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Diving into iOS development? These books will help, whether you’re an absolute beginner or a seasoned expert.
Trying your hand at developing for iOS can be tough, even if you have a background in programming. Between learning the Swift programming language, grasping the Apple ecosystem, and actually publishing to the App Store, there’s a lot to learn. Thankfully, there are plenty of great books that can help guide you through the process.
The titles in this list cover a broad swathe of subject matter, and are appropriate for a wide range of learners. No matter what prior experience you have, one of these books will help you take the next step toward becoming a bona fide iOS developer.
Just dipping your toes into the world of iOS app development? These texts should provide you with the introduction you need to get started coding.
1. Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs [No Longer Available]
Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs — informally referred to as either SICP or “the wizard book” — has been around for decades, but it’s still a great starting point if you’re new to programming. The book was once used as the primary textbook for introductory programming classes at MIT and other prominent schools.
SICP doesn’t focus on a particular programming language, so you won’t be learning about Swift as you make your way through the text. Instead, you’ll be grappling with some of the larger concepts that underpin app development. It’s a demanding read, but an effective way for novices to gain important foundational knowledge.
It’s difficult to dispute The Big Nerd Ranch‘s pedigree when it comes to developing for Apple hardware. Its founder, Aaron Hillegass, worked at NeXT in the 1990s, and in 2000 he took on a role helping Apple train software developers to use the company’s Cocoa API.
The Big Nerd Ranch guide to Swift programming caters to people who are just starting out with Swift. You’ll learn the very basics until you’re ready to start writing your own code. At the end of every chapter, there are exercises to complete to test your knowledge, alongside challenges that will push you a little further. If you’re starting Swift from the very beginning, there’s no better option.
The Big Nerd Ranch Guide to iOS programming is the perfect accompaniment to its corresponding guide on Swift programming. This book assumes some knowledge of Swift, but primarily focuses on the intricacies of deploying software to iOS. Used in unison, they’re a comprehensive course on what it takes to get an app onto the App Store.
As you work your way through this book, you’ll learn the ropes by building working apps. This practical approach allows the authors to cover a lot of common scenarios that developers might come across. Even if it’s not a completely exhaustive guide, you’re sure to learn a great deal.
4. iOS Apprentice ($55)
If buying both Big Nerd Ranch guides above is too much of an investment, consider iOS Apprentice. It’s aimed at complete beginners, and offers a crash course on everything you need to get started with iOS development by walking readers through the creation of four distinct apps.
It pairs step-by-step guides with illustrations and screenshots that help explain the process. Plus, it comes with full source code and high quality images for each example, which you can use as a foundation for your own personal projects.
If you’ve already advanced past the beginner stage and want to add a little more sparkle to your creations, these books can add more skills to your repertoire.
Once you’ve got some experience with Swift under your belt, the kind of literature you need to support your learning will change. Rather than books that guide you through exercises and activities, you’ll need reference materials that you can consult when you hit a dead end. Swift Pocket Reference: Programming for iOS and OS X is that kind of book.
Unfortunately, there’s one caveat; this book is now a little outdated, as it was published in December 2014 and only covers Swift 2.0. However, to make up for that drawback, its publishers have made the guide available for free. It covers a broad range of topics, and it’s packed with detailed examples, so it’s a great book to have on hand as you move on from the basics to an intermediate level of knowledge.
6. Pro Swift ($30)
Paul Hudson, the author of Hacking with Swift, wrote Pro Swift to help junior programmers go beyond the basics of the programming language. As such, it focuses on areas of study that won’t be covered by introductory guides, like inheritance, polymorphism, and encapsulation in object-oriented Swift, operator overloading, and best practices for documentation markup.
The course is comprised of a detailed guidebook and 90 DRM-free videos that you can stream online or download to your system. The videos allow you to see techniques carried out step-by-step. This format allows learners to grasp advanced techniques, putting them in a real-world context as opposed to a dry chapter of a textbook.
7. iOS 10 App Development Essentials ($45)
iOS 10 App Development Essentials is a great resource for anyone that’s looking to graduate from writing code to making apps. Like the Swift Pocket Reference book above, there’s plenty of content here that will help newcomers get started with Swift, but it’s more of a reference book than a beginners’ guide.
Rather than just including snippets of code, this book is accompanied by simple programs that you can tinker with and tweak for yourself. If you’re experimenting and you hit a wall, this is a great book to have on hand.
8. The Core iOS Developers Cookbook ($37)
The Core iOS Developers Cookbook offers up solutions to various challenges that rear their head during iOS development. Whether you’re adding motion effects to your app, getting to grips with the Auto Layout constraints system, or implementing APIs into your project, this text will help you through the process.
If you’ve read other coding “cookbooks,” you’ll be familiar with the format. Rather than reading through sequentially, you’ll pick and choose sections as you reach hurdles in your work. As such, it’s particularly useful for anyone who’s starting an original project, and is looking for a safety net for when things get difficult.
At some stage in your journey you will be ready to take on bigger and more complex challenges, which is where these expert-level texts come in handy.
9. Cocoa Design Patterns ($33)
Cocoa Design Patterns is one of the older titles on this list — it was published in 2009. However, given that it covers patterns rather than quirks of a particular language, it’s still very relevant today. The book has lots of information for iOS developers, although being that it covers Cocoa as a whole, it’s also a good resource when it comes to macOS.
However, this is a book for experts, through and through. It starts off with an introduction to the Model-View-Controller pattern, and ramps up from there. There simply isn’t enough space to cover the nitty-gritty of every single technique, so there’s a lot of assumed knowledge. However, if you already have some experience with iOS programming, you’re sure to find plenty of ways to enhance your skills with this book.
Even if you’ve mastered Swift, and you know the iOS platform like the back of your hand, there’s a lot to learn before your app tops the charts. Successful apps aren’t built on good coding alone — you need to understand design, branding, your audience, and more to compete with the best.
The Missing Manual will help you translate your programming skills into a product that’s ready for the App Store. If you’re serious about publishing your app, this book will fill you in on the things you didn’t even know that you needed to know.
Do you have another book on iOS development to recommend? Or are you looking for a book on a particular topic? Why not join the conversation in the comments section below?