With WWDC 2014 came a slew of Apple software announcements, including iOS 8, OS X 10.10 Yosemite and new developer tools. Among those developer tools is a brand new programming language called Swift, which is designed to make it easier to develop apps for Mac OS X and iOS devices. Here, we bring you everything you need to know about Swift.
"Swift is fast. It is modern. It is modern. It is designed for safety and it enables a level of interactivity and development you've never seen before on the platform," said Craig Federighi, Apple senior vice president of software engineering when he introduced the language to the audience at the WWDC 2014 keynote. See: 4 OS X Yosemite features we'd love to see in Windows
If you're a developer, Swift is going to make a big impact on you. It will eventually replace the dated Objective-C programming language that Apple has been using for 17 years, and was developed even before that, in the 1980s.
For now, though, Swift will work side-by-side with Objective-C, so developers will be able to add Swift code to existing apps without needing to replace all of the Objective-C code.
Developers can create Swift programs for the Cocoa (Mac OS X) and Cocoa Touch (iOS) programming frameworks using Xcode6, Apple's newest version of its integrated development environment (IDE).
Overall, the biggest advantage that Swift offers over Objective-C is ease-of-use. It's designed to be easier to read and to code, with no need for semi-colons at the end of each line and fewer required symbols. See: The iOS 8 features Apple stole from Android
In addition, developers don't have to manage memory allocations in Swift, as it is managed automatically. It's ideal for less experienced developers, but also means we can expect more reliable apps.
Swift has been likened to another highly-regarded programming language called Python, so if you're familiar with that language, some much of the syntax in Swift will be recognisable to you. However, Swift is a brand-new language, so it will require some learning.
To get Swift and begin developing apps using the new language, you'll need to be a registered Apple developer, which costs £69 per year. An Xcode 6 beta is available from Apple Developer Connection, so if you're a registered developer, you'll be able to download the IDE and begin working with Swift.
There's an Apple-supplied book on the iBooks Store that'll help developers (and anyone else who's interested) learn the new code, and we're expecting more books on the subject to be released soon to fill in some of the areas the current book leaves out, such as iOS app development in the Xcode environment.
Developer Nate Murray managed to use Swift to develop a clone of Flappy Bird within hours of the new language's release. Murray's online coding school, Fullstack.io, is soon to launch a "Game Programming with Swift" course for those interested in learning the language.
To find out more about Swift, visit our sister title Macworld UK's How to get started with Apple Swift programming article.