Mobile development tools


OCC’s TAB provides some insights into updates on Xamarin and Visual Studio App Center mobile development tools


Current version: v2.x

There have been a host of difficulties with the recent versions – v2.5 broke most platforms in some way. Android was the most affected due to a focus on Android performance improvement.

More useful points to note:

  • Xamarin is now .NET Standard compliant, although of course it still runs on Mono for Android and iOS
  • Android performance does seem to have improved, but the difference is not marked
  • Xamarin now supports the latest features from iOS 11 and Android Oreo
  • new options for writing platform-specific code including this.On<PlatformName>().XXXX give access to features applicable only to that platform

Next version: v3.x

This will include:

  • support for some flavours of Linux (GTK+ via Gtk#)
  • MacOS support has been fleshed out and is now useable
  • support for styling via CSS in addition to the existing XAML-based system
  • FlexLayout – a carbon copy of Flex from CSS, with the same limitations and not 100% feature comparable

There have been lots of commits around adding WPF support, although no formal date has been given for release and it’s no longer mentioned on the roadmap.

Visual Studio App Center

Visual Studio App Center is a front end on Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS), specifically for building and deploying apps. It’s far less tweakable than VSTS but its focus will get a team up and running very quickly. One important difference to normal VSTS is that it allows you to build iOS apps on a cloud-hosted Mac.

App Center supports Android, iOS and UWP, with full support for Xamarin, and can publish signed, production-ready builds. Note that it’s not currently clear what version of Xamarin is installed on their cloud-hosted build agents.

It also provides frameworks for analytics, testing, crash reporting and push notifications, all via Azure, so this requires devices to be internet accessible.

The ContrOCC Remote team has trialled App Center and initial impressions are very positive, though the team hasn’t yet used it in production.

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