Automagically: Easy Splash Screen (Default.png)

In my recent post about reducing load time for iOS apps, I discussed the importance of a proper Default.png. In the past I’ve made my Default.png “splash screen” image manually from mock ups and screenshots from the simulator — it can be very tedious with mixed results.

There is another way.

Before I show you, you need to know something — it uses a private API function. What does that mean? You need to remove this code before you submit your app to the App Store or it will be rejected. Private APIs are functions not to be used by anyone but Apple. So without further ado:

[[UIApplication sharedApplication] _writeApplicationDefaultPNGSnapshot];

That’s it. You should put this code somewhere in your viewDidLoad function before you load all (but after you load some) of your UI elements. You’ll have to be the judge of the appropriate timing. Once this function is run, it’ll store a PNG screenshot of your application in the following location:

Library/Application Support/iPhone Simulator/VERSION/UDID/Caches/BUNDLEIDENTIFIER/AppSnapshots/

QUICK! Get the screenshot and get outta there — then remove that function.

Load it Faster: Speed Up Your iOS App Loading Time

I’m always thinking about how to make my apps run and load faster. It’s incredibly important, especially to your users. Earlier today I ran across a Twitter conversation (http://twitter.com/flyosity/status/239044820394471424) between a few guys I consider to be top notch: Sam Soffes, Jake Marsh and Mike Rundle. They were discussing best practices for getting your app loading speed down.

There’s a great article by Brent Simmons in which he discusses his methods for making Glassboard 2.2 load faster, it’s available here:
http://inessential.com/2012/08/23/an_iphone_app_startup_performance_techni

Mike also pointed out Sam’s code from Cheddar:
https://github.com/nothingmagical/cheddar-ios/blob/master/Classes/CDIAppDelegate.m#L68

In his didFinishLaunching method, he performs only the most essential tasks and puts everything else in an async queue to run in the background without blocking the main thread. This frees the app up to get the UI and other elements rolling.

On top of this optimization you can do a few things to make your app APPEAR to load faster, namely, a proper Default.png. It’s easy to fall into the temptation to create a cool splash screen but it’s my belief a good Default.png will help “lead” your user into the app and reduces the amount of perceived load time. Apple recommends (http://developer.apple.com/library/ios/#DOCUMENTATION/iPhone/Conceptual/iPhoneOSProgrammingGuide/App-RelatedResources/App-RelatedResources.html) you use a screenshot of your initial view with the text and buttons removed. Here are a few examples of good Default.pngs:

WordPress

Colloquy

Cheddar

In reality, Default.png will only show for a second or so but when properly done, in conjunction with a few of the techniques mentioned by the other guys, can help make your app load feel snappier.

It’s a Native Day

Facebook released their native iOS app today, finally putting to rest their wrapped UIWebView HTML5 frankenstein of an app. The performance improvement I’ve noticed thus far is amazing: more responsive, more predictable and noticeably faster — it just feels better.

My experience with iOS development started with PhoneGap and after noticing it just wasn’t going to do what I needed it to do, I started down the road of learning Objective-C and haven’t looked back since. The performance difference and the lack of Nitro in UIWebViews makes a huge difference. You’ll never be cutting edge by cutting corners.

In an article by Eric Allam entitled “Go Native or Go Home” he discusses the benefits of developing natively. He quotes Steve Jobs from his famed open letter to Adobe regarding flash:

We know from painful experience that letting a third party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform. If developers grow dependent on third party development libraries and tools, they can only take advantage of platform enhancements if and when the third party chooses to adopt the new features. We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers.

This becomes even worse if the third party is supplying a cross platform development tool. The third party may not adopt enhancements from one platform unless they are available on all of their supported platforms. Hence developers only have access to the lowest common denominator set of features. Again, we cannot accept an outcome where developers are blocked from using our innovations and enhancements because they are not available on our competitor’s platforms.

With all the talk of Apple TVs, iPad minis and the simple fact that Apple is continuing to increase their value, there’s never been a better time to learn Objective-C.

Using custom fonts on iOS (iPhone iPad)

This is a quick walk-through on using a font other than those supplied by Apple on an iOS device.

For reference purposes, you can find out what fonts are available to you “out of the box” by checking out this comprehensive list:
http://iosfonts.com/

I’m going to be using Bebas for my example, a great font created by Dharma Type. You can pick it up here: http://www.dafont.com/bebas.font or use a font of your own choice. It’s important to note you should check a font’s license before you use it in an app you intend to distribute in the app store.

If your font’s not installed on your Mac, go ahead and install it. Before we get too deep into coding and while you’re in or around Font Book let’s go ahead and get the PostScript name of your font. You can do this by selecting your font from the list inside of Font Book and pressing Command + I to toggle the font information. The right side of the window will look like this:

The PostScript name is listed on the top, with Bebas, the PostScript name is simple… it’s Bebas but most are more complicated. Take the PTSans family for example: PTSans-Regular to PTSans-CaptionBold. Keep this PostScript name handy as we’ll reference it later.

Moving on let’s get the ttf file into an Xcode project.

I started with a Single View Application template, go ahead and get that going as normal. Inside my Supporting Files folder I’m going to create a group named “Fonts”. I’m going to drag BEBAS___.TTF into that directory and make sure “Copy items into destination group’s folder (if needed)” is checked. Click finish.

Next, open your app’s plist. Right click and add a row, we’re going to add the key “Fonts provided by application” which is an array of the ttf font files. Toggle that down and for Item 0 add BEBAS___.TTF.

Now you need to head over to your project’s build phases tab. Click to the “Copy Bundle Resources” and click the + icon to add a new item and choose BEBAS___.TTF.

Now, when your window looks like this, you’re ready to use the font in the application:

I put some simple code to create a UILabel in my viewDidLoad method like this:

    UILabel *bebasFlavoredLabel = [[UILabel alloc] initWithFrame: CGRectMake(0, 0, 320, 44)];
    bebasFlavoredLabel.text = @"Bebas on iPhone";
    [bebasFlavoredLabel setFont: [UIFont fontWithName:@"Bebas" size:15]];

    [self.view addSubview: bebasFlavoredLabel];

On line 3 you see where we use [UIFont fontWithName:@"Bebas" size:15]. The name you use there is the PostScript name you found at the beginning. Go ahead and run:

Viola! Your font is ready to be used as you wish!

Scanning a Bar Code with ZBarSDK

We’re going to focus on scanning UPCs, however I believe the ZBarSDK can be used to scan QRCodes and that may be the topic of another tutorial at a later date (feel free to leave a comment or tweet at me if you would be interested). You can download the sample project here.

To get started I’m going to create a new project and use the Single View template. We’ll need to add a few frameworks to our project:

AVFoundation.framework
CoreMedia.framework
CoreVideo.framework
QuartzCore.framework
libiconv.dylib

You’ll need to download the ZBarSDK from here: http://zbar.sourceforge.net/iphone/ (you’ll need to scroll about halfway down to the section titled “iPhone Developers”. Once you’ve downloaded the DMG file it’s pretty straightforward about how to get the library into your project:

Go ahead and drag the ZBarSDK folder into your XCode project.

In our ViewController’s header we need to import the ZBarSDK header file:
#import "ZBarSDK.h"

Let’s also make our ViewController a ZBarReaderDelegate:
@interface ViewController : UIViewController

While we’re in the header let’s go ahead and declare an IBOutlet for a UIButton named “scanButton”:

IBOutlet UIButton *scanButton;

@property (nonatomic, retain) IBOutlet UIButton *scanButton;

Also be sure to @synthesize:

@synthesize scanButton;

Next we’ll create an IBAction for the scanButton called scanButtonPress:

-(IBAction) scanButtonPress:sender;

Your ViewController’s header should now look like this:


#import <UIKit/UIKit.h>
#import "ZBarSDK.h"

@interface ViewController : UIViewController <ZBarReaderDelegate> {
    IBOutlet UIButton *scanButton;
    
}

@property (nonatomic, retain) IBOutlet UIButton *scanButton;

-(IBAction) scanButtonPress:sender;

@end

Go ahead and create a button in Interface Builder and link it to the outlet and action we’ve created:

Next let’s work on the scanButtonPress action:

-(IBAction)scannerPress:(id)sender{
    
    ZBarReaderViewController *reader = [ZBarReaderViewController new];
    reader.readerDelegate = self;
    
    [reader.scanner setSymbology: ZBAR_UPCA config: ZBAR_CFG_ENABLE to: 0];
    reader.readerView.zoom = 1.0;
    
    [self presentModalViewController: reader
                            animated: YES];
    
}

We’ll go through line by line:

On line 3, we create a new ZBarReaderViewController and on line 4, set our ViewController as the delegate. On line 6-7, we set up the reader and tell it we’re going to be scanning a UPC (ZBAR_UPCA, you can read about the supported symbologies here) and we want the zoom level to be 1.0. Finally, on line 9, we show the reader. If you’ve ever used the UIImagePickerController. This will begin to seem familiar.

Now we need to setup our delegate method — this is pretty vanilla code from the SDK documentation:

- (void) imagePickerController: (UIImagePickerController*) reader
 didFinishPickingMediaWithInfo: (NSDictionary*) info
{
    id<NSFastEnumeration> results = [info objectForKey: ZBarReaderControllerResults];
    
    ZBarSymbol *symbol = nil;
    
    for(symbol in results){
           
        NSString *upcString = symbol.data;
        
        UIAlertView *alert = [[UIAlertView alloc] initWithTitle:@"Scanned UPC" message:[NSString stringWithFormat:@"The UPC read was: %@", upcString] delegate:self cancelButtonTitle:nil otherButtonTitles:@"Ok", nil];
        
        [alert show];
        
        [reader dismissModalViewControllerAnimated: YES];
        
    }
    
    
}

Basically the Picker can return multiple results, so we’ll enumerate through those (lines 4-8 — also the for loop). On line 10 we actually pull the UPC result from the data returned from the Picker (ZBarReaderViewController) and then on lines 12 and 14 we display that UPC with an alert and dismiss the ZBarReaderViewController modal on line 16.

Again, this is very vanilla information available to you in the official SDK documentation, which is available here, where you’ll also find additional information about the ZBarSDK.

It’s important to note that because the reader uses the camera you will have to run this on an actual device (not the simulator) to test it.

Twitter on iOS: Access Twitter Accounts

Although it’s been around for roughly a year now, I feel I’ve witnessed a little bit of magic each time I see the following dialog:

“Would like Access to Twitter Accounts”

Prior to the integration of Twitter into iOS 5 integrating Twitter was a real mess with a variety of 3rd-party solutions. We’re going to take a look at how to access a user’s Twitter account which can then be used for single sign on, tweets, etc. If you need additional references, the Apple documentation is available here.

To get started, add the Accounts framework as well as the Twitter framework to your project:

Now include Accounts.h, the accounts header as well as Twitter.h in your header:

#import <Accounts/Accounts.h>
#import <Twitter/Twitter.h>

We need to create a few instance variables (I made the account store an instance variable here due to an error I was getting when making a TWRequest, you can read about this error on Stack Overflow):


 NSArray *theAccounts;
 ACAccountStore *accountStore;

I’ll be adding the following code to my viewDidLoad method, however, you could associate it with a button action or somewhere throughout a registration process — where ever you see fit.


    self.theAccounts = [[NSArray alloc] init];
    
    self.accountStore = [[ACAccountStore alloc] init];
    
    ACAccountType *twitterAccount =
    [self.accountStore accountTypeWithAccountTypeIdentifier:ACAccountTypeIdentifierTwitter];
    
    [self.accountStore requestAccessToAccountsWithType: twitterAccount withCompletionHandler: ^(BOOL allowed, NSError *error) {
        if(allowed) {
            self.theAccounts = [accountStore accountsWithAccountType: twitterAccount];
            NSLog(@"theAccounts: %@", self.theAccounts);
        }
        else{
            //handle error gracefully
             NSLog(@"Declined or error");
             
         }
    }];
    

Let’s go through this line-by-line. On line 1 we initialize our accounts NSArray. On line 2 we create an ACAccountStore object. This object allows us to access and store accounts. On line 5 we define an account type which we’ll use in line 7 to tell the account store we want to access Twitter accounts specifically. It’s worth noting that the accounts framework currently only supports Twitter accounts but is likely to be expanded in the future. In addition to specifying the account type, in line 7 we also make the request to access the accounts. It’s at this point that iOS will prompt the user for approval. We’ll check to make sure (on line 9) that it’s allowed and proceed to assign those accounts to an NSArray on line 10. Line 11 is simply for debugging purposes and logs the account output. On lines 13-17 you will want to handle a rejection by the user or an error.

Now that we have access to the accounts, we can interact with the Twitter API (documented here) using the Twitter framework also available in the iOS SDK. The core of this functionality is centered around the TWRequest.

We’re going to make a simple request to pull the timeline of the first account we gained access to.


    TWRequest *twRequest = [[TWRequest alloc]
                              initWithURL:
                              [NSURL URLWithString:@"https://api.twitter.com/1/statuses/user_timeline.json"]
                              parameters:nil
                              requestMethod:TWRequestMethodGET];
    
    ACAccount *theAccount = [self.theAccounts objectAtIndex:0];
    
    [twRequest setAccount:theAccount];
    [twRequest performRequestWithHandler:^(NSData *responseData, NSHTTPURLResponse *urlResponse, NSError *error) { 
        if ([urlResponse statusCode] == 200) {
            NSError *jsonError = nil;
            NSDictionary *feed = [NSJSONSerialization JSONObjectWithData:responseData
                                                            options:0
                                                              error:&jsonError];
            NSLog(@"User's feed: %@", feed);
        }
    }];

On line 1 we setup the request. Again, you can change the Twitter API URL based on the action you’d like to take. On lines 7 and 9 we specify we’d like to use the first account we retrieved earlier. On lines 10-18 we execute the request and parse the JSON. You could then place this in a UITableView or use the data however your application requires.

That’s it for this quick run through of using the Accounts and Twitter frameworks.

Twitter on iOS: Tweeting a Tweet, The TweetSheet

Tweeting on iOS hasn’t been easier since iOS 5.

To get started, add the Twitter.framework to your project:





Next, import Twitter.h into your ViewController:

#import <Twitter/Twitter.h>


You’ll probably want to create a new action on a UIButton, so we’ll call that tweetButtonPress:


- (void) tweetButtonPress:sender {
    
}

Inside that method we’ll create a TWTweetComposeViewController, this is what is referred to as the “TweetSheet” and looks something like this:

if([TWTweetComposeViewController canSendTweet]){
//Create the tweetsheet
    TWTweetComposeViewController *tweetSheet = [[TWTweetComposeViewController alloc] init];

//Set initial text of the tweet
[tweetSheet setInitialText: @"Hello Twitter World"];

//Add a completion handler for the tweetsheet
    tweetSheet.completionHandler = ^(TWTweetComposeViewControllerResult result){
        [self dismissModalViewControllerAnimated:YES];
    };

//Show the tweetsheet
[self presentModalViewController:tweetSheet animated:YES];
}

else{
 NSLog(@"Handle inability to send Tweet");
}

Most of this is pretty straightforward but on line 6 we set the initial text of the Tweet. This will be user editable but you can certainly have a “recommended tweet”. On line 1 we check to see that the user can even send a Tweet. There are a few reasons they might not be able to: they may not have a Twitter account setup on their device or they may not currently have an internet connection — you can handle these issues however you please in the else starting on line 17. On lines 9-11 we setup a completion handler that will dismiss the TweetSheet when the user is done. Finally, on line 14 we bring the TweetSheet into the view.

Now, there are a few additional methods you can call to attach images and links to the user’s tweets.

To add a URL to the Tweet:

[tweetSheet addURL:[NSURL URLWithString:@"http://jaysonlane.net"]];

Twitter will automatically shorten this to a t.co link.

To add an image to the Tweet:

[tweetSheet addImage:[UIImage imageNamed:@"image.png"]];

And Twitter will handle the uploading for you. These types of attachments will be displayed on the right side of the TweetSheet held on by the paperclip to let the user know they’ve been added.