5 Cross-Platform Native Mobile Development Tools

For this post I am going to share 5 of my favorite cross-platform native mobile development tools. All these tools allow you to build native mobile applications using web languages like HTML, CSS and JavaScript but all differ in various ways so I will explain what I know of each. One of the biggest benefits to cross-platform compared to building it natively would be having one code base for each OS so you don’t have to rebuild something you already have for iOS into Android code and vice versa.

Appceletrator Studio – Alloy

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Appcelerator Studio is the tool I have the most experience with I have been teaching it for years at various conferences and have my online course I did a couple years ago and am in the process of developing a more advanced course on the tool. It was perviously called Titanium Studio but since has been renamed to Appcelerator Studio.

Appcelerator has two different ways of coding. One is a straight JavaScript code base which is known as Classic Code and the other uses XML, CSS and JavaScript providing more structure to your apps called Alloy. I prefer Alloy it is more closely related to building websites. The thing I really like about Appcelerator is it doesn’t just create a web view that you just build your own website with it takes the code and converts it to native Swift or Java code so you could essentially build the same application with the same UI elements as if you built it using native code. If I use a switch button in Appcelerator it is the same switch button that I could use Xcode which I think lends itself to better performing apps.

Fuse Tools

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The next one I just came across a couple weeks ago and I am still exploring but it looks very promising. It is called Fuse. One of the nice things about it is you can do your coding in your favorite text editor which I know every developer has their own favorite editor. They do have some tight integration with Sublime Text which is lucky for me since Sublime is my favorite text editor.

From what I can tell Fuse uses it’s own mark up language similar to Appcelerator but is extremely easy to pick up and use. I followed some of their YouTube videos and had an app and running in no time. One nice think I love is having it running on my mobile phone and when I make a change to the code it updates my phone automatically so I don’t have to publish it out to preview it on my phone.

PhoneGap Build

PhoneGap-Build

I am specifying PhoneGap Build and not just PhoneGap in this because I love how easy it is for me to build something in HTML, CSS and JavaScript and just upload it to PhoneGap Build and it creates the native apps for me without me having any SDK tools installed on my desktop. Unlike Appcelerator and Fuse, PhoneGap does not convert my HTML, CSS and JavaScript over to native code, it can communicate natively to my device but it is almost like I am working with a layer on top of the native code. When you build native apps you have an option to use something called a WebView, this WebView is designed to show web content within the native application. That is exactly what PhoneGap does it uses one big WebView to show your content so the same application you see on a website could be within that web view as native app which itself could be a huge benefit. The downside is you are not able to use the same UI elements in the mobile SDKs for example if you wanted to use the default switch in iOS you would have to create some CSS that got as close as possible but it would not be the same switch as the native one.

Although you are working mostly with a web view again it still has it’s benefits because you can still access native mobile calls like using the devices camera as well as having a very similar look on all platforms. I like to be tool agnostic so on a project by project basis I would consider what tool might be best for each project.

Game Salad

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If you are looking to build more game apps rather than productive apps you might want to look into GameSalad. Now unlike the other tools I have mentioned it does not allow you to code with HTML, CSS and JavaScript but it does walk you through a lot of the logic through their own UI. So you specify how each object on your stage will react to certain things and get very detailed with the different properties you set. It is a very easy tool to pick up since you are really not technically coding but knowing some coding principles would help design a better game.

Corona Labs

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Now I have not done a lot with Corona Labs but from what I know of them one of the biggest benefits they have is they more of a focus on gaming than Appcelerator does. I know you can still build games in Appcelerator but Corona seems to have more optimization for that. It is for sure something I want to check out more.

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