15 Sep ‘15
My Week with Intel XDK
15 Sep ‘15
Intel XDK is one of the more recent offerings for developing cross-platform mobile applications. We wanted to evaluate it for an upcoming project and here’s my assessment after using it for a week.
One of the more compelling advantages of XDK as an integrated development environment (IDE) is that it includes all the tools you need to develop cross-platform apps from start to finish. Development, emulation, testing, debugging, building, and publishing are all included and organized into tabs that are appropriately ordered. It supports building for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. You know I love the Windows phone interface so that option is very interesting to me. XDK supports developing hybrid apps, which are HTML5 apps that can access native devices features, by integrating Apache Cordova directly in the IDE.
I’ve used several IDEs over the years including Xcode and Titanium and in my opinion XDK is by far the easiest to set up and use. I was up and running in about 15 minutes and testing my first app within an hour. In my first week with it I created a music app, a camera app, a YouTube app, a geolocation app, and a JSON web services app.
XDK’s Develop tab is a text editor based on Brackets. It worked well enough for my needs but XDK also supports using other editors if you so choose.
The Emlulate tab is based on Apache Ripple and it’s pretty awesome. Testing for different screen sizes and different devices is really easy with XDK as you can choose from a wide variety of devices.
Preview for rapid testing
The testing features make development time super fast because there’s no need to build the app every time you want to test it. All you need to do is download Intel App Preview onto your test device (phone, tablet etc), available on IOS, Android and the Windows Store. There are two ways to use App Preview. The first is by pulling the project from the server and opening it in the Preview app. But the second option is even easier. Just connect the test device to the same WiFi that your dev computer is on and boom, all your dev apps show up in the Preview app and you can run them right on the device. This means you can make a change in the IDE and test it on a real device instantly. That’s a huge time saver.
Build and publish
Building is very easy and straightforward, too. You just need to configure some information about the app. Different platforms have different configuration requirements. iOS, for example, requires information about your iOS developer account.
Web Services and Cordova
As mentioned above, Cordova is integrated into the XDK IDE. Adding a plugin is as easy as clicking a box in the project properties. These plugins give your app easy access to native phone functions such as the accelerometer, camera, contacts, file system, audio, and status bar.
Adding web services is also easy. XDK comes with accessibility to many popular web services such as Google Places, Amazon, Bing, Flickr, Instagram, and Spotify. You can use the web services tool to easily embed the data into your app.
HTML5 continues to strengthen as an option for mobile app development and, every day, more new tools and companies are helping this trend. Intel is one of the most prestigious tech companies in the world and their investment in hybrid mobile applications says a lot about their confidence in HTML5 technology. Intel XDK makes it very easy to create hybrid apps, offering everything you need for developing them in one place. Ripe is still kicking the tires on XDK but we’re already considering it one of our favorite tools in the shed.