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November 18, 2015

Windows Bridge for iOS: Where we are and where we are headed

In August, we released the Windows Bridge for iOS as an open-source project on GitHub. Today we’re going to take you on a tour of what we’ve been working on for the last few months, some new tools we’re building to help you get started with the bridge and what’s coming next.

Where we are

The response we’ve gotten from the community since August has been simply fantastic. Over 4500 of you starred the repo, and what’s more, over 500 created your own fork. More than 200 issues have been filed (and several dozen closed, with many more in various stages of being fixed), and we’ve received a number of high quality pull requests, many of which we’ve already accepted.

At the same time, we’ve continued to regularly release fixes, updates and new features. Since our initial release in August, we’ve added support for:

  • GLKit. We’ve built out support for apps that make use of GLKit’s math libraries, textures, shaders and effects, as well as views and view controllers, so you can finally bring that game you’ve been working on to Windows devices.
  • Xibs, AutoLayout & Storyboard. One of the biggest requests we’ve gotten has been for Xib, AutoLayout and Storyboard support. We’ve added support for Xibs using our Xib2Nib tool as well as preliminary support for both AutoLayout and Storyboards.
  • KVO/KVC. Another widely requested feature, and one we were pleased to add robust support for a few weeks ago.
  • New sample projects. We’ve added sample projects showcasing GLKit support, intermixing of UIKit and XAML controls, and a simple HelloWorld project to help new users get started.
  • And much, much more. In addition to those features specifically called out here, we’ve continued to expand our coverage of iOS libraries, crushing bugs right and left along the way.

The goal of the bridge has always been to make it easy for iOS developers to make great Windows apps while reusing much of their existing Objective-C code and iOS development skills. Simply running iOS apps on Windows is one thing, but building native Windows apps using iOS code is, as they say, a whole ‘nother ball game.

With that in mind, the reasons for open sourcing the bridge were twofold: first, we wanted to get as much feedback as possible so we could make sure our priorities were aligned with developers’. And second, we wanted to lay the groundwork to build a strong community around the project so it could be extended by anyone and everyone would benefit.

Where we’re headed

Last week we launched a new landing page for the iOS bridge and in the coming weeks we’ll be releasing a series of tools designed to make it as easy as possible to bring your app to Windows. For all the folks who asked about API availability and our development roadmap on GitHub, we heard you loud and clear, and we’re baking those features directly into our new website.

The first tool we’re working on is an automatic app analyzer. You’ll be able to upload your IPA and our website will analyze it for compatibility with the bridge, delivering your results right in your browser. You’ll be able to see exactly how much work you’ll have to do to bring your app to Windows, along with suggestions, tips and workarounds for any libraries you’re using that the bridge doesn’t support yet.

We’re currently in the process of testing the app analyzer, but we need your help to make sure it’s ready. We need IPAs to test our analysis pipeline with, so we’ve set up a form to accept submissions here. If you submit your IPA for analysis, you’ll not only be helping guide our development, you’ll be among the first to get your results when the tool is ready.

If you haven’t been able to try out the bridge yet – or aren’t sure if it’s right for your project – we’re also working on making it easier to get started. In the coming weeks, we’ll be adding downloadable evaluation virtual machines (VMs) to our new site and from Dev Center. We’ll offer the VMs in four pre-configured packages for different virtualization environments: Parallels, VMWare, VirtualBox and Hyper-V. Each flavor will be refreshed once a month with the latest version of Visual Studio 2015 Community Edition, Windows IoT Core, Windows Bridge for iOS, Windows SDK and all the Universal Windows Platform samples.

Thanks for making this project such a success in its first few months. If you want to support the project, please submit your IPA to help test our analysis pipeline by clicking here. Otherwise, you can get involved by forking the repo, filing an issue or submitting a pull request on GitHub.

Post written by Nick Gerard, Program Manager, Windows Bridge for iOS