Continuing on from our initial foray into creating an analogy between magic and development as outlined in our previous blog on “The Pledge”, in this post we want to cover the first part of the real magic. We’ve already established (I hope) that Visual Studio is a great, maybe even the best, tool for developers. We know we can write code fairly easily and create software of all different shapes and sizes for the Windows Platform. But what about the magic? For those of us old school developers who started in Visual Basic before it was even part of Visual Studio or even newer developers that see “Visual Studio” and only think “Software for Microsoft Windows” today’s post is for you. We want to roll up our sleeves, show you that we have nothing under there and describe a little magic with Visual Studio.
The TurnSo, if you will watch my hands (at no time will my fingers leave my hands) you will see that using just Visual Studio I can now create, deploy and debug apps on Windows (no surprise there) and Android. With a little help I can now create, deploy and debug apps on iOS and macOS as well. With just a few magic words (written in the mystical language of C#) you can do it too!
XamarinThe magic wand is Xamarin. It is the tool that allows us to create multi-platform apps all with Visual Studio on a Windows device. You aren’t creating some sort of HTML app that runs on all the platform, you are creating native apps with native user interfaces for all the platforms. You have lots of ways you can create the magic too so the show should never get boring. For the most part there is little to nothing else you need except in the case of iOS. For that you need to have a macOS device of some sort (MacBook or MacMini will work) to do the compile. However, it’s important to note that although the Mac is sitting there doing it’s job you are still writing the software, testing and debugging right on your Windows device, even for iOS…
The first thing you need to do is make sure you have Visual Studio 2015 installed. Any edition will do. The next step is to install Xamarin. Another great thing is you can get started on this for nothing. You can combine Visual Studio community edition with Xamarin and they are both free.