us if there’s any mobile testing we can help you with.

There are tons of tools that make a mobile app developer’s life easier. We’ve shown you our favorite ones, though here are of course plenty of others that are just as useful for mobile app development. They save you time and some are even free. Now you have no excuses – go and get that app developed!