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Xamarin's Tooling Evolves, SDK Now Open Source

Slew of announcements from the company at its Evolve 16 event in Florida include a bevy of solutions to help developers connect to Macs to create native iOS apps.

Xamarin announced a slew of new tools at its Evolve 16 event in Orlando, Florida this morning, to help developers connect to Macs to create native iOS apps. The company also said its software development kit is now officially open sourced, following through on a promise made after the cross-platform dev company was acquired by Microsoft earlier this year.

Xamarin, which lets developers use Microsoft's C# language to create Windows, Android, iOS and Mac OS X apps from the same codebase, said it open sourced the Xamarin SDK for Android, iOS and Mac under the same MIT license used for the Mono project upon which its technology is based.

After being bought by Microsoft, the company announced at the Microsoft Build event at the end of March that its tooling would be available for free in all Visual Studio editions, including the free Community Edition. Today the company announced several new enhancements to that tooling, including new features for the Visual Studio IDE.

"Today we launched new ways to connect Visual Studio to your Mac to make it even easier for C# developers to create native iOS apps, and new ways to auto-generate mobile app test scripts in Visual Studio," said Nat Friedman, Xamarin co-founder turned Microsoft exec. "Our iOS Simulator remoting lets you simulate and interact with your iOS apps in Visual Studio -- even supporting multi-touch interactions on Windows machines with capable touch screens. We also unveiled our iOS USB remoting, which makes it possible to deploy and debug apps from Visual Studio to an iPad or iPhone plugged into your Windows PC."

Miguel de Icaza, the other co-founder who announced the news in a keynote address, followed up in a blog post. "Simply connect your device to a Windows 10 machine via USB, select the device to deploy to, and debug your app on an iOS device without ever having to leave Windows," he said. "You can download the previews for both iOS Simulator remoting and iOS USB remoting by switching to the Xamarin alpha release channel in Visual Studio."

In another overture to the Apple community, the company announced "Xamarin Studio 6 IDE (for Mac OS X)," something that would be unthinkable from a Microsoft subsidiary not that long ago. "For mobile developers on Mac, Xamarin has enhanced its Xamarin Studio IDE, bringing its user interface and functionality closer to Visual Studio," the company said. The enhanced IDE -- in a Release Candidate preview -- features a new look and feel; integration with the Roslyn compiler; better F# support; and improved project builds via deeper integration with MSBuild.

In other announcements, Xamarin.Forms -- "to help developers build mobile apps faster, maximizing UI code-sharing while still delivering fully native experiences" -- was upgraded with several new features. The company also ticked off several new DevOps enhancements.

De Icaza also announced a new open.xamarin.com Web site to foster community development of the Xamarin SDKs. "It describes the Xamarin components that are now open source and how to get involved in the open source Xamarin developer community," he said. "As with any open source project, there are many ways to contribute. We've described several options for participating in the Xamarin SDK open source project, from major contributions to those taking as little as a few minutes of your time.

"The Xamarin engineering team will now be working in our repositories on GitHub, continuing to make the Xamarin SDKs better. We encourage you to interact with them on GitHub, file issues, make feature requests, propose improvements, submit pull requests and make the product better for everyone."

IDC analyst Al Hilwa weighed in on today's keynote in an e-mail to ADTmag. "Just finished listening to the Xamarin Evolve keynote here in Orlando," he said. "Even after an announcement-packed Microsoft Build, there was some new news here from Xamarin left for the Evolve conference. Love the new live debugging of individual mobile devices in the Xamarin Test cloud -- probably a killer feature. The Data Pages feature will really help speed up mobile app building. Open sourcing the Xamarin SDK is generally goodness, but kind of expected. The fact that Xamarin Studio will continue to be invested in side-by-side with Microsoft's other IDEs (VS and VS Code) and is receiving some new features is welcome news for Xamarin developers."

The Evolve conference will conclude tomorrow with a closing session featuring Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and de Icaza discussing the future of apps and software development. The conference can be viewed via live streaming.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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