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No-code, low-code, and Cloud-based offerings give developers even more options for rapid prototyping and deployment of mobile apps
Programmer picks: 6 tools for rapid mobile development
The number of mobile application development tools is rapidly growing, including a new generation that enables developers to create mobile apps through their browsers, often with very fast results. Many of these no-code or low-code alternatives provide seasoned developers quick means for rapid prototyping while lowering the barrier of entry for novice developers seeking to get in the mobile app game.
We asked several developers to weigh in on their hands-on experience developing apps for a variety of mobile platforms using these tools, plus a few other heavier-duty mobile dev tools they are currently using. Add these to the growing list of mobile tools already on your radar.
Buzztouch is Web-based software for building Android and iOS apps. “With Buzztouch, you can create an app and immediately download the source code. This allows you to keep things ‘connected’ to Buzztouch's servers for rapid development and changes. Or you can disconnect all ties with Buzztouch, and keep the source code in your control,” says user Chris Robbins, owner of QuickPixel Media Solutions. Robbins, who previously had no background in mobile development, says Buzztouch has not required upfront costs or large monthly maintenance fees. “The only thing that I could say negative about Buzztouch is that they could use a little more staff. The amount of work that has been put into Buzztouch seems like it was impossible to come from such a small crew."
Icenium is a newly available “integrated cloud environment” for building iOS and Android apps. User Chris Jackson, a software engineer at mobile healthcare technology vendor CellepathicRx.com, lauds Icenium Mist, which enables browser-based development. “I can hop on any PC, hop to a URL, and get some work done.” He also likes that applications are lightweight -- just a couple of megabytes each. “I’ve enjoyed developing with it just because it’s simple [and] quick.” Though Jackson would like to see some Icenium extensions for Microsoft’s Visual Studio IDE, he says, “I really don’t have any major complaints. I look at this as a fairly new piece of software.”
Socialize AppMakr provides a code-free environment for building iOS and Android apps, and features its own social network. “I like the quick, easy way to make apps, rather than coding,” user Matthew Flaig says. Flaig dislikes that the free version of AppMakr now puts ads in free apps, and that simple updates can take weeks or months. (AppMakr also offers a premium, fee-based service.) Jeremy Caverly of Quotient Concepts also lauded AppMakr. “They were one of the first to market with a ‘DIY’ solution. It’s always been easy to use. The help forums are a great resource, and their staff is always happy to find a solution as quickly as possible,” he says, though he laments a dearth of new features in the past year.
Mippin BlackBerry App Generator
This online tool enables publishers to quickly build apps for RIM BlackBerry and PlayBook. “I found App Generator very easy to use, as there is no required coding,” says user Geoffrey Smith, associate editor for public relations and marketing at BlackBerry Empire Canada. “App Generator makes submission of an app to BlackBerry App World a simplified process with easy walkthrough.” Smith used App Generator to create an app for his blog. “The only place that I encountered a hiccup was trying to find the right size for an image and to get the colors looking proper to match my website’s theme. Once I had that tweaked out, it was really nice to look at.”
Xamarin MonoTouch and Mono for Android
MonoTouch enables use of C# to build iOS apps, while Mono for Android supports Android development. “I've had nothing but good experiences with MonoTouch and Mono for Android, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them or use them on future projects,” Jon Lipsky, of ElevenWorks, says. Lipsky used the tools to build TouchDraw, a 2D drawing and diagramming app, and lauds them for producing native apps. “I've had no major problems, and the Xamarin support team has been excellent in addressing any minor issues I have found,” Lipsky says, adding that built-in tooling for profiling applications could be improved. “This is currently possible using the native tool chains; however it would be nice to have a consistent way to do it within their environment.”
RunRev LiveCode enables apps to be written once for mobile, Web, desktop, and server deployments. It features its own “easy to learn” scripting language, according to the company. “It’s very unique in the marketplace because it allows you to create a single source base that simultaneously targets multiple platforms,” says user Douglas Lyman, president of AltaPoint Data Systems, which has used LiveCode to create an app for legal billing and case management. LiveCode produces native apps for various platforms, he says. “It is very stable and there’s some things that I would like to see it have that I believe are coming, but overall, I’m very pleased with it.” He cites mobile database support beyond MySQL as a sought-after feature.