Last week, two of our developers took time out of their busy schedule to attend a Xamarin workshop in Norwich. Already familiar with the platform, they were keen to expand their understanding in order to make their everyday processes more efficient. The workshop, organised by Norfolk Developers, was run by Christos Matskas from Microsoft.
The day started with an introduction to Xamarin and the technologies behind the workings of the platform. There has been a lot of focus in developing a standardised .NET library to incorporate all the frameworks used by Xamarin. The .NET Standard Library is a formal specification of .NET APIs that are intended to be available on all .NET runtimes. Although Xamarin can use Portable Class Libraries (PCL) or Shared Projects with compiler directives, our developers have learned that there is a great deal of emphasis on taking the PCL approach, with rapid progress being made to develop PCLs further.
It was interesting to see the approaches taken to build an application for all three platforms on one machine. The majority of attendees had Windows machines, with a number of Mac Users present. The Windows users faced many issues using emulators for the build process. These issues appeared to revolve around the need for HyperV. Although Mac users didn’t face such issues, they had the limitation of not being able to build for Universal Windows Platform (UWP). This could be circumvented by using a Virtual Machine, but it was highlighted that a powerful machine would be required. Although advancements have been made to the build process on Windows, a Mac is still required on the same network, acting as a build host. However, an iOS device can now be attached to the Windows machine, eliminating the need to swap between work stations.
The key focus of the day was around Xamarin.Forms. It was great to see the progress made over the last couple of years, especially with the acquisition from Microsoft. The workshop highlighted many of the recommended approaches and frameworks to utilise during development. Most interestingly around consuming web services and Inversion of Control, providing the ability to build a secure, efficient and scalable application with increased code reuse and speed.
While already using Xamarin for several projects at Coderus, it was great to see the advances made with Xamarin.Forms and to gain insight to the approaches used by Christos Matskas from Microsoft. With the prospect of more Xamarin projects coming up, it was interesting to get a more complete guide as to what is currently available and the recommended ways of using these technologies. It was good to get confirmation that our projects are following the recommended standards, such as RESTful APIs which we have been using in a recent project. PRISM is another option to the current MVVM (Model View ViewModel) libraries we’ve been using. It was also helpful to get questions answers such as the approach to bindings and using commands apposed to events for bindings. All in all, the workshop provided a great insight not only on Xamarin, but also into the approaches and frameworks being recommended and utilised in the real world.
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