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Xamarin Designer for iOS_Visual Studio

Programmers who use Microsoft’s C# programming language now have an easier way to build mobile apps for iOS and Android devices. Xamarin announced version 3 of its development solution today, complete with new features designed to make it easier for Windows-oriented devs to create mobile apps for other platforms.

Xamarin, which currently serves more than 600,000 developers, lets .NET programmers create new apps for Android and iOS using C#, without learning a new language. Xamarin compiles the C# code into a native app, rather than cross-compiling it or running it in a wrapper that would decrease performance.

Rdio's iOS app, built using Xamarin
Rdio’s iOS app, built using Xamarin

Xamarin’s user interface design capabilities have seen the biggest improvement in the new update, with a pair of major new features. Developers can now create shared user interface code across Windows Phone, iOS and Android versions of their app using the Xamarin.Forms API. Using the shared code doesn’t restrict developers to a one-size-fits-all UI, either: it’s possible to go in and manually tweak the code for each device to fit the platform while still using the same base.

This release also allows developers to design their iOS apps inside Xamarin or Visual Studio, without having to switch over to the Interface Builder tools in Xcode, Apple’s development environment for iOS and Mac apps. The Xamarin Designer for iOS allows developers to modify user interface files for iOS 6 and iOS 7 apps, and supports Apple’s “auto-layout” system for scaling app interfaces.

It’s a boon for people who prefer to work inside a single development environment, as well as those people who are more familiar with the layout of Microsoft’s Visual Studio IDE.

Today’s update also comes with a handful of other changes, including support for NuGet packages in both Visual Studio and Xamarin Studio, and support for the F# functional programming language.

All of the changes are good news for enterprises looking to develop their own apps.

“We are seeing more and more enterprises adopting a mobile-first orientation for their app dev investment and so these tools are coming at just the right time as (enterprises) negotiate these challenges,” IDC analyst Al Hilwa said in an email to GeekWire.
He added, “Xamarin 3 also brings a bag goodies for Visual Studio developers that bring them more deeply into the multiplatform world. Providing a native interface UI build for iOS with Visual Studio is a treat for Microsoft ecosystem developers who want to take their skills to a much broader base of devices.”

All of this comes as Microsoft has begun moving to a more open vision of .NET. Last month, the company released its “Roslyn” .NET compiler as an open source project, and plans to make more parts of its development ecosystem open source under the umbrella of the .NET Foundation. Xamarin’s continued success is also good news for Microsoft, because developers using these tools continue to keep their C# skills up to date while building for more popular mobile platforms.

Developers interested in trying out Xamarin’s tools can download the software for free, before choosing whether they want to upgrade to a paid subscription package. Existing subscribers will get today’s update for free. People interested in learning more about the new update can sign up for a free webinar at

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