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Xamarin Adds Mac Agent for End-to-End iOS Development in Visual Studio

Xamarin today unveiled version 4 of its cross-platform development suite, featuring a new Xamarin Mac Agent that lets developers build iOS apps completely from within the Microsoft Visual Studio IDE.

Mobile development tooling specialist Xamarin, with strong ties to Visual Studio, lets developers create iOS, Android, Windows and Mac apps with one shared C# codebase. The Xamarin suite includes the Xamarin Platform, which provides the dev tooling; Xamarin Test Cloud, which provides real iOS and Android apps for testing; and Xamarin Insights, for app analytics.

"We've rebuilt our support for developing iOS apps in Visual Studio from the ground up, and it's smoother, easier to set up, and more reliable than ever before," CEO Nat Friedman said in a blog post today. "Now you can develop, build, deploy and debug iOS apps entirely from within Visual Studio, and communication with the Mac build host is now handled via a secure SSH connection. We now also support multiple concurrent Visual Studio instances, which is especially important if you have multiple iOS projects open at the same time. We think you're going to love it."

Xamarin also beefed up its app analytics capabilities with the addition of Xamarin Insights, a beta solution now generally available.

"Xamarin Insights provides real-time app monitoring that helps businesses keep apps healthy and end-users happy," the company said in a statement. Upon an app crash or error, the analytics component provides immediate and automatic feedback of diagnostic data such as stack traces, device status and user behavior. It also monitors app performance, letting developers define custom events that measure how long key user interactions take, for example.

Xamarin Insights Provides Real-Time App Monitoring
[Click on image for larger view.] Xamarin Insights Provides Real-Time App Monitoring (source: Xamarin)

"App monitoring begins with knowing what problems your users are encountering," Friedman said. "Is the app crashing or encountering exceptions or errors? Xamarin Insights provides automatic crash reporting and handles both managed and unmanaged mobile crashes seamlessly. You can also explicitly report errors or warnings to Xamarin Insights and track them through its dashboard. Xamarin Insights makes it easy to rank your issues by impact, spot patterns in app and device usage, and diagnose the corresponding issues."

Xamarin Insights also provides user analytics intelligence, tracking metrics such as traits, devices, session details and events for individual users.

"Xamarin Insights also helps you understand how your app is being used by tracking and timing step-by-step event data," Friedman said. "Analyze which screens are the most popular or which actions take your users the longest. You can even see which events led up to a crash, making it easy to reproduce your issues."

Developers just need to add a few lines of code to start using Xamarin Insights, which provides immediate benefits to developers using the company's Xamarin Studio IDE, which features templates that automatically leverage the tool's SDK.

In other enhancements, the Xamarin.Forms API, which lets developers share up to 95 percent of UI code across device platforms while retaining true native performance and UX, has been upgraded, the company said. Xamarin said it now features more than 40 controls, layouts and other key classes -- along with new gesture support -- while performing twice as fast as the previous version.

Also, as Microsoft has open sourced its .NET codebase, Xamarin has added much of that code to its tooling, which it said increases compatibility, performance and reliability across all products.

Improvements have also been made to the Xamarin Test Cloud, which provides cloud-based, automated app testing against more than 2,000 real iOS and Android devices. The test cloud features a preview of Test Recorder for the Mac. "Test Recorder uses a simulator or USB-connected iOS or Android device to record interactions -- text input, swipes, taps and page navigation -- and automatically creates test scripts," the company said.

The Xamarin.UITest 1.0 C# test automation framework, which now supports advanced testing scenarios, is now available for everyone, having previously been restricted to only Xamarin Test Cloud customers. The testing service also has new pricing options starting at $99 per month.

"Successfully delivering and maintaining hundreds of high-quality, high-performance mobile apps is a challenge for enterprises, especially given the fragmented, rapidly changing mobile device landscape," the company said. "Xamarin 4, however, cuts through this complexity and makes it possible to design, build, test, monitor and maintain successful apps at scale, using shared code, a reusable architecture, and repeatable processes for every stage of the app lifecycle. With less code to maintain and automated ways to ensure app quality, businesses are able to deliver greater mobile business value faster."

Xamarin offers basic (free), business and enterprise pricing schemes, with details available here.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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