Hands-on technology labs. Speaking sessions led by industry experts. New platforms and technologies. After a jam-packed week at WWDC, our teammates are reporting back on the most impactful parts of their experiences.
By far the biggest news out of WWDC this year was the launch of SwiftUI—Apple's new programming paradigm for quickly building user interfaces—and it will likely be a game changer because it is designed to vastly reduce the amount of code that needs to be written to create UIs, and makes the code less error prone. Apple also introduced the new Combine framework which, like SwiftUI, uses the concept of reactive programming to produce cleaner, less error-prone code, this time for managing data. I'm quite excited about both of these, though they are going to require many of us developers to start thinking about coding in completely new ways.
iPadOS and the ability to run iPad apps on a Mac was one of the other big announcements. This is something that has been in the rumor mill for a while, so wasn't as much of a surprise as SwiftUI, but there’s still plenty of buzz about it. The line between iPad and Mac is becoming ever more blurry, so it will be interesting to see what happens with the hardware...
Finally, dark mode on iOS looks really slick. What I’m most impressed with is how well Apple has integrated support for it in Xcode and other tools to help ensure supporting it will not be a burden.
As this was my first visit to WWDC, the whole trip was a highlight for me! From the constant clapping and high-five-ing people from Apple, to meeting folks from all over the world, and of course the great new technical announcements, it was a thrilling few days in San Jose. Here’s my take on the biggest announcements:
Like Josh, the announcement of SwiftUI stands out to me the most. I don’t think anyone expected something like that. The new declarative UI framework will help us drastically reduce the amount of code needed to produce common forms of UIs and interactions. By eliminating pain points around source control, removing tight dependencies on UIKit, eliminating some of the connection confusion you can run into with Interface Builder, and, yes, by enforcing the use of Swift, Apple seems to be sending the message that we should rely on tools as heavily as possible, and SwiftUI is a view of what the future looks like.
Combine is Apple's new reactive data framework, which will be very useful in combination with Swift UI. It allows you to use a declarative Swift API for processing asynchronous events like user interface events, network responses, or scheduled events. By adopting Combine, you can make your code easier to read and maintain, because it centralizes your event-processing code and eliminates troublesome techniques like nested closures and convention-based callbacks.
Swift 5.1 introduces an important new feature called opaque types—types where we’re told about the capabilities of an object without knowing specifically what kind of object it is. Hiding type information is useful for creating boundaries between a module and code that calls into the module, because the underlying type of the return value can remain private. Unlike returning a value whose type is a protocol type, opaque types preserve type identity—the compiler has access to the type information, but clients of the module don’t.
Wondering how to bring your iPad app to Mac? Then consider Catalyst, the technology literally designed to make it easy to port iOS apps to macOS. It’s mostly powered by a single checkbox in Xcode that adds macOS as a target for iOS apps, which is helpful because it means it doesn’t take much for most of us to get started.
Catalyst is still a work in progress and developers also need to make some adoptions to their app to create a full macOS experience, but what Catalyst already provides is a great and easy way to get started.
PS: The Bash was also pretty cool. The Weezer concert was definitely worth the trip! And there was free beer. What more could you wish for?
Even though WWDC is technically a developer conference, Apple made lots of announcements in terms of design system and new design patterns.
iOS 13 will provide a completely new interface, with no tinted buttons and dark mode. SF symbols is the new icon system—finally there is an app with all standard icons, so it will be easier to integrate them into designs. Icons are treated like font, so they will have all the same property, in three scales: small, medium, and large. The new icon library matches San Francisco and is vector based. You can browse icons in SF app, use them in the specs, and reference them by name. Obviously, you can still customize them, as well. Dynamic type with custom fonts is another great announcement of this year.
Last but not least, accessibility has been a key driver in 2019 conference. Apple is focusing more and more on creating accessible experiences, introducing more tools and controls to reduce clutter and improve convenience and speed for complex actions in apps. Accessibility Inspector is a new tool to analyze accessibility in your app, allowing you to find and fix accessibility issues.
The developer community is buzzing that this year’s WWDC has been one of the biggest ever, with Apple pushing each of their platforms forward in significant ways. What is remarkable is that each of the announcements, big and small, were all coordinated, carefully heralding Apple’s trajectory into a new services-based future where user experience remains key.
The week-long conference itinerary was packed with game-changing announcements, from the introduction of the new SwiftUI framework, that takes the guesswork out of crafting great user interfaces, to acknowledging iPad with its own dedicated operating system, iPadOS.
The key message for developers, “learn once, apply everywhere,” is a practical, modernized take on the “write once, run anywhere” mantra from the ‘70s. By learning best practices with the Swift programming language, and adopting Apple’s rich frameworks like UIKit and Foundation, the same expertise can be applied to solutions on any Apple platform. From the smallest 40mm screen on Apple Watch (watchOS), to desktop (macOS) and the largest displays driven by Apple TV (tvOS), developers can use the same tools and techniques.
Positioning iPad as a device that bridges iPhone and desktop experiences in its own unique way, along with new capabilities like drag and drop and multi-window support, iPadOS presents a viable alternative for many enterprises looking to leapfrog the IT nightmare of adapting for mobility. Rather than gradually modernizing a legacy fleet, companies can consider adopting iPad and immediately realize the benefits mobility offers.
From a design perspective, Apple’s message is not just about designing with “accessibility in mind,” but truly “inclusive design” from the start. Customers are engaging with your app, your brand, your service, in so many contexts these days that it simply makes sense for your business to serve your audience as well as possible. Customers might not be able to use your App because they only have one arm free while they’re holding groceries. Or they might not be holding their device at all because they are driving, or in a wheelchair.
Apple has long held that “Technology is most powerful when it empowers everyone.” With the announcements at WWDC, developers and designers have been given new tools to realize that promise.
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