What is Swift Programming Language

What is Swift Programming Language?

Estimated read time: 8 minutes

Interested in knowing what is Swift programming language? Swift is considerably popular today for iOS app development. Let’s review it in detail.

Swift language: A brief overview

Apple has been using Objective-C for a long time, however, they released their Swift language in 2014, something which indicated a strategic shift. Let’s examine a few points about this language:

  • Swift is a general-purpose, compiled programming language.
  • Software experts who designed Swift borrowed several ideas from Objective-C, Python, Ruby, and C#.
  • Developers can use Swift to code for iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS.
  • Swift works seamlessly with the Cocoa and Cocoa Touch frameworks of Apple.com. Swift is built on the Cocoa framework, as this Quora Q&A thread points out.
  • Swift is the language of choice as far as Apple is concerned, however, Objective-C code can still coexist with Swift code in the same app.
  • In addition to Apple, IBM also backs the Swift programming language.
  • There were several important releases of Swift. Swift v5.5.1, i.e., the latest stable release was launched in April 2022.

Objective-C to Swift

Developed in the late 1980s, Objective-C was modeled on the path-breaking C language. Brad Cox created it as an extension of the famous C language. NeXT Software by Steve Jobs licensed Objective-C in 1988. Read more about this early history in “Learn Objective-C: a brief history”.

Eventually, Jobs returned to Apple. Apple, under his guidance, made heavy use of Objective-C. The language became a mainstay for OSX and iOS, which are Apple‘s desktop and mobile operating systems, respectively.

Objective-C has created a small number of extensions to the ANSI C programming language. These are powerful extensions, therefore, they enabled advanced object-oriented programming. Most Apple frameworks are written in Cocoa programming, which in turn is built on Objective-C.

Enters Swift!

We all know about Apple and its loyal users! Apple’s popularity, resulting from the sophistication of its products, shows how powerful Objective-C really is. Accordingly, the language has always enjoyed a high degree of popularity.

It started to change in 2014 when Apple released its Swift language.

Swift is a general-purpose programming language. Developers increasingly use it to develop apps for iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS. It works well with Apple’s Cocoa and Cocoa Touch frameworks.

The growing popularity of the Swift Programming Language

Although the first release of Swift was only in 2014, the language rapidly gained popularity. An InfoWorld report highlighted its‘ popularity and also showed the consequent decline in the popularity of Objective-C.

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Read this report on these rival programming languages “Objective-C plummets in popularity”.

The trend continued in subsequent years. It‘s not clearly known how many apps use Swift. As Antonio Nesic, an open-source expert points out, Swift is built on the Cocoa framework.

Antonio points out that this framework itself is built on Objective-C, therefore, developers can easily mix Swift code with Objective-C code. The question of how many apps using Swift isn‘t relevant. Read more about his interesting insight on this, in this Quora Q&A thread from 2017.

Instead, the sustained popularity of Swift and the accompanying decline of Objective-C becomes clearer from market insights. The rapid rise of Swift has clearly captured the imagination of the Apple developer community.

Reports continued to attest to this, as job postings for Swift continue to rise. Demand for Objective-C is considerably less, as you can read in “Swift gains as iOS and macOS language, while Objective-C declines”.

Advantages of Swift

Swift’s popularity aside, there are several advantages if you move your app from Objective-C to Swift.

Reduced coding effort

Programmers need to code more in Objective-C for string control, class division, and string concatenation. Swift has introduced operators for these. Developers can use these operators, therefore, they save coding effort.

Read more about this advantage in “Objective-C or Swift: which technology to learn for iOS app development?”.

Fast and performant apps

Swift is lightweight. Apple estimates that Swift apps are significantly faster than Objective-C apps, moreover, the advantage is increasing with every new release of Swift.

Mobile apps are ’Systems of Engagement’ (SoEs). Performance and quick response matter to mobile apps. This improved performance is a clear advantage that Swift offers. Read more about it in “Swift vs. Objective-C: 7 benefits of Swift development”.

Code safer apps with the Swift programming language

Swift helps programmers code secure apps. The language has been designed to eliminate errors. Features like generics and type interference make the app stable. Swift apps are less prone to bugs and crashes.

Learn more about these features of Swift in “Swift vs Objective-C. Which iOS language to choose”.

Better readability

Swift is an English-like language. Developers find it easier to learn the syntax. The readability of the app code improves. Developers with Java, C, C#, C++, or Python skills can easily learn Swift. Find out more about it in “10 things I like about Swift”.

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It goes without saying that the easier syntax and better readability help all developers in the team to understand the code that others wrote. In turn, this improves team productivity.

The language of the future

As I have mentioned already, developers use Swift even outside iOS. Programmers are already coding apps for macOS, tvOS, and watchOS. This clearly makes the language relevant in a wider context, which signals a bright future for the language.

Robust support from technology giants

You already know that Apple is solidly behind Swift, however, they’re not the only technology giant supporting the language. IBM is another key technology giant that has offered robust support for the language.

IBM is conducting research concerning Swift. This bodes well for the growth of the language. Read more about IBM’s initiatives of supporting Swift in “Swift: probably the best full-stack language in the world”.

Better maintainability

Swift offers better readability, moreover, it reduces coding time. The combination of these two factors offers important advantages to programmers. It‘s easier to maintain a smaller code base, which is also easier to understand!

Better ’App store optimization’ (ASO)

Apple rewards apps that use their latest technology. Provided you have a high-quality app, your chance of being featured on the ’Apple App Store’ improves if you use Swift.

To understand the importance of the app being featured, read “App store optimization tips & checklist (ASO guide for iOS & Google Play apps)”.

How to work with Swift Programming Language?

You need to first know a bit more about Swift before you undertake an Objective-C to Swift conversion project. There are several repositories that feature comprehensive documentation.

Swift.org

Swift.org is an excellent starting point. Programmers can download Swift. There is a Getting Started Guide to help write swift code, which takes you through installation, using the Swift package manager, swift libraries, Swift compiler, etc.

Swift.org features extensive documentation for the language. This includes a language guide and a language reference. The ’source code‘ webpage points you to the GitHub repositories of the Swift project, moreover, these all are open-source repositories.

Mobile apps are SoEs, therefore, developers use the ’Agile‘ methodology to create them. This requires iterative development. Continuous integration using automated build management, testing, etc. is important.

Learn how Swift supports continuous integration here. There is also documentation about Swift 4.2.

Apple developer portal resources for Swift Programming Language

Apple offers extensive resources for programmers to work with Swift. These are on their developer portal page for Swift. You can create small Swift programs called “playgrounds” where you can immediately check the results of your code. Learn how to do that on an iPad here.

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You can find a wide variety of information on official Apple resources. For example, it shows how you can use the “Read-Evaluate-Print-Loop” (REPL) shell with Swift. Read more about REPL here.

Xcode, the famous ’integrated development environment’ (IDE) of Apple improves developers’ productivity. It offers Swift playgrounds to edit Swift code and view the results immediately. The developer portal documentation for the Swift ecosystem shows how to use it with Xcode.

There is also detailed documentation about the framework.

Planning to Engage in iOS Development?

Swift community is certainly growing for iOS app development projects. Advantages such as ease to use, less coding time, better performance, automatic memory management, etc., coupled with support from big names like Apple and IBM, show a bright future for Swift programming language.

If you, as a business CTO, are planning to engage in Swift iOS development, you will need expert app developers to accomplish this successfully. Given the increasing popularity of Swift apps, the market is rather competitive.

DevTeam.Space can provide you with field-expert swift developers according to your project needs. These high-quality developers are experienced in code conversions from existing Objective-C files and also developing an app source code from the scratch.

You can read our guide here on how to convert your objective-C app into a Swift source code app.

You can easily partner with our app developers by sending us your initial product specification via this quick form. One of our account managers will get back to you with further assistance.

FAQs on Swift Programming Language

1. What is Swift coding language used for?

This intuitive programming language is used to create applications for the Apple ecosystem including Apple platforms like iOS, Mac, Apple TV, Apple Watch, etc.

2. Is Swift hard to learn?

Swift is considered an easy-to-learn programming language with a lightweight closure syntax. Swift syntax is simple and easy to understand.

3. Can I code on windows using Swift?

Swift for windows is an open-source project that facilitates Swift development on Windows operating system. Swift 5.3 includes official platform support for Windows and some Linux distributions.


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