Xcode for Windows – many developers are wondering whether that exists. In this article we will answer this question. Furthermore, we will discuss which alternatives you have, if you don’t have a Mac, but want do to some iOS and Swift development anyway.
First things first: Xcode is an IDE (integrated development environment) by Apple, that allows you to develop for the Apple ecosystem. That means you can create applications for macOS, iOS, watchOS and tvOS. Xcode is a sole macOS application, so that it is not possible to install Xcode on a Windows system. Xcode is available for download on both the Apple Developer Portal and the MacOS App Store.
Should you install macOS on a Windows machine?
In theory it’s possible to install macOS on a non Apple machine, both natively and virtually. Then, Xcode could be installed. However, you shouldn’t do that! It’s not working very well and it’s deemed illegal by Apple’s licensing terms, so you must not go this route. And don’t be fooled: There are many sources in the internet that promises you that this were actually a good idea. Don’t trust those sources.
Renting a Mac in the cloud
A Mac is a great computer but it’s also quite expensive – that’s probably the main reason many developers wish that there were Xcode for Windows. An alternative for buying a Mac is renting a Mac in the cloud. There are several providers who offer that service, for example this one. In this particular case, Xcode is already installed, so that you can start out immediately. That’s actually a good way at the beginning. In the end it’s still advisable to buy a Mac some day though.
Non-native ways for developing iOS apps
Many people, who wish to install Xcode on a Windows machine, wants to develop iOS applications. There are options to develop iOS apps without using Xcode directly. However, then they aren’t native applications any more, but for example web apps. This are apps, that just have a bunch of HTML5 sites, that gets displayed in an internal web view. In theory, this makes it also possible to run the apps not only on iOS, but on Android devices as well. Develop once, deploy twice?
This sounds really good at first, but it isn’t!
Most importantly, those apps feel very bad. The users are used to have native apps, and non-native apps always feel very cumbersome. So that’s not a route you want to take.
Besides the bad user experience, you cannot test those apps without a Mac on an iOS device and you can’t upload the app to the Apple App Store. So, that’s not a good way.
The same holds true for all other types of cross-platform development systems as well. So there’s just one way to develop an app – and that’s the native way. And for that you need a Mac.
Alternatives for learning Swift
If you just want to learn iOS development, but you don’t have a Mac yet, than there are good alternatives. In this case you can start out by learning Swift. This is the programming language to choose for developing iOS, macOS, tvOS and watchOS applications. Before Swift, those application were written by using Objective-C. Although there are still a lot of Objective-C apps out there, it’s highly advisable to use Swift.
Swift is open source and there are several ways for writing Swift code on a non Mac machine. First, there is the Swift Playgrounds app for the iPad. You can use it to write Swift code and also to learn how to do it. If you are very new to programming, that’s a great way to start out! By the way, many people wish there were an Xcode version for the iPad. Unfortunately, that’s not the case at the moment. You never know what the future brings, but at the time of this writing there are no hints that this will change anytime soon.
Besides that, there are websites, that allow you to write and run Swift code, for example here. As with Swift playgrounds, that’s a good way for starting out.
Since Swift is open source, there are even projects that allow you to use Swift for programming Windows applications. For example, you can take a look here.
The support for Linux is even better and you can download it directly from the Swift website.
If you want to learn more about Swift, take a look at the Swift category on my blog. There are also a lot of other good tutorials out there. For example, you can take a look here. Swift is really a very good programming language and when you are new to programming, it’s a good choice for starting out.
Buying a cheaper Mac
If you decide to buy a Mac, you don’t have to buy the newest machine. At the time of this writing, the newest Xcode version 9.2 runs on all Mac with at least MacOS 10.12.6. There are nice refurbished devices in the Apple Store, but used devices are also a good alternative.
Unfortunately, there is no Xcode for Windows. And there is also no good and legal way to install macOS on a Windows machine. Renting a MacOS machine in the cloud is an alternative: It’s much cheaper than buying a Mac and you have all the possibilities. If it’s just about learning Swift, there are alternatives like the Swift Playgrounds Apps for the iPad and some websites, that let you run Swift code. And Swift compilers are even available for Windows and Linux.
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