Build Mac and iOS apps in Visual Studio: Oxygene for Cocoa

Remobjects has released Oxygene for Cocoa, which lets you build apps for Mac and iOS using Visual Studio and the Oxygene language.

Oxygene is a Delphi-like language, making this an easy transition for Delphi developers. Until the most recent release, a version of Oxygene, called Prism, was bundled with Delphi, though this targeted .NET rather than Cocoa. Oxygene can also build apps for the Java runtime, making it a three platform solution.

The cross-platform approach is different from that taken by Embarcadero with FireMonkey, a cross-platform framework for Delphi itself. FireMonkey abstracts the GUI as well as the non-visual code, and in many cases controls are drawn by FireMonkey rather than using the native controls on platforms such as iOS. By contrast, Oxygene works directly with the Cocoa frameworks, so you will build the GUI in code or using the Xcode tools on the Mac.

More like Xamarin then? “We do work together with Mono and with Xamarin,” says Remobjects chief Marc Hoffman. “Oxygene for .NET works with the regular Mono framework for desktop or server apps. But when you get to the devices, the benefit with Oxygene is that you get much closer to the framework, you don’t have the weight of providing an abstraction for the classes you want to use.  If you write a UITableViewController to define a view, then you really write a UITableViewController, the same as you would in Objective-C, just the language is different, whereas in Xamarin you write a different class that sits on top and Mono does the mapping.”

Why not just use Xcode? This is in part a language choice. Remobjects says that Oxygene is “better than Objective-C” thanks to features like automatic boxing of integers, floats and strings, and generic arrays. There is more about the language here. Perhaps more important, if you know Pascal or Delphi it will look more familiar. You also get the ability to share code between Windows, Android, Mac and iOS, though this will be the non-visual code. Developers can also work mainly in Visual Studio rather than in Xcode.

The disadvantage is that you need two machines, or a VM running Windows on a Mac, and a remote connection to a Mac in order to debug.

I plan to try out Oxygene for Cocoa soon and of course will report on the experience.