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Apple

New Developer Resources

Just in time for Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference Apple has released a couple of updates for developers. These are the Developer app and the developer forums.

Developer App

The Apple Developer app has been updated to support the Mac. This uses MacCatalyst to be able to provide the functionality on the Mac. If you open the app you are presented with a three-column layout. The sidebar on the left, a list of items in the middle, and the detail information on the right.

The sidebar allows you to select from different groupings, including Library, Browse, Platforms, and Events. These will provide you with various items under each heading. As an example, if you click on an item under the “Platforms” heading, you will get a list of videos related to that platform. If you select one of the videos, you will get the details on the right side. This is very similar to what you would get on the Apple Developer website. This applies to each of the sections under the headings.

Issues

While the app contains a lot, and is a very welcome addition to the Mac, the app is not without issues. The first of these is that there is no way to adjust the font size. This mans that if you have a large screen, or are using a large screen resolution, it may be hard to read the text. Considering how much Apple puts into accessibility, this is definitely not accessible.

The second issue is one that I find strange. If you expand the right most pane out, the content is always centered. It does not flow like it should. instead the content stays centered.

Both of these issues should be fixed, particularly the in-ability to adjust the font-size. The font size issue may be a limitation of Catalyst on macOS Catalina and maybe the functionality will work with the next version of macOS. Next, let us look at a refresh to a resource that developers may overlook, the developer forums.

Developer Forums

Today Apple unveiled a refreshed Apple developer forums. The Apple developer forums are designed to allow developers to connect with each other, as well as Apple developers, to help discover and work out issues with Apple’s platforms. The old developer forums did look as though they were from the mid-2000s, which they were.

Here are a couple of screenshots from the old developer forums.

New Forums

Given the age of the Apple developer forums a refresh has been needed. Today Apple released the new developer forums. The new forums bring a new overall look. When you open up the developer forums you are presented with two column view. The columns are Top Posts on the left, and Top Tags and Top Users on the right. Similar to the image below.

Asking and Replying to Questions

Besides searching, one of the most common tasks for the developer forums is to ask a question. When you do this, you will see a page with two areas, the question and a Live Preview. The question box uses Markdown to be able to format the questions. You are able to use quite a bit of formatting. Here is a full example below.

Once you are done writing your question, you can add tags. This is done with a search to allow you to add a tag to your post. When you begin typing, a list of matching tags. If you do not have any text in the tags, a list of all of the available tags will be shown. Below is what the tags look like

If you do not have any questions but want to help others, you can reply to a question. When you do this, you can use the same Markdown formats for replying to a question.

Viewing a Question

One thing you may do when you are using the developer forums is to view a question. When you view a question you will see the question text, a thumbs up/down button on the left, the tags, how old the question is, and when it was asked.

Below the asked question, you will see any replies. The replies should be in oldest to newest. If there are more than 15 replies, the additional replies will be on subsequent pages.

Next to the name of the person who asked the question, you will see a “Share Button”. The share button will display a standard Share Sheet, for the platform.

Overall, the new look works well and is an improvement over the previous developer forums. Despite all of the good, there are some issues with the new developer forums.

Problems with the new Developer Forums

The new developer forums leave a bit to be desired. In terms of layout, typography, and overall aesthetic for the developer forums, they are absolutely fantastic. Viewing an actual issue now offers a larger view and a larger amount of white space. The buttons are big, and in some respects too big. The overview is nice, as are the top tags. However, everything now comes down to search, or clicking on an existing tag within a question.

The number of results is still limited to 600 with no way to add more filters or even sort. Furthermore, the search results are usually not relevant. For instance, I did a search for “beta iOS”, thinking it would show some recent beta posts, but here are the first five results with when they were asked:

  • Beta iOS 9 – Asked 4 years ago
  • How do I install the beta iOS 9? – Asked 5 years ago
  • How How install/download beta iOS 13/watchOS 6 profile? – Asked 11 months ago
  • Proactive search not displaying on Public Beta iOS 9 – Asked 4 years ago
  • beta iOS 10.3 battery drain – Asked 3 years ago.

Other than the third result, the rest are not very useful. Maybe it was the search, so let us look at another example. This time I just searched “iOS”. Here are the results:

  • iOS 10beta to final ios 10 – Asked 3 years ago
  • iOS 11 recovery to iOS 10 – Asked 2 years ago
  • iOS 11 GM to iOS 11 – Asked 2 years ago
  • iOS 10 restore to iOS 10 – Asked 3 years ago
  • iOS 10.0.2 (iOS 10.1) Betas – Asked 3 years ago

Again, these results are not very helpful. I figured I would try something a bit newer, like ARKit. Here are those results:

  • ARKit – Asked 3 years ago
  • SwiftUI and ARKit – Asked 11 months ago
  • ARKit on iPad? – Asked 3 years ago
  • Geolocation and ARKit – Asked 3 years ago
  • ARKit question – Asked 2 years ago

Even the results for ARKit are not super relevant, excluding the second result. Therefore, I am not sure if they will be useful.

Ways to Improve

I do not want to just highlight the about the new developer forums. Instead I have some ideas for improvement.

List All Tags

Provide a page that shows all of the tags, and the number of posts with that tag. I can understand not showing all tags and even limiting it to the top 50 or 100 tags with the option of displaying all tags would help developers find what they are looking for.

Filters

Add the ability to filter results. This could be with an additional keyword search that would match the current results. This even could be with some Boolean logic, for instance the phrase “swiftui and Xcode NOT beta” would show items that have both SwiftUI and Xcode, but not beta. After all these are developers and they are able to use logic.

An additional filter that Apple could add would be for time frame. Even if these are a static list, it could go a long way to being more useful.

Closing Thoughts

I will be the first to admit that I often forget about the forums except right after WWDC when I go and look to see if others are having similar issues. Even though the developer forums have been updated, I am not sure how useful they will be given their current state. I do want to reiterate that the new look is much better and much cleaner and is definitely welcome. It is the overall functionality that needs some improvement.

I am guessing that Apple wanted to get something out in time for WWDC, and they did just that. As is the case with many of the products that get re-written, it appears as though the developer forums have been done with a minimum viable product. With a minimum viable product, not every feature with the previous version is re-implemented at first, just due to time and cost. Hopefully, many of the missing features will come to the developer forums in the coming months.