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Introduction to Xamarin: Complete Guide and Learning Resources

Introduction-to-Xamarin
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You can develop native apps with shared business logic using Xamarin for free.

The space for mobile app development is constantly changing. The main challenge in this domain is developing cross-platform apps to minimize development costs.

Many integrated development environments (IDE) are available, but you must use multiple IDEs to complete one app development project. 

Start using Xamarin to code, test, and debug in one familiar IDE, Visual Studio. If you are new to this app development framework but interested, read the article until the end and gain the confidence you need to start developing native apps on Xamarin.   

What Is Xamarin?

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Xamarin is a Microsoft mobile and PC applications development platform with an open-source license. You can build 100% native apps for iPhones, iPad, Android smartphones, Android tablets, etc. Also, if you are into Universal Windows Platform (UWP) app development, Xamarin should be your tool of choice.

It is a more beneficial app development platform than the conventional ones because it enables you to use C# (C-sharp) and .NET for app development purposes. The platform gets even better for faster app development and minimum maintenance because you can create a shared logic between different app versions for platforms like Android, iOS, and UWP.

What is more is that you can use the same development framework for emerging smart devices like Apple Watch apps, Google Wear OS apps, Apple TV apps, Android TV apps, and so on. It is possible because Xamarin gives you access to 100% native APIs of these operating systems.

In a nutshell, what you can do in a range of native mobile app development platforms like Java, Swift, Kotlin, Objective-C, etc., can be done easily on Xamarin. That too on a familiar software development IDE Visual Studio.     

History of Xamarin

Xamarin started as Mono, an open-source project to transform .NET for the Linux platform. Later on, multiple companies acquired Mono and laid off original developers. 

This group of developers later formed Xamarin in 2011. In mid-2011, Novell allowed Xamarin to use development licenses for Mono, MonoTouch, and MonoAndroid. 

Again, in 2016, Microsoft acquired Xamarin. In the same year, Microsoft released the Xamarin SDK as an open-source app development platform that uses the .NET framework and C# for coding. The SDK will become available on all versions of Visual Studio IDE.   

Who Should Use Xamarin?

Who-Should-Use-Xamarin

You need to start using Xamarin if you are: 

  • An app developer who loves C# and Visual Studio for coding
  • Looking for avenues to reduce overhead expenses on app development, maintenance, updating, debugging, etc., on multiple devices
  • Willing to share business logic, testing cycles, and codebases between different mobile platforms like iOS and Android
  • Looking to expand your business to all classes of users by developing cross-platform apps using one codebase and business logic
  • Willing to develop native apps for iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, and more. 

Features of Xamarin

Features-of-Xamarin

#1. Native Emulators

Xamarin IDE comes with integrated emulators for various mobile platforms as well as OS versions. You can run your app directly on emulator devices like Google Pixel, Samsung, iPhone, iPad, Android TV, Apple TV, etc., without paying extra for emulators. 

#2. SDK Bindings

Xamarin comes with bindings for all platform SDKs of iOS, Android, etc. Hence, you can develop high-quality native apps in a shorter time than your competitors.  

#3. Modern Coding Language Constructs

C# is the main coding language of the Xamarin IDE. C# supports extensive dynamic functional constructs like LINQ, lambdas, parallel programming, and more. 

#4. Third-Party Codes

You can get important third-party codes to build your apps on Xamarin IDE. The code scripts could be in any standard mobile app development language like Java, C++, Objective-C, Swift, etc. 

#5. Powerful BCL

The apps you build use the .NET Base Class Library (BCL). BCL comes with streamlined and comprehensive features like Database, XML, Serialization, String, IO, Networking, and so on. 

#6. Visual Studio IDE

Xamarin’s coding environment is the familiar Visual Studio tool. Hence, you do not need to learn any new coding tools. VS IDE offers additional benefits like solution management, app development project management, code auto-completion, project template library, and more.   

Use of Xamarin in Development

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Due to its link with Microsoft, many premium businesses and enterprises are now looking towards it for their app development needs. Find below some cool apps that Xamarin developers have built using Xamarin IDE: 

  • Alaska Airlines
  • Microsoft Azure
  • UPS Mobile
  • MRW App
  • FreshDirect
  • BBC Goodfood

Technologies that Xamarin could Replace

The one tech stack feature of Xamarin is a real challenge for highly popular native app development platforms. You just need the latest Visual Studio IDE and activate Xamarin on it. That is it. The IDE already includes C# coding, native device emulators, native APIs, project templates, and many other features. 

Also, you can use Xamarin.Forms module to share codes and business logic between apps for different devices like Android, iOS, smart TV, etc. Xamarin could replace the following development platforms and IDEs in the future if its usage becomes widespread among App Store and Google Play app developers: 

  • Flutter
  • React Native
  • Cordova
  • Ionic
  • PhoneGap
  • Kotlin Multiplatform

…and many more! 

Development Process in Xamarin

Development-Process-in-Xamarin

You can create your first app on Xamarin by following these simple steps: 

  • Download and install the latest Visual Studio IDE. It will automatically add the Xamarin module.
  • Click Create new project from the File menu and then choose Mobile from the section Project Type.
  • You need to use Xamarin.Forms as it lets you build one app for both iOS and Android.
  • Give a name to your project.
  • Choose Blank and then checkmark the fields for iOS and Android.
  • You will see a Restore completed message once the IDE is ready.
  • You may also need to install Android SDKs.
  • Create an emulator for the app from the Debug menu.
  • On the Device Manager window, click Start to run the emulator.
  • Click Debug button to build and run your first app on Visual Studio IDE using an Android emulator.  

Advantages of using Xamarin

  • You need to use one app development IDE to design and code apps for all mobile, wearables, and desktop platforms.
  • The Visual Studio App Center offers AI-based UI tests so that you can quickly debug the app code before launch.
  • Xamarin offers 100% native APIs for different versions of iOS, Android, iPadOS, etc. Thus, you can use most of the native OS UI elements on your mobile app.
  • Its automatically imported plugins, libraries, and APIs ensure that your mobile app gets 100% support from the native hardware without any post-launch debugging.
  • Xamarin IDE comes with an open-source license. Hence, you can use the tool for commercial and non-commercial app development projects. 
  • Though the tool is open-source, Microsoft offers extensive support, updates, debugging, forum support, etc. 
  • Updating and maintaining one app in many app stores become effortless. You just need to patch, debug, or update one code base and business logic.
  • Xamarin.Forms enable you to create native UI elements without jumping through hoops.

Disadvantages of using Xamarin

  • Xamarin-based native apps usually create a larger application installation package than Swift, React Native, etc.
  • Xamarin IDE does not support complex and advanced visual effects. You must create custom APIs if you need such content in your app.
  • You may experience delays in implementing OS updates in your apps when Apple, Google, and Microsoft update their respective operating systems.
  • Xamarin-based native apps may suffer from latency issues. Hence, app workloads that process high-performance tasks may not function well if you develop them using Xamarin.
  • Xamarin developers’ community is smaller than Java, Swift, Kotlin, or React Native. Hence, you might face issues in getting support from fellow developers. 

Learning Resources: Xamarin

#1. The Complete Xamarin Developer Course

The-Complete-Xamarin-Developer-Course-1

Become a successful cross-platform app developer by taking this Udemy course. This is the perfect app development course for anyone who wants to start development from scratch with a less explored development platform, that is Xamarin.

After completion, you get the following: 

  • Learn to create apps for Android and iOS that share up to 100% of the codebase.
  • Acquire skills and credibilities to become a multiplatform app developer.
  • Become eligible for junior mobile app development roles.
  • Make money by building apps for Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, Tizen, and more as freelancers.     

#2. Xamarin: Build Native Cross-Platform Apps

Xamarin-Build-Native-Cross-Platform-Apps-1

This Udemy course focuses on training you in coding C# on the Xamarin platform for native app development. The learning content covers Xamarin learning topics like installing the IDE and Xamarin. Forms, page building, adding elements, app design layouts, pop-ups, and more. 

The course length is almost 7 hours and is suitable for anyone who is currently working or a final-year college student. However, you must come from a coding background to pick up C# coding fast.     

#3. Xamarin with Visual Studio

Xamarin with Visual Studio is an easy-to-understand book to learn the development and design nuances of iOS and Android apps using Xamarin, .NET, and C#. You get complete hands-on experience so that you can start your own app development projects on Xamarin instantly. 

The notable features of this book are: 

  • Advanced and basic concepts of multiplatform mobile development
  • Revise C# and .NET
  • Advice, tips, and tricks to become an app developer

#4. Xamarin in Action

Learn how to reuse the codebase of an Android app and build an iOS app with up to 90% similar business logic by reading Xamarin in Action.

The book covers all that you need to learn to become a successful Xamarin developer, like installation of the IDE, creating the first “Hello World” app for iOS and Android, and publishing your app on application marketplaces.

Moreover, you learn how to observe your app’s success by using mobile app analytics on mobile app marketplaces.   

#5. Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Learn Xamarin

If you are an entry-level developer and want to grab a multiplatform developer job, then you can start learning Xamarin from this book available on Amazon.

The book covers a lot, including the following: 

  • Shared Project
  • Portable Class Libraries(PCL)
  • Xamarin.Forms
  • Shared Business Logic
  • Shared UI

#6. Mastering Xamarin UI Development

This book focuses on training you to develop amazing mobile app UIs using Xamarin and Xamarin.Forms. It covers all the necessary theoretical and practical knowledge that you need to develop real-world native apps on Xamarin.

Notable Xamarin skills that the book covers are:

  • Adding location-based services to an app
  • Visual effects and animations on mobile apps
  • PlatformEffects API
  • Microsoft Azure App Services  
  • Integrating apps with APIs

Conclusion

So far, you have discovered the features and app development process on the Xamarin platform. You have also explored its advantages and disadvantages and how its emergence changes the app development IDE market.

Also, you explored some online learning courses and books to master developing on the Xamarin platform. Get started with Xamarin now and develop cool apps that are not just user-friendly for the users but also easy and affordable for you to maintain in the long run.

Next, no-code platforms to build mobile apps conveniently.

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