Jot

Hi folks. Joel here. It’s been a while since this blog has been up to much, hasn’t it? Well, after a lot of privately-owned work about which I was not meant to blog, I’ve got something I can talk publicly about. A little bit ago my friend Matt and I released Jot, a note-taking app for the bells-and-whistles-averse. This isn’t Jot’s blog (that’s here), so I’m not going to give you the sales pitch. (Although I will say it’s good and you should buy it.) Instead, I’m going to talk a little bit about the technical side of building this app. I’ve got a few topics lined up that might be of interest to iOS developers. I’m a little rusty at this blogging stuff; we’ll see if I manage to make it through the list.

For now, we’ll start at the high level: how does one make a new app today? A lot has changed in the ten years since the iPhone SDK came out. But Jot is unusual in that it has no backend component. That means there are no API calls, not a lot of asynchronous work, and relatively few failure states. In this sense, it’s a lot like apps used to be back in the good old days.

The things that have changed, though, have changed for the better. When we started making iPhone apps, GitHub wasn’t there to provide libraries for every occasion. Dependency management was done with Git submodules or SVN externals. Core Data was unpolished and unopposed. There were no nibs, xibs, or storyboards. Objective-C was the only available language, and MVC ruled the roost.

Jot uses Carthage for dependency management, though there are not all that many dependencies to manage. The main one is Realm; as a note app, Jot is essentially just an interface on a database, and I prefer Realm’s APIs. (The lack of a FetchedResultsController-analog is still quite painful, though.) I played around with using IceCream for iCloud-based syncing, but it’s still a little too early to be reliable. It’s written in Swift 4, and makes use of plenty of extensions and protocols. I’m not on board with storyboards, so xibs specify the interface. (As far as I’m concerned they’re at the sweet spot between WISYWIG heaven and merge hell.) The app is architected with the coordinator pattern, which I’ve been cheerleading for ever since Soroush started writing about it. Three coordinator-based apps and counting!

That’s a brief overview of the technical decisions that went into Jot. In coming posts I’ll take a more in-depth look at a lot of those pieces, and talk about how they come together. I hope you stick around.

Joel Kraut

About Joel Kraut

Developing on Apple platforms for, holy shit, over ten years now. Find me on linkedin and twitter. My personal website is foon.us.
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