While powerful on its own, Swift can always be improved with different libraries and frameworks. It usually starts with a developer finding difficulties or not being able to do a certain thing, and finds a creative solution to the problem that others can use. Whether you’re still starting out as an iOS developer or you’re a seasoned professional, they could always come in handy. We asked our iOS team what they thought were the top iOS libraries and here’s what they told us.
Top iOS Libraries and Frameworks
You may or may not have heard of Alamofire’s Objective-C cousin, AFNetworking. Alamofire is also an HTTP networking library, but instead, it is built from the ground up using Swift. That, plus an elegant interface, make it the best iOS library when it comes to HTTP networking for iOS and macOS. It sits on top of Apple’s Foundation networking stack and its goal is to simplify a lot of common networking tasks.
With Alamofire you can use chainable request/response Methods, URL/JSON parameter encoding, upload various different types of files and data, and much more. It’s good to have some background knowledge of HTTP networking and Apple’s networking classes. This will help you make the most out of Alamofire since it does hide some implementation details.
SVProgressHUD is one of the simpler and more popular iOS libraries on our list, but it’s also very convenient, like any good library. It fills one of the biggest needs in UIKit. SVProgressHUD provides a clean and easy-to-use HUD that can display the progress of an ongoing task on iOS. You can also customize the HUD with a progress indicator, text, or image. You’ve probably seen this in many of the iOS apps you’ve encountered:
You’ve all probably had to download an image from a server and display it with UIImageView. And you probably know that this can create problems, especially if you try to call that method several times on the same image view. This is where SDWebImage comes in. It’s one of the top iOS libraries out there because it focuses on one common issue and makes it simple and easy.
SDWebImage is a library that provides an asynchronous image downloader with cache support. It features categories for UIImageView, UIButton, MKAnnotationView adding web images, asynchronous cache management, background image decompression, and more.
Programming nowadays is mostly imperative, meaning you have to tell the system when something changes. However, if you’re using reactive programming, your application can react to changes without you telling it what to do. This can be done in Swift using didSet and Key-Value Observation, but it’s not the easiest to do.
Like the original Rx, RxSwift is an iOS library with the purpose of enabling the easy composition of asynchronous operations and event or data streams. RxSwift unifies KVO observations, asynchronous operations, and streams under sequence abstraction. This makes RxSwift one of the most powerful and elegant iOS libraries out there.
Unlike Swift, which is a stand-alone language, DSLs or Domain-Specific Languages, are usually hosted in other languages. They provide a simple syntax that can be tailored to working within a specific domain. Customizable developer tools like CocoaPods and Fastlane use DSLs to give users control to set up how they want to work. And they can also be used to query databases more easily as well as work with other domains. Combined with a declarative and rule-based system like Auto Layout, DSLs become really powerful.
SnapKit is the best Auto Layout DSL Swift library out there. Instead of constructing full method calls, you can write your code using pure logical expressions. DSLs come with their own limitations, but they can be really powerful and useful in a certain context.
Apple’s Core Data can probably fulfill most of your persistence needs, but it was always likely that something would come and do it better. Realm is one such alternative, providing a framework that is faster and easier to work with. It is built from the ground up for mobile and it really shows. It solves many of the existing performance and maintenance issues by exposing data directly as objects and queryable by code. Realm database files can even be explored with a data browser.
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