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Xamarin Updates Its Cross-Platform Mobile Development Tooling

Cross-platform mobile development tool vendor Xamarin Inc. today unveiled version 3 of its trademark product, introducing new features such as improved code sharing and IDE enhancements.

The Xamarin 3 software comes with its own Studio IDE and is tightly integrated with Microsoft's Visual Studio IDE, as it focuses on cross-platform development with the C# language, letting developers target iOS and Android devices -- as well as those running Windows Phone -- with one main codebase. Xamarin lets developers share most of their code for the targeted platforms, though it features slightly different processes and features for targeting the Apple and Google OSes.

Xamarin co-founder Nat Friedman announced the release of Xamarin 3, listing four main areas of improvement:

  • Xamarin Designer for iOS. The designer uses the iOS Storyboard format that will be familiar to iOS developers. It's fully integrated with Xamarin Studio, the standalone IDE, and Visual Studio. Xamarin Studio also has a Mac-specific version.
  • Xamarin.Forms. This is a UI builder available as a portable class library (PCL). Xamarin.Forms pages "represent single screens within an app," Xamarin says. Connecting common controls such as lists, labels and buttons to the shared C# backend code means that a developer could create a page that will display the same across a Windows Phone, iPhone and Android phone.
  • IDE Upgrades. This is where a lot of the Visual Studio integration happens. Xamarin says it has combined its iOS and Android extensions into a single Visual Studio extension; added full support for NuGet packages; published complete documentation for the .NET Base Class Libraries (for which they thank Microsoft) into Xamarin Studio; and added support for the growing F# language.
  • Code Sharing. Xamarin 3 allows developers to use Shared Projects. They enable code sharing between multiple target projects, including Xamarin applications. "They support compiler directives so that you can conditionally include platform-specific code to be compiled into a subset of the projects that are referencing the Shared Project," according to Xamarin. Shared Projects was originally a part of Visual Studio 2013 Update 2, released May 12.

Xamarin has four versions, beginning with a free Starter edition, up to $1,899/year, per platform, per developer for the Enterprise edition. Xamarin 2.0 was released Feb. 20, 2013.

Friedman also announced the acquisition of the Visual Studio Extensibility (VSX) Division of Clarius Consulting. Friedman called Clarius "...the world's foremost experts on extending Visual Studio." Some of its extensions include Visual T4, IronPython Studio, Default Browser Switcher and Debugger Canvas.

A page on the Clarius Web site said that the sale of VSX will allow the company to focus on other areas like mobile, cloud and embedded computing. Microsoft is a major Clarius customer, perhaps fueling speculation that Microsoft may still be considering an acquisition of Xamarin. As ZDNet and Redmond Magazine columnist Mary Jo Foley reports, though, there's been no movement on that front lately. The terms of the purchase were not announced.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization Review.

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