Our BlogTips, Tricks, and Thoughts from Cerebral Gardens

Dave Wood

Dave Wood

Founder + Developer at Cerebral Gardens

With Xcode 9, it’s possible to mix and match Swift 3 and 4 libraries together. In the build settings for the project you set the version of Swift to use by configuring the SWIFT_VERSION setting. You’re able to override the project setting at the target level, thereby building some targets with Swift 3, and others with Swift 4.

If you’re using CocoaPods as your dependancy manager, there’s an issue when mixing and matching.

As you know, when using CocoaPods, you end up with an Xcode workspace that contains your main project, and a Pods project. Whenever you run pod install or pod update, CocoaPods will set the SWIFT_VERSION for all targets to be whatever your main project is set to, or it will fallback to Swift 3 if the main project doesn’t have the SWIFT_VERSION specified.

This means Xcode will try and compile all targets with the same version of Swift, regardless of what version of Swift is actually needed. There’s no built-in way for you to specify the version of Swift to use for each pod you’re including. There is a way for the pod maintainer to specify the version needed in the podspec (they need to set pod_target_xcconfig = { 'SWIFT_VERSION' => '4.0' } see XCGLogger.podspec for an example), but I’ve found it’s rare at this time for it to be set (hopefully this post will help change that).

Even if the pod sets the version of Swift to use, we run into a problem when Xcode resolves the setting. Xcode will prefer the target’s direct setting over the podspec’s suggestion, and since pod update always sets a direct setting on the target, the pod spec’s suggestion is never used (not surprising it’s rarely set).

The solution is to add a post_install script to the end of your podfile:

Let's examine this script.

It’s a post_install script so CocoaPods will execute the script after is has updated all of the included pods and updated the project file.

The script starts by looping through the build configurations of the Pod project and sets the default Swift version to 4.0 (lines 2-5).

Then it loops through all of the project’s targets (lines 7-19). It checks the target name against a known list of targets (line 8) and sets each of the configurations for matching targets to Swift 3 (lines 10-12). If the target isn’t in the known list, the script unsets the Swift version (lines 15-17), which will allow the pod to set the version itself using the pod_target_xcconfig setting we noted above. If the pod doesn’t set the version, Xcode will use the default Swift version we set at the start.

You will need to tweak the script for your project, specifically to set your default Swift version, and then to add the targets that require a different version on line 8.

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Big news from Apple today:

Starting on May 1st 2017, commissions for all app and in-app content will be reduced from 7% to 2.5% globally.
Screenshot via @drbarnard on Twitter

Apple is reducing commissions paid to sites who promote our apps by 64%! That's a huge cut and they're only giving everyone involved 7 days notice.

The app economy has been tanking for the last few years. Apple must know this by now, even though they tout how great it is (maybe it is for a few big companies such as Niantic Labs, Nintendo etc). Personally I think this change in commission rate must be part of something larger, aimed to help rejuvenate the ailing app economy.

Back in June, 2016, Apple announced the first change in the percentage developers pay Apple, dropping the 30% rate to 15% but only for those using subscriptions, and only after a customer has been a subscriber for at least a year. For the most part, this would only have helped a few developers so far, since only a limited number of developers were even allowed to use subscriptions until the June changes. Those would be the Netflix/HBO type apps that are worth billions and don't need the extra help.

What I'd like to see at WWDC this year, is for Apple to announce they are finally reducing the 30% rate we pay to something more reasonable. Let's say 15%?

Assuming that's the plan, how about this as a proposed alternative? Instead of dropping the rate to 15% across the board, Apple could drop the rate to 15% for apps installed organically, and 20% for apps installed through an affiliate link. That extra 5% could then be paid to the affiliate who earned the sale. As a developer, I'm fine with that since it only helps those who help me.

I feel this would be a win-win for all involved. Developers get a much needed drop in their commission rate. Promotion sites such as iMore, touchArcade, etc will get a small bump instead of a drastic cut in their earnings, and Apple gets to keep the new 2.5% affiliate commission rate. I know dropping the developer rate isn't ideal for Apple, but it would make a big difference for the people who help keep their devices in demand.

What do you think about this proposal? Please @ me on Twitter and let me know your thoughts.

With the recent announcement of some App Store changes, and WWDC just days away, I figured I’d better write about an idea I had before it’s too late. I’ll keep this much shorter than the version that’s been floating around in my head.

I would suggest that Apple release their grip on the App Store, and start allowing other stores on iOS/tvOS which would, essentially create an App Mall. Open it up so that anyone can create a store. These will be distinct apps developed like any other third party app, clearly branded to avoid user confusion with Apple’s App Store. I envision stores created by brands you already know: TouchArcade, 148Apps, AppShopper, Google, Microsoft, Panic, OmniFocus, RelayFM (for sponsored apps) etc; as well as new ones that will appear.

These stores would be akin to radio stations. If a person likes Rock and Roll, they tune in to a Rock and Roll station. If they prefer Jazz, they listen to a Jazz station. Every once in a while you listen to something different. We’ll have stores that focus on pro apps, stores for games, a store for writers, developers, parents etc. Users will come to know and trust the curators of their favourite stores. This plan delegates some of the curation of apps out to the community where it can be handled much better (just because of sheer numbers). It doesn’t take away from Apple’s App Store curation, rather it enables a method to better group apps and aid with app discovery. Instead of trying to fit 2+ million apps into 25 categories, there will be another layer on top to help sort.

One huge side effect to this plan is that Apple would have more control over it’s own App Store. They will be able to delist a tonne of bad apps, and stop adding new bad apps by raising the criteria that allows apps to be listed in the official App Store. If an app is ugly as sin, riddled with spelling errors, etc, they can refuse to include it in their store, just as Saks Fifth Avenue can refuse to stock substandard products. Right now, Apple has a set of rules, and if your app follows those rules it should be allowed in the store. Ugly apps should never be featured anyway, but they still come up and clutter the search results, they still show up in the “Customers Also Bought” section. With my new plan, those apps won’t show up at all. It’s my belief that Apple has to generally accept any app that follows their rules, or else they’ll start to run afoul of anti-competition laws. Since there is no other way to sell apps to users with iOS/tvOS devices than through the Apple App Store, if they reject apps based on religious beliefs, politics, bad UI, etc, they are preventing other companies from operating, and could get into trouble.

It would sort of be like Panasonic selling a radio, and then saying no Justin Bieber songs can be played on them. How long would it be before Panasonic was dragged into court by the Department of Justice? So my point here is that because Apple would be allowing developers to list their apps in other stores, they’ll be free to be more selective in their own store.

None of this affects app review, signing, pricing or privacy BTW. All apps would still go through review (though it would be more for weeding out malware or buggy software). Apps would still be signed by the developers and installed from Apple’s servers. Just as the TestFlight app can install apps that aren’t in the App Store, third party stores would also be able to use an API to trigger app installs (securely of course, apps wouldn’t be able to install other apps without the user’s explicit permission). The price of an app would be the same, and the payment would still be handled by Apple. So privacy is preserved as Apple would still be the only one to know who the customer is. Apple could still take their 30% (or now 15% in some cases, hopefully more cases soon). The third party store developer would be compensated via the already existing affiliate program. Or depending on the store, they may charge the developer for a listing, just as grocery stores charge food producers for the valuable space on the end of the aisle.

The goal of this idea is to help with app discovery. By opening up the App Store in this way, it empowers the developers in our community to help solve this major problem that’s really hurting the platform, without compromising the security or privacy of the platform that users have come to expect.

As we all scramble to learn this fantastic new language Apple gifted to us at WWDC 2014, we're coming across new ways of doing things, either because the new way is better, or because the old way is no longer possible.

One of the main features that Swift has taken away, is the C preprocessor. That's what enabled #define's to work. A common #define used is for debug logging, to include useful info with every line.

#define DLog(...) NSLog(@"%s(%p) %@", __PRETTY_FUNCTION__, self, [NSString stringWithFormat:__VA_ARGS__])

This lets us go from this:

NSLog(@"Simple Message");
2014-06-08 05:38:54.649 TestApp[35062:60b] Simple Message

to this:

DLog(@"Simple Message");
2014-06-08 05:38:54.649 TestApp[35062:60b] -[TSTAppDelegate application:didFinishLaunchingWithOptions:](0x10961f2e0) Simple Message

We now get a lot more info in our log messages and can see where in our code the log message came from without having to type it in for every line.

In Swift, we lost this functionality. The reason this was traditionally done with a #define, and not a function or class, is so that we can use the __PRETTY_FUNCTION__, __FUNCTION__, __FILE__, and __LINE__ macros. The preprocessor replaces those macros with their actual values. For example, __FILE__ will always contain the filename where the macro is placed for example. If you were to use them in a logging function, the macros would always contain the information of the logging function, not the calling function, rendering them useless.

This looked like it was going to be a major inconvenience in Swift so I filed a radar about it: http://openradar.appspot.com/17170702. After playing with Swift for a while, I've discovered a solution. I've built a library you can use in your projects.

Introducing XCGLogger

XCGLogger is my first open sourced third party library, that I think will be essential to add to your project.

The source can be found on GitHub here: https://github.com/DaveWoodCom/XCGLogger, with basic instructions on how to use it.

At a glance, it will change your logs from this:

Simple message

to this:

2014-06-09 06:44:43.600 [Debug] [AppDelegate.swift:40] application(_:didFinishLaunchingWithOptions:): Simple message

By writing code like this:

log.debug("Simple message")

instead of this:

println("Simple message")

A few things to note:

  1. Swift is brand new and in a state of flux, so it — and any libraries using it — will be subject to frequent changes.
  2. This is my first released library, so please let me know what you think and please share any ideas for improvement.
  3. There is a bug in Xcode 6 when using __FUNCTION__. XCGLogger uses a workaround for now, but will remove that once the bug is fixed. See: http://openradar.appspot.com/17219684
  4. This library is intended for use in Swift projects. There's no Objective-C compatibility included in it at this time. If it's a requested feature, it can be added.

Since Swift is brand new, there are a lot of different ways to accomplish the same thing. Over time, some best practices and patterns will emerge. I've used what I think are good practices and patterns in this library and hopefully they'll be helpful for developers as we work to establish what's best. For example, how to store static tokens for dispatch_once calls, shared instances, and global variables etc.

How does this work when I said earlier that using __FUNCTION__ and its friends in a function only gives you the information in the function instead of where it's called? Well, that's the secret sauce I discovered last week. If you set the default value of a parameter in a function to one of the macros, the compiler fills in that value at the calling location giving us the effect we need. Giving us access to the correct macro values inside the function that's called.

If you find this library helpful, you'll definitely find these other tools helpful:

Watchdog - monitors Xcode® and automatically cleans up stale cache files

Slender - cleans up Xcode projects, removing duplicate and/or unused assets

Briefs - powerful app prototyping, lets you and your clients try before you build

Follow me on Twitter @DaveWoodX

Today, Cerebral Gardens introduces Watchdog for Xcode. Watchdog is a helpful utility for iOS and Mac OS X developers that monitors Xcode cache files (DerivedData) and cleans out stale files before they interfere with your builds.

If you’ve been building apps in Xcode for a while, you will see the value in Watchdog instantly as you are familiar with the weird errors that can happen with Xcode. If you’re new to using Xcode, you may not have run into these issues yet, but eventually you will and that’s when Watchdog will save immense time and frustration.

A Watchdog user will no longer see these weird issues:

  • Old images that you've replaced, still showing up in your app.
  • The DerivedData folder growing continuously over time, often taking up 10+ gigabytes of space.
  • Constants/Defines not updating in the app after you've changed them in the code.
  • Localization file changes not being seen.
  • Phantom breakpoints and/or breakpoints stopping on the wrong line.
  • Xcode refusing to run a build on your device, only reporting something obscure like: "Error launching remote program: No such file or directory"

Sometimes the cause is related to your version control system updating files without Xcode noticing. Sometimes it’s random. Regardless, the result is the same: a bad build, time wasted, a frustrated developer, or even worse, an annoyed customer.

These errors can be mind numbing. Let Watchdog be your guard against these errors so you never again have your time wasted.

Watchdog gives you truly clean builds, saves time, and your sanity. It guards, protects and, most importantly, prevents.

Download Watchdog for Xcode