Storyboards in iPhone and iPad Programming

Something very interesting caught my eye regarding storyboards this week. No, not an Android developer singing their praises (although that is newsworthy in itself!). I was thinking more of a statistic that was slipped quietly into the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) keynote address: specifically that 80% of iOS devices are now running iOS 5.0 or greater.

Why is that so interesting and what has it got to do with storyboards?

Storyboards are a great development feature that were added to the iOS Software Development Kit (SDK) from iOS 5.0 onwards. They allow a developer to graphically lay out views (scenes) within an application and visualise the transitions (segues) between them. Before storyboards, iOS developers used the Interface Builder tool to lay out individual views but then had to make the transitions between the views by writing code. In a complex application with lots of views, it wasn’t always easy to get an overview of what was going on.

As a prototyping tool they are superb and allow the structure of an application to be fleshed out very quickly without writing any code at all. I always suggest to students that designing an elegant and fluid user interface, especially in the restricted space of an iPhone screen, takes a lot more time than they might first imagine. Having the storyboard create a semi-working prototype is a great way of road-testing an application design before getting down to coding.

The drawback of storyboarding in iOS development is that applications created with storyboards are not backward-compatible with iOS versions prior to iOS 5.0. Consequently such applications are not available from the App Store when using a device running older versions. I know a couple of my fellow Learning Tree iOS instructors decided to hold back on adopting storyboards for their own commercial applications for fear of limiting their target market in this way.

I think the 80% adoption of iOS 5 from its release in October last year is quite an achievement and certainly gives us more confidence as developers to make use of this tool in apps destined for the App Store. Storyboards are something that I’ve been enjoying using since the iOS 5 beta last year and my students are always enthusiastic about the speed of development, the clarity and organisation they offer to a project.

Storyboards are covered and used in most of the exercises on both of Learning Tree’s iOS development courses: iPhone® and iPad® Programming: A Comprehensive Hands-On Introduction and Building iPhone® and iPad® Applications: Extended Features.

Richard Senior

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