A Month with AppCode

Posted by Thoughts and Ramblings on Monday, April 29, 2013

Anyone who uses multiple IDEs along with Xcode recognizes just how far behind Xcode is compared to others. I would even go as far as to argue it is at least half a decade behind Eclipse. Features which I have long grown use to having are completely absent in Xcode. Then, about a month ago, I discovered AppCode and started using it for my Obj-C development at work. I could repeat the feature set mentioned on their website, but instead I’ll assume you’ve read that and outline the crucial parts.

Code Completion and Imports

The code completion causally mentions that it works with CamelHumps, but this is a huge factor in completing code. For example, if I wanted an NSMutableArray, in Xcode I must type NSMutableAr before the tab completion results in a single result. If the tab completion is aware of CamelHumps, I must only type NSMAr before the tab completion has narrowed it down to NSMutableArray alone. Furthermore, the tab completion after the insertion of a colon works better than it does in Xcode.

The killer feature in the tab completion is when the class has not yet ben imported. If I were to start typing the name of a class that is not included in the imports, not only can it complete the class name, it will also import the necessary files to satisfy the complier for the choice I made.

Code Generation

Declare Method in Interface: I used this feature a lot. I had long gotten used to copying a method line in the .m file, and then pasting it into the .h file, with a semicolon at the end, to declare it in the interface. Now, I hit option+enter at the method declaration and tell AppCode to do it for me.
Implement/Override: I use this one a lot too. Too often I am making a subclass or implementing a protocol, and I forget all the method name I may want to implement. Now, I just hit the override shortcut, and select the ones I wish to implement.
Change ivar/property to ivar/property/both: I used to use objectivecannotate for this task, but AppCode does it much more cleanly. I can tell it to declare the property for an ivar, or even make it read only in the interface with it being read-write in the implementation.
Live Templates: Yes, Xcode has their snippets, but these are more powerful because you can define what kind of completion to use for variables in the snippet as well as where the snippet is applicable. Thus far, I have only had to add the one that is a typedef of a block to a nicer type name. Such as:

typedef NSComparisonResult (^NSComparator)(id obj1, id obj2);


I have to admit, I’m scared of the refactoring in Xcode; it gets things wrong. I freely use the refactoring in AppCode and it has yet to screw something up. Often, I am renaming a variable or changing a method signature but two important ones must not be overlooked:

  • Selecting a section of a line or a line, and extracting the result to a variable.
  • Extracting several lines of code into a method

Unit Testing

I have gotten to creating unit tests to test if my code works (yes, not proper unit tests but I have to make sure it works anyway…). Lately I’ve been developing libraries, so testing in the app isn’t as applicable. The unit testing in Xcode is a bit, uh, pathetic. In AppCode, I’m often telling it to run a single test (selector), and then debugging it while it is running the test to see where things went wrong.


AppCode reads and writes Xcode’s project files. So, going back and forth is a non issue. I modify the project in one, the other sees it. AppCode also can run apps in the simulator or on the device, as well as debug both.


AppCode cannot edit xib files or a host of other non-text files in a project. It at least will open Xcode to do this task. It is also limited in it’s ability to edit the project as well as missing some of the more specialized functions. The key-mapping is a bit off, making it feel like a windows application, but this can be mostly fixed by changing the shortcuts.


AppCode makes an excellent editor of code as well as debugging. It’s building doesn’t give as much in terms of a progress indicator, but it does work. Since I spent a vast majority of my time writing code and debugging, I spend more than 90% of the time in AppCode. When I’m doing anything else, I tend to use Xcode.

Now, if only Apple would make Xcode a better editor of code…. Nah, NIH syndrome it too well engrained.