What’s Xcode?

This suite of tools gives devs serious superpowers.


Developer Tools


Xcode has long been the tool of choice among the lion’s share of macOS and iOS developers. If you want to build an app for Mac, iPhone or iPad, Xcode is the place to start. But what exactly does it do?

It’s not one tool but a collection of them – what’s known as an integrated development environment (IDE). The word “integrated” is key here: Xcode integrates everything you need to develop an app into a single organised environment.

Xcode helps you work faster. The lightning-fast source code editor offers intelligent autocomplete as you type, while automatic colour-coding makes your code incredibly easy to read, no matter the programming language.

And if you’ve got a Mac with the Apple M1 chip, Xcode is even faster and more battery efficient: app builds are up to three times faster, and MacBook Pro owners can perform up to four times as many code compiles on a single charge.

For any code in the Apple SDKs, Xcode will display Quick Help and can jump to the full documentation. You can even write comments in your own code that will appear in Quick Help when others use your code.

Organising files is a snap too. The app’s folder-and-subfolder model lets you nest files as deeply as you like. And it isn’t limited to source code. Xcode deftly handles any file type you throw at it, from images to JSON to plists. You can even add machine-learning models to your projects – and make those models instantly accessible in your code.

But Xcode is much more than just an editor and file organiser. The Interface Builder, for example, helps lay out your app’s UI using a variety of tools and wires all those interface elements to your source code. This feature lets you quickly build a prototype and, over time, fill in all the code to bring those interface elements to life.

The Xcode memory debugger displays how every object in your app relates to the others, revealing bugs visually.

At the heart of Xcode is a suite of powerful compilers and build tools, all designed to identify bugs and suggest changes to help you get your projects up and running fast. The graphical debugger is an invaluable tool for identifying problems with your code and helping you fix them quickly. Use it to change the value of variables on the fly, evaluate expressions and set breakpoints that stop your program at a specific spot.

Code your iOS app and design its UI in a single work environment, then simulate how your app will run on different devices.

All this is just the tip of the iceberg. Xcode offers many other tools. And its sophisticated help system makes diving into the documentation and sample code exceptionally easy.


    Developer Tools