Xcode For Windows: The Best Alternatives To Develop iOS Apps

One of the most common questions that I get on BeCodable, is how to start an iOS development on Windows, which I think is very important since there are a lot of people who don’t have a Mac computer. However, everyone wants to get involved in this technology while developing their own personal apps for fun. Therefore, I would like to give some tips and recommendations on how to install Xcode on Windows, so that you can get familiarized with the iOS environment. 


If you own a Windows development machine and you are struggled to learn Swift programming language, then the following methods could be a perfect solution for you.

Use Online Swift Playground

Nowadays browsers are super powerful and they bring some exciting new technologies, one of which is the online Swift playground that you can use to learn Swift, just by visiting a website. Actually, there are a couple of different platforms available including the play.swiftengine.io and online.swiftplayground.run where you can simply test your Swift code.

First of all, I would like to explain how the platform works and what actually happens when you click the “Run” buttons in the browser. The system is basically going to take your code and send it as a request to the Swift engine, which will process the request to generate the output, which will be sent back to your browser.

The great thing about the technology is that everything happens in the backgrounds and the whole process is pretty smooth, even though the system is still in the development process. Also, the browser encapsulates the actual Swift code and presents it without any additional source code or tags, which is super important for beginners who are just starting to learn the basics of programming. So every new session will provide you with a Clean Swift Code which is identical to an Interactive Playgrounds that you get on Xcode.

In case if you run into an error you’re going to get a message telling what’s wrong with your Swift code, which is extremely helpful.

Moreover, some of those websites give you the option to share your code snippet which is pretty convenient, since others will be able to see your code and test it out as well. With all those new features online Swift playground could be a perfect alternative for beginners to practice their programming skills on a Windows machine. Moreover, instead of creating screenshots of your code now you can simply share the link and get instant feedback from the developers. Cool right!

Finally, if you really want to start developing an iOS Apps then you should first start practicing Swift programming language on Windows or Mac operating system, using only your web browser.

Install macOS on a Virtual Machine 

A computer is an electronic device that can perform some predetermined instructions and the operating systems such as Windows, macOS, or Linux give the unique ability to control the hardware in a more intuitive way. So the virtual machine manager also called a hypervisor is another type of software that allows us to run more operating systems within an existing operating system.

Examples of virtual machine managers are VirtualBox and VMware, which enables the users to have the copy of macOS as well as Windows 10 on their computer running simultaneously on a single device. By running any of that software you will be able to create a dedicated environment for an operating system to run on your current hardware.

This enables you to freely install the Mac operating system directly on to your Windows 10 machine, which is really convenient. But keep in mind that once you navigate your way to the product page and download the appropriate package you should also have a copy of macOS to start the installation.

It’s generally a good idea to allocate only the half of the memory for your host system. The same thing applies to the processor since you don’t want to go above half of your CPU count to avoid crashing the whole system. Also for the best performance, give your virtual machine as much video memory as possible.

Rent a Mac in the Cloud

Mac in the Cloud

Cloud computing has really revolutionized the industry, people now have access to the supercomputers for only the fraction of the price which you pay on an hourly basis. The great thing about cloud computing is that while choosing your next platform you are not sacrificing any performance since people nowadays use those computers to run they favorite games online. And trust me, those games need way more computing power than running an Xcode on a Mac.

So for people who are just getting started in the programming or have any doubts about installing the virtual machine, renting a Mac in the cloud could be a really good alternative. The service such as MacInCloud is really popular and I think that you will be much comfortable configuring all the settings on your own if you decide to rent a computer in the cloud.

The following services provide you with a personal account where you can remotely log in and connect to one of their Macs from your Windows machine to start developing an iOS Apps. 

Develop Cross Platform Mobile Apps

Another solution to develop Apps for mobile devices on Windows is to use cross-platform tools. Those development environments are designed to write a single code that can be deployed on all devices.

Now you might be thinking that it sounds like a perfect idea, but as with anything, there are some pros and cons. The primary advantage of cross-platform tools is obviously the fact that you can write single code and deploy your App to multiple platforms.

However since Apple only supports Xcode, you are basically relying on those services to translate your code so that it can be used on different devices. The following method is not always a perfect solution since Apple releases a new feature and those tools have to kind of catch-up with technology. Also, there might be some minor bugs or cases when new features are not supported yet by those tools.

Here are some of the most popular cross-platform developing tools available on the market: Appcelerator, Xamarin, Unity, PhoneGap…

Consider Buying a Used Mac

If you really want to start developing an iOS Apps then you should definitely consider buying Mac. In this case, the best alternative is to find a used computer and here I would like to give some useful recommendations on how to do that.

First of all, the best time to buy a used Mac is right when a new generation comes because the price of the previous model is going to go down. Also, try to find at least a 2-Year old computer because that keeps it within one year of Apple care if it was originally purchased with a 3-Year warranty. Meaning that replacements are going to be easier and cheaper.

In addition check for any physical damage, because even a tiny bit of physical damage (if it’s not going to affect the overall performance) can bring down the value of the computer to your advantage.

What Hardware Will You Need to Develop iOS Apps?

Now before we discuss what is the best computer for iOS development I want to emphasize one thing. If your Mac runs Xcode it will do iOS development, some slower than other computers but it will get the job done. So in order to find the right computer, you should determine two things. First, what is your budget and do you need a portable device?

From a buyer perspective, MacBook Air is definitely the most portable, yet powerful device for an iOS App development. Within a base model, you’re getting a 1.8GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB SSD storage. But in case if you have a bigger budget then you can consider buying 13-inch MacBook Pro or even 15-inch since more screen real estate is better especially for App development. With this machine, you will be able to develop  App faster without any interruption.

Now the Mac mini is also a very good alternative, as it’s extremely portable. The base model comes with 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 500GB hard drive, and only 4GB memory but it will get the job done. Also, keep in mind that you can later upgrade your system and add more storage or memory. But with that being said I would still recommend getting the MacBook Air because now you don’t need to buy extra peripherals.

Moving on to the stationary setup you can get a Mac Pro which comes with 3.0GHz 8-Core Intel Xeon E5 processor, 64GB memory, and 256GB SSD. Even if you have the money I pretty sure that you’re not going to need such a powerful device for an iOS development unless you are editing some crazy 8k videos at the same time. Therefore the best bang for your buck for a stationary set up is going to be a 21.5 inch or 27-inch iMac, which can offer maximum 3.4GHz quad-core processor, 32GB of RAM, 1TB Fusion Drive and more importantly 4GB video memory.

So to summarize, if you need a portable device MacBook Air is all you really need unless you have more money to spend on the MacBook Pro. For a stationary setup iMac currently offers the best spec, but Mac mini could be a better alternative since you don’t need such a powerful device for an iOS development.

Which One is a Good Alternative?

Despite the fact that there is no Xcode for Windows, there are still a lot of people who want to start iOS development and the following topic is still quite relevant. So far we have listed different alternatives and now I would like to go through each one and give some additional recommendations.

First of all, it’s worth noting that Virtualization technique or building a Hackintosh is not a good idea, the main reason is that it’s not allowed by Apple’s user License Agreement, so yeah you simply must not do this, since it’s not an alternative.

On the other hand, you can try to develop non-native apps for iOS on your Windows machine, such as the web applications that can be run on any device, but that’s not a good idea either. Simply because you can’t deploy the App to the iOS App Store. In addition, non-native Apps have some serious performance issues as they don’t run directly on your device, which results in very bad user experience at the end.

It looks like there is no way out but actually, there are a couple of really good alternatives one of which is to try an online Swift Playground if you are just starting to get familiar with the Swift programming language, which is an essential element of iOS App development. Also since the Swift is an open source there are compilers both for Windows machine and Linux which you can use on your operating system.

So based on your objectives I think it’s a really good idea to first dive into the basics of Swift and once you feel confident at some point consider buying a new Apple computer or even a used one. Especially considering the fact that for iOS development you don’t really need the newest and quickest machine. And it’s perfectly fine to have an older machine or even a refurbished Mac which will cost you less than a new model.

So there are definitely really good alternatives out there and the only way to get involved in iOS App development is to first start learning Swift on a non-apple machine and once you feel confident buy a Mac.

Final Thoughts

Becoming an iOS developer is superior to any other mobile application development since you got access to an App Store which you can use to deploy all of your new programs. On top of that, you can get a pretty high salary if you work as an iOS developer.

So if you think seriously about iOS App development than I recommend you to invest some money and buy at least a used Mac, because when you will be ready to publish your app on App Store you will definitely going to need an official Apple hardware.

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