How to build an application using Xamarin.Forms
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If Android and iOS applications are entertainment extravaganza in a newfound era, Xamarin is the director handling their performance from backstage. Simply put, Xamarin is an open-source platform meant to develop modern and dynamic applications for Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows with the .NET. Developed by Xamarin company which was later acquired by Microsoft in 2016, the platform features a community of over 1.4 million developers.
Developers make use of Xamarin.Forms to build Xamarin.Android, Xamarin.iOS, and applications for windows. Being an open-source UI framework, Xamarin.Forms help to create user interfaces in XAML with code-behind in C#. Moreover, it enables developers to accomplish end-to-end development goals. This means, building an application using Xamarin.Forms are great for companies to enhance user experience. As it is said to be a big cheese in the development field, this article explains the Xamarin pros and cons, process to develop an application using Xamarin.Forms, and some best Xamarin examples for references.
What is Xamarin
Features Of Xamarin
- Xamarin supports native integration for smart iOS and Android devices such as Apple Watch and Android wear;
- Cross-platform popular plugins such as battery status;
- Platform-specific plugins available in Xamarin component store;
- Application Indexing that allows to search results for overlooked software.
Xamarin Native vs Xamarin.Forms
Xamarin.iOS and Xamarin.Android are traditionally referred to as Xamarin.Native. These tools (Xamarin.iOS, Xamarin. Android. Xamarin.Mac) enables developers to implement native user experience while involved in cross-platform development. Xamarin.Forms is an open-source UI framework, based on Xamarin itself. It can be referred to as the advanced version of Xamarin.Native that helps developers build Xamarin cross-platform applications from a single shared codebase. Here are the top differences between Xamarin Native and Xamarin.Forms.
- Development Time
Xamarin.Native is highly regarded in current times for the fact that it enables working with a single shared Xamarin C# code. The level of code sharing is 75% with Xamarin.Native. This cuts the overall development time and leads to faster cross-platform development. Xamarin.Forms, on the other hand, bring more time efficiency to the table as the code-sharing spikes to 95%. Moreover, in comparison to Xamarin.Native, it allows developers to create and share single UI code for all platforms, thus making the cross-platform development cycle fastest.
- Development Cost
The right choice between Xamarin.Native and Xamarin.Forms can have a big impact on development costs. With Xamarin.Forms, companies only need to hire .NET platforms with no extra expertise. However, Xamarin.Native entails companies hiring developers who are experts in all the native platforms. The learning curve in the case of Xamarin.Native is also longer, thus adding extra cost in hiring and training developers.
- Update And Maintenance
Updates and maintenance are a lot easier in the case of Xamarin.Forms as the framework shares code for multiple platforms. Besides, as the number of lines of code is reduced, there are lesser chances of bugs and errors in the application. The maintenance process is a little tricky with Xamarin.Native. Developers ought to care for the base code and platforms’ individual sets of code separately. There is no specific method to accomplish it all at once, thus adding more time and cost.
- Functionalities And User-Experience
Here Xamarin.Native is a clear winner against Xamarin.Forms. This is because it provides access to various plugins, controls, and APIs for both Android and iOS. It is a great choice if developers need an app to access the device’s native features. As Xamarin.Forms is a single code base framework, the extra functionalities may not be possible in this case. This clearly means the Xamarin platform is a great way to enjoy different functionalities for different platforms.
Why Should Choose Xamarin Build Cross-Platform Apps
Mobile applications are key for most businesses to present a user-friendly experience. This especially holds true for online businesses that aim to increase the number of users for their success. That’s where the concept of ‘cross-platform development’ enters into the scene. This means creating compatible applications that support multiple platforms such as Android, iOS, and Windows. Though there are many platforms with advanced features, Xamarin is widely accepted to build hybrid applications for business success. So far, there are over 15,000 companies that rely on this framework for cross-platform development.
Below listed are the major grounds for developers and businesses who wonder – is Xamarin good for developing cross-platform applications.
- Simple and Convenient
Developers find it easy to build cross-platform applications on Xamarin in comparison to other platforms. One of the main reasons is the use of C# and .NET framework which comparatively comprise a low learning curve. Besides, the use of a single language, that is Xamarin C# leads to easy updates and maintenance. Adding more, the platform also supports integration to the SDK. This helps in the easy addition of the features and streamlining auto-updates. Overall, Xamarin provides a reliable environment to developers and businesses for developing cross-platform applications.
- Native Like Experience
Native applications help businesses to provide a great user experience. Xamarin is a key platform that enables developers to build robust native apps with its APIs and toolkits for Android, iOS, and Windows. Moreover, the platform-specific elements and technologies available in C# and Visual Studio makes it possible for developers to customize applications according to individual requirements.
Xamarin cross platform performance is close to native. This is because the development of Xamarin is mainly focused on sharing business logic rather than codebase. Even Xamarin.Forms enable broad code sharing with less platform-specific applications. The platform also allows easy testing of applications using fragmentation, CI, object-based UI testing.
As Xamarin is an open-source platform, it allows users to choose components according to the requirements. It provides extensive resources to developers to fulfill their goals of development. These cover cross-platform libraries, UI controls, and third-party web services.
Security is an essential requirement for businesses when looking for a platform to develop applications. Xamarin cross-platform apps are secure as the connections between different apps are encrypted and hosted by Azure Cloud. The best thing is that the connection and backend Azure features HTTP certificates and 24 hours protection against malware.
Pros and Cons of Xamarin for Cross-Platform Development
Using Xamarin for developing robust applications has its own pros and cons. While Xamarin provides many reasons to pursue cross-platform development, there are some disadvantages that users need to be heedful of. Check out the list of Xamarin pros and cons for more clarification.
Pros Of Using Xamarin
- Advantages of C#
Xamarin cross-platform applications are developed using a single language – C#. Xamarin C# leads to the hassle-free implementation of code for multiple platforms. In other words, the management of software objectives using one language provides the benefit of easy operation.
- Rapid Prototyping
Xamarin.Forms provide access to the complete cross-platform UI toolkit. With this, users do not need to modify the UI for every platform. Instead, a single user interface can be created that works for all the platforms.
- Wide Support
The fact that Xamarin is now a part of Microsoft, helps developers to enjoy extensive technical support. They can have access to large learning opportunities. The guaranteed continuous developer support helps developers to improve their stability and performance throughout the course of development.
- Other Benefits
The list of Xamarin’s benefits is quite long. Some of the other plus points that Xamarin brings into the lives of Xamarin developers are offline usability, scalability, time and cost efficiency, code reusability, and more.
Cons Of Using Xamarin
Though Xamarin is free for small businesses and individuals, it involves the cost of purchasing a license for Microsoft Visual Studio for enterprises. The cost of a single-user license starts at $499. Depending on the need and size of the business, the cost of obtaining a license varies. Moreover, enterprises need to pay upto $2,999 for bells and whistles as a part of the annual subscription for Visual Studio.
- Time Consuming UI
Yes, Xamarin codes are reusable across various platforms. However, the core user interface creation isn’t portable. This is the reason, Xamarin developers entail doing some part of code, ultimately leading to heavy time consumption.
- Limited Community
One of the major disadvantages of Xamarin is its limited community. The number of developers working on a specific platform outweighs the number of developers working for multiple platforms. Despite being one of the best choices for developing cross-platform applications, Xamarin has not managed to dominate other platforms yet.
- Other Disadvantages
Xamarin is not compatible with apps that feature heavy graphics. Besides, Xamarin does not support all the open-source .NET libraries, thus making it a bit complicated for developers to enhance the functionalities. A few other cons of the platform include non-compatibility for game development, no remoting, no dynamic code generation, and a disabled runtime feature.
Building mobile applications with Xamarin
Determining the verdict for the overall Xamarin pros and cons, there is no denying the fact that the plus points of the platform outweigh its cons. Hence, building the first mobile application with Xamarin.Forms will not be less than a dream come true for aspiring developers and businesses. Let’s discuss this in detail.
Tools Needed to Develop First Mobile Application
There are mainly 3 IDE choices when a developer plans to build an application with Xamarin. These are :
- Visual Studio 2019;
- Visual Studio for Mac;
While Visual Studio for Windows and Mac supports Xamarin for free, Rider entails paying for the subscription either for one product or for the whole toolkit.
Step By Step Instructions For Windows
- Begin by clicking ‘Create a new project’ from Welcome Window or select File > New > Project, from the menu bar.
- Select ‘Mobile’ from the ‘Project Type’ menu. From there select ‘Mobile App (Xamarin.Forms)’ project type.
- Enter ‘Counter’ in the ‘Project name box’ in the Configure your new project window. Then, select a directory in which the project needs to be saved in the ‘Location’ box. Accept the proposed value in the ‘Solution’ box, and leave ‘Place Solution’ and ‘Project’ unchecked in the same directory.
- Click ‘Create’ and wait for the ‘New Platform App’ window to open.
- Select ‘Blank’ in the ‘Select a template list’.
- Select Android and iOS under the platform, and click OK.
Step By Step Instructions For Mac
- Begin by clicking ‘Create a new project’ from Welcome Window or select File > New > Project, from the menu bar.
- Click App, select Blank Forms App on the left-hand side of the ‘New Project’ window under the ‘Multiplatform’ category. After that, Click ‘Next’.
- Enter ‘Counter’ in the ‘Proje name box. Leave the value as default and click Next.
- Select a Location to store the project. Make sure that platform is set to ‘Use .NET Standard’. Click Next.
Best Xamarin.Forms App Examples
The doubt as to – is Xamarin good for developing applications is now crystal clear. Xamarin is a number one choice for businesses and enterprises that wish for rapid and efficient cross-platform application development. Here is a list of top references that serve the best Xamarin examples.
Storyo is a video storytelling app that enables users to create videos out of photos. It is one of the best Xamarin example apps as the infrastructure is built on a single platform but rendered on multiple platforms. The app reaches users in around 170 countries.
- The World Bank
Another popular Xamarin example app is The World Bank, an app that is used to conduct surveys globally. The fact that the app is built using Xamarin and Visual Studio, allows users to collect information from thousands of individuals quickly.
Olo is a food ordering platform for over 150 restaurant brands. It offers features such as food ordering, picking, and delivering to more than 31 million users. As the team yearned for rapid and better customer experience, they switched the platform to Xamarin, making it one of the best Xamarin examples.
Insightly, another Xamarine sample, is a CRM and Project Management application. It is built on Xamarin, which makes the app better at delivering native performance. With over 200,000 mobile downloads, this Xamarin example app enables businesses to keep the sales team updated with recent information.
- Other Apps
The list of Xamarin sample applications is quite long. Some of the other examples are –
- FreshDirect: Online Food Grocer
- Just Giving: Online Fundraising App
- APX: Environment asset Tracker
- Taxfyle: Online Tax Monitor
- UPS Mobile: Online Delivery Tracker
Xamarin is an incredible solution for modern-day developers to develop robust and dynamic applications for Android, iOS, and Windows. As Xamarin.Forms outweigh Xamarin.Native in terms of benefits, we suggest the aspiring businesses start developing their first application using the former. Make sure to keep in line with updates for a better experience.