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Thursday, June 26, 2014

First look: Apple's Swift is simple, at first

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First look: Apple's Swift is simple, at first
is it about being a rich corporation? After the private jets and the
gleaming headquarters comes the new programming language. Now Apple has
followed in the path of Microsoft (C#), Sun (Java), and Google (Dart,
Go) to offer us Swift, a language with a C-like syntax and inferred
typing designed to make it easier for the average coder to start
building new software for the Mac and new apps for the iPhone.

it's never possible to overestimate the amount of hubris at Apple,
Swift is more than a vanity project to dictate how the world speaks a
computer version of the King's English, if you will. Apple's software
stack has been stuck with Objective-C since NeXT invaded the company,
and many neophytes find it a pain to untangle the pointers, the files
(both .m and .h), and the punctuation-rich syntax.

[ Also on InfoWorld: 10 features Apple "stole" for the Swift programming language. | See InfoWorld's "iOS 7 for developers" special report
for the scoop on the bells and whistles in Apple's mobile OS -- and how
you can harness them. | Keep up with key Apple technologies with the Technology: Apple newsletter. ]

tried to update the language with a "modern syntax" in 1997, but the
masses refused to budge from the so-called classic syntax. Other
projects -- like adding Java bindings for the Cocoa libraries -- never
really stuck. Today, learning Objective-C is one of the biggest hurdles
to getting people to code for the Apple platforms.

The good news:
Swift will be a great gift for anyone longing to avoid the hackerish
brambles of Objective-C. Programmers who learned Java for AP Computer
Science, JavaScript to build Web pages, and Ruby to build websites will
find plenty that's familiar to them. Many of the rough spots such as the
multiple files and inheritance are smoothed over, and the punctuation
symbols are less dominant. There are also plenty of automated features,
including inferred typing and automatic reference counting that help the
compiler snag many of the programmer's potential bugs.

Why Swift?
Some may wonder why Apple didn't embrace one of the many languages already on the market. JavaScript would be a good option
as the Web eats the world, but it doesn't offer all of the low-level
access to bytes that system programmers need to deliver the slick
interfaces that define the Apple experience. In any case, JavaScript
programmers are already using frameworks like PhoneGap/Cordova.
Other languages like Python or Ruby are well integrated with the Unix
back end, but they lack deep integration with the system software. The
best answer may be that Apple has made a huge investment in the Cocoa
layer, and Swift is the best way to preserve it while offering modern

The basic structure for a Swift program looks much
like Java. The code is broken into classes filled with fields and
methods. The most jarring difference is that the methods start with a
keyword (func) and the return value comes after the method
name, not before it. The classes can be aligned in a hierarchy with
plenty of inheritance for object-oriented code, and the properties can
be read with a dot syntax.

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