- You’re already familiar with Mac OS X and or iOS, if not I suggest following step 1 below and then familiarizing yourself with the Mac for a bit before continuing on to step 2.
- You are familiar with the concept of software and writing code, but haven’t necessarily written any before. If not check out Wikipedia for a quick crash course. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software & http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C_(programming_language) should do the trick!
Step 1: Buy a Mac & maybe an iOS device
If you want to develop apps for iOS (iPhone, iPad, etc.) or OS X (Mac) the first thing you will need is a Mac. While it is possible to develop apps for these platforms without a true Mac, I do not recommend going down this route, especially when just getting started.
I recommend getting a used MacBook Pro 2010 or newer off Craigslist or Ebay if you can’t muster up the cash for a new system! I started with a 21.5in iMac personally, but the portability of the laptop allows you to work away from the house and the coffee shop can be your best friend when writing software.
You will need to install the latest version of OS X (currently Mountain Lion) on the system, and I recommend ensuring it has a minimum of 4gb ram installed.
Step 2: Register for the Apple Developer Program
Registering for an Apple developer account is essential to beginning app development for iOS or OS X. It is very simple, just visit https://developer.apple.com and choose either iOS dev center or Mac Dev Center, then click register.
If you already have an iTunes account (Apple ID), you can link your developer account to that and avoid creating and remembering yet another password. There are a few different types of developer accounts and I won’t go into the details of each one, but you basically have two choices here:
- Free program – which allows you access to minimal resources and you can only run your apps on a device simulator
- Paid program – $100 per year which gives you access to an abundance of resources and the ability to install your apps on device
If you’re really serious about being an App Developer, I recommend biting the bullet and going for the paid program. In my opinion, not being able to see your creation running directly on your iPhone or iPad is a major disadvantage for a number of reasons. First of all, device testing is essential to developing an app that both looks great and performs well. Secondly, seeing an app that you developed running directly on your device is an awesome experience and one that can be the difference between giving up and carrying on (I would not let yourself pass on that experience if your serious about building apps). However, if you really can’t afford the $100 after throwing down some dough for that new Mac you purchased in step 1, then the free program will get you though the beginner process for awhile, but I would still recommend upgrading as soon as you can.
Another important feature of the paid program is the ability to download/view WWDC videos and sample code (World Wide Developer Conference). These are videos created by Apple engineers detailing the tools and APIs (Application Programming Interface) available from Apple. Many of these videos are of a “how to” format and are essential to developing great apps!
Once you have signed up for your developer account you can find the WWDC videos .and other resources here https://developer.apple.com/wwdc/
Step 3: Install Xcode
Once you’re setup with that new Mac and have a developer account ready to go, the next step is to install Xcode (Apple’s Integrated Development Environment for software development). Nowadays this is trivial a process in most cases, but here are the steps anyway.
- Open the “App Store” app, then search for “Xcode”
- Select “Xcode” and then press “Install” shown as “Installed” in the figure
- Once Xcode has finished installing, open your applications folder and open Xcode.
- Xcode will most likely prompt you with further installation instructions for various tools, just follow the on-screen directions, choosing to install all of the tools.
Once Xcode finishes it is now ready to use! Xcode is the app where you will spend the majority of your time when developing apps. It is where you write code and test/debug the code that makes up your application.
Step 4: Learn the Objective-C programming language
I must confess this is a rather large step, and one that you will be continually perfecting as you write your app. While the Objective-C programming language is quite complex and a broad topic to say the least, it is not entirely necessary to fully understand before beginning app development. Rather, a topic you should perfect through the process of development, after all, practice makes perfect!
For all you newbies out there who haven’t written a line of code in your life (if I haven’t lost you yet) this may seem like a seemingly impossible step. Relax, it’s not! Just remember every software developer started in your position and some point in their life.
All that is required is determination and follow through. If you can find that in yourself, then you can complete this step and move on to a fulfilling career developing software!
More technically, Objective-C is a strict superset of the C programming language, which in simple terms means what is valid C is also valid Objective-C (this is a simple explanation, not a technically complete one). So you may ask,
Do I need to learn the C programming language first?
Well… yes and no.
There are many benefits to having a strong C foundation when writing Objective-C, but it is not a requirement and you will be able to begin and develop simple apps in many cases without ever dealing with C directly. However, many of the underlying frameworks (a kind of code library) are written in C. So at some point you will need to cross this bridge…
However, learning the fundamentals of C are not that challenging and all of the concepts are directly applicable to Objective-C so it’s a win-win situation.
My recommendation would be to check out iTunesU (free college courses), and watch as many lectures as you can stand. That should be enough knowledge for you to get started.
Here are some of my favorites, If you can make it through all 4 of these courses, you will be a rockstar app developer! It only takes 4 courses! Many college students take 4 courses a semester, if that puts it in perspective.
Programming Methodology – https://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/programming-methodology/id384232896
Programming Abstractions – https://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/programming-abstractions/id384232917
Programming Paradigms – https://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/programming-paradigms/id384233005
Developing Apps for iOS – https://itunes.apple.com/us/course/ipad-iphone-app-development/id495052415
Step 5: Find your Motivation
You must have some reason for reading this article? Maybe you have a desire to do something different or better than you’re doing now? Or maybe you were attracted by the tales of wealth through app development and the app store?
Whatever your reason may be for reading this article, if you really want to become an app developer, you need to focus on your motivation and feed off it! This will enable you to actually follow through with your desire. Finding this motivation and harnessing it to push you through the tough times is the only path to success!
In order to succeed, you must follow through!
That is it!!!!!
Notice, I didn’t say…
“In order to succeed you need a computer science degree from Stanford”. Or “In order to succeed you need a genius level IQ and a million dollars.” Guess what, you don’t! I have personally worked with great software developers who were self taught without a college degree.
So how did they get there?
Plain and simple, they harnessed their motivation and used it to follow through with their desire to be a software developer.
You can do the same, you just have to have the patience and determination to follow through. I’m not going to sugar coat it for you, if you can’t find any motivation at this point then don’t bother.