Are you interested in creating your own iOS or Mac app? If so, there is one programming language that you will need to learn: Swift.
Swift, which was released in 2014 by Apple, is a programming language that allows you to build apps for the Mac, iPhone, the Apple Watch, and the iPad.
Swift is behind most of the major apps you will use on Apple devices. When you download an app such as Spotify or YouTube or Instagram, you can bet that there is at least some Swift code that helps the app run.
This guide will explore the best way to learn Swift online. Additionally, it will give you a set of tips to help as you embark on your journey to learning how to code in Swift.
What Is Swift?
Swift is a programming language designed by Apple for use in developing applications on its devices. The Swift language is built on top of many of the principles of C and Objective-C, which were previously used to develop Apple apps, but includes a wide range of modern features to make the programming experience simpler.
The Swift programming language was built to be fast and powerful, which allows it to power any application from small to-do list apps to social networks. In addition, the language was also designed for safety, which means that there are many safeguards in place to protect against the mistakes programmers tend to make when working with Swift.
Why Should You Learn Swift?
In 2015, the famous Venture Capital firm Andreessen Horowitz gave a presentation with the title “Mobile is eating the world.” The basic idea was simple—mobile devices are everywhere you look.
When you go out for a walk, you will quickly be able to see many people scrolling through their devices, reading articles, checking emails, and doing other things with their mobile phones. Whether it’s for work or pleasure, phones have become an integral part of our lives.
Because the Swift programming language is used in iOS development—and because Apple devices make up such a large share of the mobile phone market—learning Swift can be an extremely valuable move.
With skills in Swift, you’ll be able to build mobile applications that can run on any Apple device, as well as desktop apps, and apps for other Apple devices. In addition, because mobile is so dominant, there is no shortage of companies looking for talented Swift developers who can make applications using Swift.
How to Learn Swift Programming
Learning Swift is a good investment of your time and energy, whether you’re interested in becoming an app developer or just want to build a few side projects for your phone.
But how do you actually learn to code in Swift? To answer this question, we’re going to discuss the two things you need to know—the basic skills that Swift developers need, and how you can acquire those skills.
Building Your Skills
Before you go on to pursue a career as a Swift developer, you first need to build your skills and master the basics of the Swift programming language. The good news for you is that, although Swift is a relatively modern language, the popularity of Swift has resulted in a number of great learning resources being published to help beginners.
To start your journey, you should focus on learning the basics. But before you even do that, you should download Xcode, which is Apple’s app for creating software. Then, you should take a look at Apple’s Swift documentation, which includes a wide range of guides that can be helpful as you start to familiarize yourself with Swift.
Now, let’s break down the main topics you should explore as you get started with Swift.
Syntax and Variables
The first step to learning any programming language is to get to know how it works, and what rules govern the language. That’s where syntax comes in.
Then, once you have learned the basic syntax for Swift, you can start to explore variables. Variables are used to store data in a program. Here are the main topics you should explore when it comes to syntax and variables:
- How to create a Swift program
- How to print output to the console
- How to write comments
- How to declare a variable
- Arithmetic operators
- Variable data types
Conditionals and Loops
Conditionals allow coders to run a block of code only if and when a certain condition or set of conditions is met. This allows them to control how their program works in various different settings. Loops, on the other hand, allow you to execute repetitive tasks multiple times over.
Here are the main topics you should master when it comes to conditionals and loops:
- if and else statements
- else if statements
- Ternary operators
- switch and where statements
- for-in loop
- stride() function
- while loop
- break and continue statements
Arrays and Dictionaries
An array is a data type that allows you to store a list of values in a program. A dictionary is a data type that allows you to store a list of labels alongside a list of values using a structure called key-value pairs.
When you’re working in Swift, it is essential that you can use these data types. Here are the main topics you should learn:
- How to create an array
- How arrays are indexed
- How to add items to and remove items from an array
- How to create a dictionary
- How to add elements to and remove elements from a dictionary
- How to inspect a dictionary
- How to access the values in a dictionary
Functions are blocks of code that execute a particular task in a program. For instance, a function could add two numbers together in a program, or prompt a user to sign in to a mobile application. Here are the main topics you should learn about related to functions:
- How to define and call a function
- How to return a value from a function
- Parameters and arguments
- Default, in-out, and variadic parameters
- Returning multiple values
Classes and Structures
Swift is an object-oriented programming language, which means it makes use of classes to define the structure of data in a program. The purpose of classes is to help make code more readable and reduce repetition. In addition, Swift also uses structures to allow developers to create their own data types.
Here are the main topics you should read up on when it comes to classes and structures:
- What is a class?
- How to create a class and an instance of a class
- Class inheritance and method overriding
- What is a structure?
- How to create a structure
- How to create an instance of a structure
- Structure and mutating methods with structures
These topics make up the basics of the Swift programming language, and once you have mastered them you can go on to building complex applications.
There are frameworks out there like SwiftUI which allow you to build more detailed user interfaces and ARKit which allow you to build augmented reality tools. None of these frameworks are out of reach once you have learned the basics of Swift.
Where to Learn Swift
As we mentioned earlier, the popularity of Swift has resulted in a massive community being built up of resources that can help you learn Swift. But what resources are worth your time?
The answer to that question depends on your learning style. Do you prefer hands-on video tutorials, or do you like reading guides? Do you like mentorship-driven environments, or prefer to learn at your own pace? Before you start looking for resources, you should think about how you learn best, and try to find resources that match your approach to learning.
With that in mind, here are a few places you can go to master Swift:
No matter whether you are new to programming entirely, or just new to Swift, Apple has you covered. On the Apple Developer website, you’ll find plenty of resources that can help you master the basics of Swift.
Apple has also developed an app called Swift Playgrounds that uses an interactive approach to teaching you how to code in Swift. This app, available for iOS, allows you to work your way through a number of basic challenges to familiarize yourself with the basics of Swift.
In addition, Apple has published a number of excellent free books and courses which you can use. These include:
- The Swift Programming Language
- Stanford University: Developing iOS 10 Apps with Swift
- Plymouth University: iOS Development in Swift
Online courses are a great way to learn how to code because they allow you to see someone actually building an application. Online courses are like being in a classroom with a lecturer, but where you can pause the content of the course to take notes.
Here are a few places you can look for online courses:
- Swift iOS App Development on Coursera
- Udacity: Swift for Beginners
- Udacity: Swift for Developers
Tutorials and Guides
Tutorials and guides are other popular methods used to learn how to code. The main advantage of following a tutorial is that everything you need to do is written out in front of you, and you can easily go back and forward between materials to find what you need to help you accomplish a particular task.
Here are a few of the best tutorial and guide resources for learning Swift:
- Swift by Syndell
- Hacking with Swift
- Apple’s Swift tutorials
- Swift Tutorial: How to Master the Fundamentals
- Xcode 11 Tutorial for Beginners
- Learn to Make Apps with SwiftUI
Attend Coding Bootcamp
There are also a number of top coding bootcamps that teach Swift, such as DevMountain and General Assembly. In bootcamp, you’ll learn all the practical skills you need to pursue a career in technology, and graduate with a portfolio that showcases the skills you have built.
If you’re interested in learning more about Swift coding bootcamps, check out our directory of coding bootcamps. This directory features a number of schools that specialize in iOS development.
Learn by Doing
Following tutorials and online videos can only get you so far. Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals of Swift, your next step should be to start working on a project.
What problems do you currently have that you want to solve? Do you enjoy tasting different flavors of tea, and need a place to store your notes? Or do you want a place to track your progress toward the habits you are building?
These are two ideas that you could use to build an app. By asking yourself what problems you have, you should have no trouble coming up with an idea or two for what you can build with your new skills.
As you learn about new programming concepts, you should try to work on a project that actually uses those skills. This will help you reinforce the theory you have learned in class, and develop a deeper mastery of Swift.
Are you still stuck for ideas on what you could build? Here are a few to help you out:
- A to-do list app
- A habit tracker app
- A podcast sharing app
- An app to track the books you have read
- An app to volunteer your help to the local community
- A news aggregator app
Alternatively, you could ask your friends, “If you could build an app, what would it be?” and then try to build that. (Everyone knows at least one friend who has a “great app idea” that could change the world. But not everybody actually has the skills they need to turn that idea into a working app!)
Join a Developer Community
Learning how to code can be a difficult journey to walk alone. There are so many opportunities for failure, and working alone makes it really easy to quit when times get tough and you cannot solve a problem.
As soon as you start learning Swift, you should try to join a developer community or two. These communities bring together developers of all stripes—from experts to novices—and give them a place to share ideas, help each other, and collaborate on projects.
For aspiring Swift developers like yourself, the following communities are worth looking into:
- r/iOSProgramming: This is a subreddit dedicated to iOS development, and hosts a wide range of helpful threads on the latest in iOS.
- Apple Developer Forums: The official Apple Developer Forums are a great place to ask questions about Swift and find answers to the questions you have.
- Dev.to: Dev.to is a community for developers to chat and help each other out. The Dev.to community has a thread dedicated to iOS development, which is a great place for both beginners and experts to come together and share ideas.
- StackOverflow: StackOverflow is a questions-and-answers community that is used by most developers at some point. If you have a question, it’s highly likely that someone has already posted it on StackOverflow; if you cannot find an answer, you can always start a thread yourself.
When you join a developer community, you should spend some time analyzing how it works, then try to follow in the footsteps of existing members. Contribute as much as you can, and, if you see an opportunity to do so, volunteer to help other people.
Even if you are still a beginner, you may have figured something out that could help someone else who has been in your shoes before.
Practice Your Skills
There is no better way to become an expert coder than to practice. In fact, the more you practice, the better (which is the general rule for learning any new skill).
While the Swift programming language may seem intimidating at first, as you practice your skills you will become more familiar with syntax and best practices. You’ll encounter mistakes in your work, and then figure out how to fix them. This will allow you to build a massive repository of knowledge in your mind which makes programming easier as you go.
The more you can practice the better, but at the start of your journey you should try to devote at least a couple of hours a week to learning Swift. Or, if you’re committed to learning Swift now, you could even try to code every day. Once you’ve built a good habit, you’ll be on a good trajectory toward learning how to code in Swift fast.
Here are a few suggestions on how you can practice your Swift skills:
- Follow online tutorials and immersive workshops. Spending some time following along with online tutorials is a great way to practice your skills. And, when you feel ready, you can start to make your own changes to the code you build in tutorials.
- Build a project. Building a project is a great way to fit more practice into your life. This is because, when you have a project going, it is easy to decide what to work on, and you can hack away at what you are building over a long period of time.
- Take coding challenges. Codewars, CodeChef, TopCoder, and Coderbyte are a few examples of the many platforms out there that host coding challenges. These challenges, which typically take a few minutes or hours to complete, are a great way to refine your skills.
No matter how you want to practice, the principle is the same—just keep coding. Then, when you look back on this day a year from now, you’ll be amazed by how far you have come.
The Swift programming language, while newer than technologies like Objective-C, is a skill worth learning. Knowing how to code in Swift gives you the skills you need to build mobile apps, Mac apps, and apps for other Apple devices.
That’s not all! Because Swift is such an important technology used for app development, there are many companies who are actively looking for qualified Swift developers who can help them build their own apps. And, as mobile becomes even more popular, new career opportunities will arise.
To summarize, here are the five main steps you should follow to learn Swift fast:
- Find learning resources
- Master the basics
- Build a project (or multiple projects)
- Join a developer community
- Practice your skills
If you follow these steps, you’ll be on a great track to learning how to code in Swift! The great part about learning Swift is that, when you know the basics, there is no limit to what you can build, from social networks to music players. The only limit is your imagination!