Appszoom for Developers

Why Cross-Platform Tools Are Useful, And When To Use Them

Posted by on 07/28/2015

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So, you’ve just been asked to develop an app for a client. You’ve been told that it should be simultaneously available for iOS, Android, and Windows 7. Your head starts spinning with the overwhelming responsibilities that you’re being asked to take care of – how can you possibly approach a project like this?

In fact – generally speaking – how is it that we’re supposed to develop for multiple systems? Especially when the creators of the devices that actually run the systems are encouraging us to approach development with entirely different protocols?

Going Native: Optimiztion Comes At A Cost

Right now, the three major players in mobile applications are Microsoft (with the Windows Mobile 7 system), Apple (with iOS), and Google (with Android). Accordingly, each respective platform uses a separate environment for native development: Windows Mobile uses C# (and Visual Studio); iOS uses Objective-C (with XCode); and Android uses Java (and Eclipse, alongside the relatively new Android SDK).

Using native development environments allows you to push the capabilities of frameworks and APIs to the max. You won’t need to worry about how to implement each and every feature in other versions of your app (for other devices). Instead, you have free reign to design and code in line with your visions for the app while making no compromises.

Additionally, developing your app like this will allow you to optimize it so that it runs as well as can be expected from any development framework. In fact, there’s no way to get a cleaner development experience than using native tools.

The implications of producing your app like this, though, are fairly severe: you’ll have to build a completely new piece of software for each mobile OS you want your app to run on. Each time, you’ll have to use a new development environment, be working within a new set of limitations (and unique features), and you’ll probably even have to use a separate programming language.

The Case For Cross-Platform Tools

Dozens of resourceful developers and startups saw this problem and the potential within it. Cross-platform tools of varying shapes and sizes were born, each offering unique features and abilities, with a slew of different strengths and weaknesses. They were all published with different licenses: some are commercial for personal use, others for business use, and more still are available open-source.

Cross-platform tools – as the name implies – allow you (the developer) to produce one piece of software which can be deployed across all of the major mobile operating systems at once.

Thus, many modern apps are produced this way in order to save time and resources which many developers do not have. Quick fixes can be applied and released to different app ecosystems on the same day, and major updates can become much-less convoluted when you only have to implement them once.

Another massive benefit of these tools is that a wide selection of them allow web developers to produce native apps. That is to say that standard web applications (using languages such as HTML5, Javascript and jQuery) can be compiled, released to the App Store, and ran as standalone, seamless software experiences. Basically, they’ll exist just like any normal app would.