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Write Mobile Apps for Any Platform With Intel XDK

Matthew Hughes 20-01-2014

Intel isn’t really a company you often associate with mobile app development. Whilst you almost certainly have an Intel chip What You Need To Know About Intel’s Ivy Bridge [MakeUseOf Explains] Intel has just released its new updated processor, code-named Ivy Bridge, for both desktops and laptops. You’ll find these new products listed as the 3000 series and you can buy at least some of them... Read More chugging along in the computer you use to read this, their ventures into the mobile world weren’t as successful as they might have hoped, with few manufacturers deciding to use the Intel Atom chip in their Android devices.


Seemingly, this hasn’t deterred them. They just threw their hat back into the mobile ring again with the Intel XDK IDE. This free development environment allows you to write applications using HTML5, Javascript and CSS3 and then test them against multiple devices. Once finished, you can publish to a multitude of app stores, including Google Play, Nook, Kindle, iTunes and the Windows 8 Store. It really is a ‘write once, run anywhere’ deal.

But will it revolutionize the workflow of developers everywhere?

HTML5 Only

Before I continue, I just want to reiterate a point I made earlier. This does not and will not allow you to create native apps. These are applications that are created using a language such as Java, Objective-C or C# and often have access to more APIs than are available using just HTML5 Get Started With HTML5 You’ve heard of HTML5. Everybody is using it. It's being heralded as the savior of the Internet, allowing people to create rich, engaging web pages without resorting to using Flash and Shockwave. Read More and Javascript Start Coding JavaScript Right Now With These 5 Great Free Resources Read More .


However, that’s not an entirely bad thing. Firstly, it will allow you to develop using incredibly familiar web technologies, and to create your application and then deploy it onto multiple platforms. Ultimately, you’re trading off power for flexibility.


Another advantage of writing mobile applications in HTML5 is that you are also able to deploy your applications to the greater web. With XKD you can publish Facebook applications and games, Chrome plugins as well as traditional web applications.

The Editor

The editor is where any programmer is most at home. This is where we write the code that powers the tools and applications you use on a regular basis. For serious programmers, there are some absolute prerequisites here.

Firstly, it has to have solid syntax highlighting. Whilst this doesn’t affect the end product (at least not directly), it does ensure that any code you produce is easy to read later on. It also helps if there is code completion, to reduce the amount of text you end up writing and thus reduce the risk of getting felled by a serious strain of RSI.



XDK delivers here, and delivers well. Code is highlighted beautifully and is easy to read. In addition, the code completion is powerful and is on par with any commercial editor. However, I feel like there could be more here. It’d be great if it came with the ability to install plugins, not unlike the venerable Sublime Text Editor Try Out Sublime Text 2 For Your Cross-Platform Code Editing Needs Sublime Text 2 is a cross-platform code editor I only recently heard about, and I have to say I'm really impressed despite the beta label. You can download the full app without paying a penny... Read More . I often found myself pining for the likes of Emmet (formerly Zen Coding), which would have saved me a fair bit of time.


Once you’ve got some code, you’ll want to see how it looks on different platforms. XDK allows you to run your code in a number of resolutions and dimensions, including the Apple iPhone, the Google Nexus 7 tablet and the Nokia Lumia 920.


You can also define the positioning of the device, for when you wish to test out code which makes use of the devices accelerometer, as well as changing the screen orientation of the device itself. This is handy for testing your code across multiple devices without forking out thousands of pounds.



If you want to do a bit more hands-on testing, you can always push your project to your device with Intel’s App Preview. This multi-platform application is available on Windows 8, Windows Phone, Android and iOS and allows you to shove your code through the inter-tubes to your phone, tablet or laptop.


Once you’ve gotten your app all polished, you can build it and then submit it for sale on various app stores. This step isn’t done on your computer, but is rather outsourced to Intel’s own servers. There’s a bit of configuration to be done here, but nothing too fiddly.



You can target Android, Crosswalk for Android, iOS, Windows 8, Windows Phone, Tizen, Amazon and Nook. Disappointingly, you cannot build your application for Blackberry 10. I found this to be absolutely bizarre. Blackberry 10 is still very much alive, and if you spend any time in a first class lounge at an airport or train station, you will see no shortage of Blackberry Q10s. In fact, most Blackberry 10 applications are built entirely with web technologies. It would have been trivial to add BlackBerry 10 functionality to XDK.


XDK is a solid development environment, and for anyone looking to make their millions of the mobile marketplaces of the world, if offers a good place to get started. Whilst it would be nice to have support for Blackberry 10 and for plugins, it recognize that this is an incredible effort on behalf of Intel and at its price point is incredibly enticing. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Photo Credit: HTML5 Mug (Slavic_V)

Related topics: App Development, Programming.

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  1. kay
    May 23, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    Hi mate,
    I have been following intel xdk tutorials. I don't know how to create an icon for my app and unfortunately none of the tutorials offered show that. I have tested the app on xdk platform and is fine.

    When do I create an icon for users to download the app? This bit of important information is missing from intel xdk app. Hope to you will be able to help as every app comes with its own icon or logo.

    • Matthew H
      May 26, 2014 at 10:24 pm

      Hey Kay,

      Have you tried asking Stack Overflow? They'd be able to help you more than I could. Our community might be able to help you if you ask on MakeUseOf Answers.

      With that said, are you asking about the process of creating an icon, or embedding it in your application?

  2. Todd H
    March 9, 2014 at 1:59 am

    I have been looking for something like this for quite a while. Thanks!

  3. Brandon
    January 22, 2014 at 12:05 am

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!
    This is EXACTLY what I've wanted for a long time, thanks for letting us know!

    • Matthew H
      January 27, 2014 at 10:59 am

      It was my pleasure Brandon!