A proper plugin architecture can mean all the difference for an integrated development environment. Sublime Text and TextMate are great examples. Did you know that Xcode also supports plugins? It wouldn't surprise me if you don't, Apple hasn't put much effort into advertising that part of Xcode. In fact, there is very little documentation available to create plugins for Xcode.
Fortunately, this hasn't stopped developers from creating plugins for Xcode. There is a wide range of plugins that make working with Xcode easier and more enjoyable, filling up the gaps Apple has left. In this quick tip, I will show you a few plugins I use on a daily basis.
Installing Xcode plugins used to be a pain, but that's no longer the case with Alcatraz. Earlier this year, Alcatraz reached an important milestone, 1.0, and it's now compatible with Xcode 5. If you haven't installed Alcatraz yet, then I encourage you to do so first.
XcodeColors is a plugin developed by Robbie Hanson that adds color to Xcode's console. This plugin is especially useful in combination with CocoaLumberjack, a wonderful logging library Robbie wrote. This combination has been a true lifesaver for me over the years, it has made debugging easier and more, well, colorful. Read this quick tip if you want to read more about XcodeColors and CocoaLumberjack.
This plugin not only highlights TODO, FIXME, ???, and !!! comments, it also presents them in a convenient list.
Some plugins may seem trivial or simple, but they are fantastic if you consider their value. Backlight is such a plugin. All it does, is highlight the line that's currently being edited. It's simple, but very helpful.
CocoaPods is the de facto dependency manager for iOS and OS X development. If you're not using CocoaPods, then I encourage you to give it a try. This tutorial will get you started in less than ten minutes.
There's also a CocoaPods plugin for Xcode, which makes integrating CocoaPods even easier. The CocoaPods plugin adds a CocoaPods menu item to Xcode's Product menu. If you don't like the command line, then you'll certainly like this plugin.
Like Xcode plugins, managing code snippets isn't trivial in Xcode. Arnaud Coomans shared this opinion and created a nifty plugin that synchronizes your Xcode code snippets with a git repository.
The beauty is that the code snippets you've manually added in Xcode are left untouched. Importing code snippets from a git repository only takes a few clicks. This is also a clever way to back up your code snippets or keep them in a central location if you use multiple machines.
A graphical user interface makes working with git less daunting for many developers. While applications like Tower and SourceTree are great, I often want to know what has changed in the file I'm currently working on, in Xcode's code editor. The GitDiff plugin makes this possible and it's great.
It's a subtle enhancement of Xcode's code editor, adding just enough visual information to know what has changed since the last commit.
Autocompletion is great, especially if you're writing Objective-C. Wouldn't it be great if Xcode autocompleted file names, such as the names of image files?
Adding import statements can be pesky sometimes. If you need to import a header of a pod, for example, then Xcode's autocompletion won't work for you. The Peckham plugin solves this issue.
Press Command-Control-P, type a few letters of the header you're looking for, and select it from the list of options presented by the plugin. It's a great addition to Xcode's autocomplete functionality.
Speaking of autocomplete, the majority of iOS and OS X developers have come to rely on Xcode's great autocomplete functionality. However, Xcode's implementation of autocomplete isn't perfect and you don't always get the suggestions you expected or hoped for.
Jack Chen and Leszek Ślażyński have created an alternative in the form of the FuzzyAutocomplete plugin. It leverages the algorithm Xcode uses for its Open Quickly feature, which does an excellent job in terms of pattern matching. It works very, very well.
10. Dash for Xcode
Dash is an amazing piece of software for browsing documentation. I use it every single day. What I like even more is its integration with Xcode, thanks to its Xcode plugin. You probably know that you can Option-Click a symbol in Xcode's editor to go to the documentation. However, I'm not a big fan of Xcode's documentation browser and that's where the Dash plugin comes into play.
The plugin opens Dash instead of Xcode's documentation browser if you Option-Click a symbol. Not only is Dash very fast, it also integrates with CocoaDocs. If you for example Option-Click a method of the AFNetworking library, then Dash will show the documentation of that method. I love this feature.
Xcode's plugin architecture is one of the most undervalued aspects of Apple's popular IDE. It's not simple to create an Xcode plugin without proper documentation, but I encourage you to at least try out the plugins I've listed in this article. There are dozens of other Xcode plugins out there. Which plugins do you use to get your work done? Have you created one yourself?
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