7 Popular App Development Tools



Developing an app for each different mobile platform is time consuming and requires knowledge of a wide variety of different programming languages. Luckily, cross-platform development tools have emerged to help developers with some of the programming burden. Check out a few of the most popular development tools:


For the more advanced developers, Xamarin is a C#-based platform allowing for cross-platform development for iOS and Android. Code executes on a .NET framework before compiling, and returns the standard code for iOS and Android, making it easy to use for development teams working on large projects.


Arguably the most popular cross-platform development tool, PhoneGap (otherwise known as Apache Cordova) allows developers with weaker server-side language knowledge leverage their front-end experience. PhoneGap has been in the dev tools sphere for a while, so they have had time to mature and add the features that developers need. PhoneGap is free and open-source, opening up a whole library of plugins for developers to use. Hybrid applications always struggle compared to native apps, however, so developers should keep an eye on performance metrics.


Appcelerator works by providing a JavaScript API which is accompanied by native UI features. Developers simply code in JavaScript, and Appcelerator’s framework works in the native UI elements, aiding app performance. The use of JavaScript standardizes development across the platforms, and Appcelerator offers developers various extra features such as analytics and BaaS (backend-as-a-service).


RhoMobile’s integrated framework uses Ruby to make apps compatible with multiple platforms. While catered to mostly experienced developers, RhoMobile also offers support for developers just starting out. RhoMobile’s extra features, like RhoHub and RhoSync, offer even more value to developers that can’t be found among RhoMobile’s competitors.


Unity is a games-focused cross-platform development tool, seamlessly blending a game engine and an integrated development environment (IDE). One of the more popular dev tools, Unity allows developers to use UnityScript (custom ECMAScript syntax), C#, or Boo (Python-inspired). Unity’s graphics engine is particularly strong, targeting a variety of APIs to optimize the end experience.


Using HTML5, Sencha is a framework for building web applications the mimic the look and feel of native applications. Used in conjunction with PhoneGap or used alone, Sencha stills gives developers access to device-level APIs otherwise not available to web applications. As with PhoneGap, developers should keep an eye on performance metrics and make sure their JavaScript is strong.


Cocos2d is a collection of open-source frameworks which allows developers to build cross-platform games and apps. It consists of 4 main frameworks: Cocos2d-X (C++/Javascript/Lua), Cocos2d-XNA (XNA in C#), Cocos2D-ObjC (Xcode, Objective-C), Cocos2d (Python).

There are many, many more development tools available, and developers should keep exploring until they find one that works for them. With the push towards HTML5 apps, devs should expect even more front-end based frameworks emerging as well. Check forums for reviews from other developers, and make sure to do your research before committing to one tool!

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