What is the Swift programming language, and why should I learn it?

Apple’s purpose-built language works across iOS, macOS, iPadOS and more

Apple Swift code logo

If you're an app developer, you've likely got a few favoured programming languages in your toolkit. Statistically speaking, these probably include Java, Python and some variation of C, but there's a strong argument for incorporating the Swift programming language into your arsenal if you haven't already.

Swift is an open source programming language developed and maintained by Apple, and it's what the company recommends that developers use when writing apps for its various platforms. It's an evolution of the Objective-C language that Apple has been using since co-founder Steve Jobs licensed it decades ago as part of the founding of NeXT, and is built to be a simplified and highly extensible version of Objective-C.

Advertisement - Article continues below

In addition toObjective-C, Swift incorporates aspects of Python, Rust, Ruby and other languages. Many of its features focus on making Swift as easy-to-use as possible; this includes things like improved string support, option types and measures to protect against programming errors like null point dereferencing or integer overflow.

What can I build with Swift?

Somewhat unsurprisingly given the company's track record and general attitude, Swift is compatible only with Apple operating systems - you can't use it to develop software for Android or Windows devices. You can, however, use it to write code for any Apple product, as it works across macOS, tvOS, iPadOS, watchOS and iOS. Linux is the sole exception to this, as Swift does support the popular open source OS kernel.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

Swift code is designed to take maximum advantage of Apple's hardware and operating systems, and is regularly updated to keep in line with the latest developments in these areas. For apps on any Apple devices, there's really no substitute for the level of functionality it offers.

Advertisement - Article continues below

How to learn Swift programming

Understandably, Apple is keen to get as many people as possible to a point of familiarity with its homebrew language, and it has a series of training resources in order to support this. One such resource is Swift Playgrounds - a free iPad app which helps teach kids the fundamentals of Swift programming through a series of games and challenges.

For complete beginners to the world of programming, this may be a good place to start, but it's probably a little on the simple side for all but the most novice developers. There are e-books and other official Apple resources available for more advanced learners, as well as numerous online courses for learning Swift.

Once you're familiar with Swift, the easiest way to start actually using it to build apps is to download the latest version of Xcode, Apple's IDE for macOS. This includes all the essential tools like a code editor, debugger, testing environments and more, as well as a full version of Swift and all the runtimes you'll need to start constructing apps.

Featured Resources

Successful digital transformations are future ready - now

Research findings identify key ingredients to complete your transformation journey

Download now

Cyber security for accountants

3 ways to protect yourself and your clients online

Download now

The future of database administrators in the era of the autonomous database

Autonomous databases are here. So who needs database administrators anymore?

Download now

The IT expert’s guide to AI and content management

Your guide to the biggest opportunities for IT teams when it comes to AI and content management

Download now
Advertisement

Most Popular

Visit/mobile/mobile-phones/355239/microsofts-patent-design-reveals-a-mobile-device-with-a-third-screen
Mobile Phones

Microsoft patents a mobile device with a third screen

6 Apr 2020
Visit/security/cyber-security/355271/microsoft-gobbles-up-corpcom-domain-to-keep-it-from-hackers
cyber security

Microsoft gobbles up corp.com domain to keep it from hackers

8 Apr 2020
Visit/server-storage/servers/355254/a-critical-flaw-in-350000-microsoft-exchange-remains-unpatched
servers

A critical flaw in 350,000 Microsoft Exchange remains unpatched

7 Apr 2020