13 iOS app development tools you need to know about

11 min read
April 12, 2023

iOS development is widely considered to be far easier and more pleasant than creating software for most other platforms.

Much of that has to do with the amazing tools and resources that Apple gives to iOS developers.

Plus, there’s also a wealth of third-party frameworks that take these capabilities even further.

This article will cover 13 tools we consider the most crucial for an iOS developer. They cover every aspect of development, from testing to documentation.

Let’s start with the most important tool—the IDE.


XCode is the official integrated development environment (IDE) for developing all Apple software.

It provides a streamlined approach and tight integration with the Apple platform, making it your best tool for building, testing, and deploying iOS native applications.

XCode includes everything a modern IDE would have, such as a source code editor, debugger, and version control.

It provides support for various languages like Swift, Objective-C, C, and C++ via the LLVM compiler.

XCode interface

Source: Apple

Apart from coding, XCode also provides robust file management features.

For instance, the Asset Catalog will sort all image files according to resolution. It will even select the best image so the final distribution will have an efficient file size.

The Assistant Editor, on the other hand, displays the files relevant to the code currently in the editor.

XCode Assistant Editor

Source: Apple

It also includes a powerful Build System, a Fix-It feature that allows you to correct source code mistakes with a keyboard shortcut, and a graphical debugger.

It also includes an easy-to-use Simulator, which we’ll discuss in a later section.


Parse is an open-source framework for creating iOS app backends.

The backend is responsible for many of the background tasks when you’re using the app, such as retrieving files from a database or performing data calculations.

Therefore, most of the work when creating large, complex apps is focused on the backend.

The Parse SDK relieves some of this burden by automating many backend tasks, thus reducing the time and effort required to create them.

Parse SDK

Source: AppCoda

One of the most commonly used features of the tool is Parse’s data modeling module.

This enables your app to handle data in a streamlined way, including ways to import, export, and process it.

Think of it as having a database that’s easier to handle. If you need to store files, Parse can do it for you by interfacing with providers like Google Cloud or AWS.

Other common tasks that Parse can handle include sending notifications (push, real-time, and email), social logins, and REST API development.


SwiftUI is an official Apple framework that enables developers to design complex user interfaces with minimal code.

It does so by providing a library of UI components that you can drag and drop into the XCode editor.

You can also use a UI inspector to edit their properties, such as color, font, and alignment.


Source: AppCoda

If you prefer coding your UI elements, SwiftUI provides a declarative syntax that allows developers to state UI component properties concisely.

This makes your UI code much more readable and easier to maintain. You can even add complex animations with just a few lines of code.

SwiftUI animation code

Source: Apple

SwiftUI is one of the essential tools because it makes developing iOS easier by handling UI code for you. That allows you to focus on more complex parts of your software.


RxSwift is a library for handling asynchronous and event-based code in your iOS app.

If you’re unfamiliar, asynchronous is when code runs simultaneously instead of the default, linear execution.

For example, if you tap a button on an app, the app might respond by opening a window, retrieving data from the server, and processing it in the background.

All of these can happen in parallel, thanks to asynchronous code.

Asynchronous code can be rather complex and error-prone to handle. And that’s what RxSwift is for—to simplify the process.

It does this through a scheduling system. This is similar to the native iOS dispatch queue but is much more straightforward.

RxSwift scheduling system

Source: Inventiv

The RxSwift scheduler will automatically dispatch work correctly, allowing them to seamlessly use each other’s input.

Better yet, you don’t need to implement this yourself, as RxSwift comes with predefined schedulers.

Core Data

Core Data is an Apple framework for managing an app’s data layer using a high-level, object-oriented interface.

That makes it easy for developers to store, retrieve, and manage the data of an iOS app.

The mechanism of Core Data is that it lets developers treat the data as an object in the code without having to worry about the underlying storage.

It also hides many of the complexities of data management, such as versioning and synchronizing with multiple sources like iCloud or web services.

At the heart of this framework is the Core Data stack. It acts as the wrapper object around an app’s data, exposing the functions used to manage it.

Core Data stack

Source: Cocoa Casts

Core Data is a straightforward yet powerful tool because it simplifies many common data management tasks.

It also has performance improvements as it optimizes database queries to reduce overhead.


Realm is a mobile database that’s designed specifically for mobile apps.

It’s an alternative to the Core Data framework we mentioned, providing simple, fast, and lightweight data management via simple API calls.

Realm covers everything an app needs for data management, including persisting, querying, and retrieving data.

But unlike Core Data, Realm is platform-independent, which means you can use it as the central data source for multiple cross-platform apps.

Realm Database architecture

Source: Blockchain Simplified

One of the best features of Realm is support for real-time data synchronization.

This makes it easy for developers to update data between apps and the backend server, which is very tricky to do manually.

Realm can also easily handle large datasets, and its database engine is faster and more robust than traditional database systems.


Alamofire is a library that simplifies network requests for iOS developers.

It’s an alternative to native iOS networking classes like URLSession.

But the difference is that Alamofire simplifies the process greatly, allowing you to connect with web servers with very little code.

how Alamofire works

Source: Innovation M

Alamofire allows apps to communicate easily with a web server using simple HTTP calls.

For instance, when an app submits form data, you can use a POST method to send that data to the web server.

Besides HTTP, Alamofire supports other major protocols like REST and JSON.

The great thing about the framework is that you can use the services in your app code without necessarily knowing how they work under the hood.

Best of all, Alamofire is written primarily in Swift, which gives the framework a certain elegance.


CocoaPods is a dependency manager that streamlines the process of adding third-party libraries, frameworks, and tools to iOS projects without configuring each manually.

Automating this tedious task can help speed up app development, especially when scaling or updating apps.

CocoaPods does this integration through a Podfile, a text file specifying all the dependencies you’ll use in your project, including any parameters.

This is an example of a Podfile:

CocoaPods Podfile example

Source: CocoaPods

Once a Podfile is set up, it can be used by anyone in your team in their code.

CocoaPods will also handle version management of third-party libraries, ensuring you get the latest version or a specific version you require.

This ensures that everyone on the team uses the same libraries, reducing the risk of conflicts or compatibility issues.

Plus, swapping out third-party tools is easy, as you only need to change the PodFile.


XCTest is Apple’s unit testing framework integrated into XCode, thus allowing developers to use it seamlessly while coding.

It allows them to write test cases and methods to evaluate parts of their code under specific conditions.

XCTest interface

Source: Adrosonic

For the most part, XCTest will be a developer’s default testing tool while coding. Fortunately, it’s pretty capable of doing this task.

XCTest is pretty flexible, as it allows you to organize tests in any way you want.

You can also access its built-in assertion library, which allows you to check for specific values or behaviors in your code.

Best of all, XCTest can integrate with continuous integration (CI) tools like Jenkins or Travis CI. Thus, it can be a seamless fit into your pipeline.


Appium is an open-source tool that automates testing for iOS developers.

It works by leveraging the WebDriver protocol, a framework for automating web browsers.

Using it, Appium can interact with the app remotely, executing test commands such as entering text, swiping screens, or tapping buttons.

The app will then send feedback to Appium, which developers can evaluate against a testing case.

Appium stack

Source: Expert360

The best thing about Appium is that it’s platform-specific. That means developers can write test cases once and use them to evaluate multiple apps across different operating systems.

It also supports testing on real and emulated devices, thus ensuring wider compatibility.


Simulator is a feature within XCode that does what its name indicates—it simulates the iOS user interface.

This allows developers to test their code properly on various Apple devices, screen sizes, and iOS versions without needing the actual device.

This is useful when you’re developing, say, an app for both the iPhone and Apple Watch.

XCode Simulator

Source: Apple

Simulator can mimic the features and functionality of the physical device, including touch input, device rotation, camera, and microphone access.

Developers can even install apps from the Apple App Store or third-party sources.

Simulator can virtualize all Apple devices, including the iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Apple Watch, and Mac.


TestFlight is Apple’s official platform for beta testing. Think of it as the Apple App Store but for pre-release apps.

As such, it’s not available to the public. Developers must invite testers to the platform to be able to download their app (only a maximum of 10,000 testers per project is allowed).

TestFlight interface

Source: Apple

TestFlight provides plenty of tools to facilitate the process, eliminating the need to create them yourself.

For instance, TestFlight allows you to send multiple builds for different test groups.

It also has a feedback feature so testers can send their suggestions directly to the developers and analytics to measure app performance during tests.

The bottom line is that TestFlight streamlines the beta testing process, eliminating the need for you to build testing systems from scratch.


Jazzy is a command-line tool that automatically generates documentation for your Swift and Objective-C code.

The way it works is simple. Jazzy will run through your source code, reading comments and documentation placeholders.

It will then generate a page that lists these in an easy-to-reference format, as you’ll see below.

Jazzy documentation example

Source: Medium

The caveat is that your source code must be clean, well-formatted, and properly documented. That means all functions and key lines of code must have a comment explaining their purpose.

The magic of Jazzy is that it compiles all of these into an HTML, Markdown, or Dash docset. That way, other developers can reference it and understand your code better.

It might not seem like a terribly ground-breaking function. However, the documentation that Jazzy generates is critical if you want seamless collaboration and teamwork in your project.

The best tools need the best team

We hope you’ll consider some of these tools in your next iOS project. Indeed, they’re crucial if you want fast and cost-efficient development.

Of course, even the best tools will fall short if not handled by expert hands. That’s why you must also consider getting the best development team to complement them.

And if you’re in the hunt for talent, why not give DECODE a shot?

We have dozens of successful app projects and a wealth of expertise among our 70+ professionals, making us the perfect team to work on your next project.

Interested? Schedule a consultation with us today, and let’s talk!

Written by

Toni Vujevic

React Native Team Lead

Skilled in React Native, iOS and backend, Toni has a demonstrated knowledge of the information technology and services industry, with plenty of hands-on experience to back it up. He’s also an experienced Cloud engineer in Amazon Web Services (AWS), passionate about leveraging cloud technologies to improve the agility and efficiency of businesses. One of Toni’s most special traits is his talent for online shopping. In fact, our delivery guy is convinced that ‘Toni Vujević’ is a pseudonym for all DECODErs.

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