Xamarin is a widely used cross-platform development tool that enables mobile app developers to create cross-platform but native apps for Android, iOS, and Windows platforms simultaneously.
Traditionally, Xamarin Native enabled developers to share code across the various platforms while developing their user interfaces separately. While a lot faster and more efficient than developing their app for each platform with platform-specific development methods, this still required developers to have deep knowledge about each platform’s UI technologies. It also consumes more time and effort compared to complete cross-platform development.
All that changed, however, when Xamarin Forms was introduced in version 3.0 of the Xamarin platform on May 28, 2014. Xamarin Forms eliminates the redundancy of creating separate user interfaces for different platforms. Let’s look at how it works and why it’s an excellent solution for cross-platform mobile app development.
What is Xamarin Forms?
Xamarin Forms is a user interface framework that enables developers to build native layouts and controls that can be shared across iOS, Android, and Windows.
Just like with traditional Xamarin native mobile app development, the code is shared across the various platforms. With Xamarin Forms, UI definitions are also shared but are rendered using native controls on the target operating systems. Thus, cross-platform mobile apps developed with Xamarin Forms are native and look and feel like native apps.
Xamarin Forms uses C# and the XAML markup language to build the shared UI of the mobile app. XAML is quite similar to XML which is used in android app development and doesn’t have a steep learning curve.
With Xamarin Forms, developers can create a cross-platform mobile app from start to finish without having to deal with platform-specific technologies. However, if they need to write platform-specific code for any of the supported platforms, they can easily do so.
Platforms fully supported by Xamarin Forms include Android, Windows UWP, and iOS. Previews are available for Linux with GTK#, WPF (desktop applications), macOS, and Tizen.
With the ability to share code and UI definitions across different mobile platforms, developers can truly ‘write once, run everywhere’ with Xamarin Forms. Let’s look at a couple of reasons why you should consider using Xamarin Forms over traditional native Android, iOS, and UWP app development methods.
Advantages of Cross-Platform Mobile App Development with Xamarin Forms over Traditional Native Mobile App Development
Xamarin Forms definitely makes the lives of developers easier and brings about huge time savings in cross-platform mobile app development. At the same time, project managers and decision-makers who are looking to build a cross-platform mobile app have a lot to gain from developing their product with Xamarin Forms.
For one thing, Xamarin Forms allows for rapid prototyping during the development process. As it’s super easy to build app user interfaces with Xamarin Forms and XAML, developers and project managers can easily create medium and high-fidelity prototypes during the development process. Changes can be made to the design and functionality of the application very easily and they will be reflected across the different platforms.
It also provides maximum flexibility for developers with the ability to resort to platform-specific technologies if necessary. Developers can also decide whether to employ XAML and C# for UI development or to only use C# and the framework’s API.
Xamarin Forms gives developers a variety of layouts and controls to create fully functional user interfaces. Different kinds of pages can be used to customize the look and feel of the application.
It is also very easy for developers to access platform-specific functionalities using the shared code. For example, cross-platform mobile apps built with Xamarin Forms for the UWP (Windows) platform can take advantage of the Live Tiles functionality. They can also utilize Google Play Services on Android and CoreMotion or PassKit on iOS app development. To name a few examples.
Of course, Xamarin Forms app development enables project managers to ensure feature parity on the mobile platforms even down to the user interfaces. It’s a hassle-free, solid way to share business logic, code, and UI design across different operating systems while ensuring a native look and feel on all platforms.
When to Use Xamarin Forms for Cross-Platform App Development?
With all the benefits mentioned above, you’re likely already contemplating the pros and cons of employing this approach to your future app development projects. While it’s definitely an excellent solution for cross-platform mobile app development, Xamarin Forms may not be ideal for every situation. First, let’s look at cases where it’s a no-brainer.
If you’ve got cross-platform development needs, time and budget constraints, and want a native app with a native user interface, then Xamarin Forms is the way to go. Now, even if you have unlimited time and resources (which no one has BTW), you will always benefit from the streamlined development process that Xamarin Forms provides.
Xamarin Forms is also suited for creating a mobile app for just a single platform, because of the ease of UI development using XAML and C#.
If, on the other hand, you’re looking to create a mobile app for just a single platform and you want a highly customized UI for that specific platform or need to include UI functionality that works with only on that platform, then the traditional Xamarin native development tools will make a lot more sense.
Also, if you want to create a game or an application with complex platform specific animations, Xamarin Forms may not be the best way to do so. In this situation choosing Xamarin native is again a better choice.
However, if your app needs to look and function the same on multiple platforms, then Xamarin Forms is a great choice.
The mobile app development process is definitely a lot easier today than it was some years back. With cross-platform development tools like Xamarin Forms, project managers and decision-makers can confidently set goals to fully support the various mobile platforms available today and achieve those goals.
With the integration of mobile computing devices into our daily lives, having well-made mobile apps that give users easy access to products and services has never been more important for businesses. And with Xamarin Forms, creating them has never been easier.