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How To Use Cross-Platform Programming Languages: Expectations vs Reality

CrossPlatform Programming Languages Expectations vs Reality

Cross-Platform languages are not something new. For more than two decades, cross-platform development has been with us, but each programming language and technology evolved differently, adopted different architecture, and offered even more choices to consider. 

Today we are going to talk about different cross-platform programming languages, why they are good and what are their disadvantages and, through this learn how to choose and use the right cross-platform programming language and frameworks.

What computer languages are available for cross-platform programming?

Most programming languages provide at least some form of cross-platform development. By this we mean that with one codebase – the program’s source code – you can target most major operating system and device platforms. They have their specific UI framework and architecture that can or cannot directly utilize hardware features and platform-specific functionalities. Here are the top cross-platform programming languages

  • C++
  • Java
  • Delphi
  • C#
  • JavaScript
  • Dart

It is not easy to compare these languages, but they all have great features and problems. For instance, 

  • Java has a huge third party library pool with a high number of users but requires its Java Runtime Machine.
  • JavaScript is everywhere but not secure & efficient as compiled languages.
  • Microsoft’s C# has evolved so much, but its cross-platform frameworks are not the happiest.
  • Dart with Flutter is getting attention because of its widget powered UI solutions for developing client-optimized apps. Still, it lacks third-party libraries and has problems with iOS development and is not an excellent choice for building server-side apps.
  • C++ is a great choice, but it requires higher knowledge and practice about the ecosystem to develop apps fast.
  • Delphi provides the fastest time to market option with high productivity when creating cross-platform native applications but has low open-source projects. 

How to choose a cross-platform programming language?

If you can efficiently utilise hardware components and system-specific features, that is a good sign, like accessing the camera, gyroscope, or OS-specific features. 

Cross-Platform is one of the ongoing arguments in the software development industry. It is also noteworthy that Native and Cross-platform development is continuously evolving. While Native app development goes with a much more complex process, it stays true to the target platform, namely Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS or Android.

To point out that these languages utilise a framework for building cross-platform responsive user interfaces and provide interfaces where you can use system provided APIs through them. Applications built with these frameworks should behave like native apps; if it does not, it breaks the user experience, leading to the decline of users from your product. For instance, applications built with web-powered components lack several ways that kill the native features, and it gets even hard to work with device hardware.

What is currently happening in cross-platform development?

Mobile market share is enormous, and most cross-platform languages target iOS and Android with their frameworks. Moreover, web apps can also do the job of a mobile app using technology like progressive web apps (PWA), which are web apps that act like a native apps albeit with some disadvantages such poor battery life and an inability to access many of the device’s hardware features. 

One of the latest frameworks for building cross-platform applications is the MAUI framework by Microsoft. It is a .NET Multi-platform App UI framework for building applications with C# and XAML. It is the evolution of Xamarin.Forms but still in preview, which is not stable.

What is the FireMonkey cross-platform development framework and why is it so good?

The FireMonkey framework has been in active development for more than a decade and is used in various fields of software development. Moreover, it is stable and offers native cross-platform development with one of the best drag-and-drop GUI development environments. You won’t find something productive as RAD Studio with its Delphi and C++ Builder and FireMonkey cross-platform framework. 

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With its award-winning framework for cross-platform responsive UIs, you can create stylish and modern applications in seconds. You can transform the app’s UI & UX with its different styles.

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Besides, you can connect user interface elements to data sources using the LiveBindings Designer, which gives you more productivity over your development process. For instance, you can use REST client components to connect to the endpoint, and when you fetch the data, you bind the source component with the UI control without writing any line of code.

Here you can watch the demonstration to see the process in action!

What are the pros and cons of cross-platform development?

Building separate applications for different platforms requires more developers, which can be a budget problem for starters. At the same time, by going with a cross-platform approach, you might pay a high price for the tools or skilled engineers, but that comes with increased productivity, which can lead to 5 or 10 times faster time-to-market. 

Here are the benefits of cross-platform development:

  • Reduced Workload
  • Single Codebase
  • Faster & Cheaper Deployment
  • Platform Consistency
  • Wide Market Reach

What is the secret of cross-platform development? 

As we said, with cross-platform programming languages with their frameworks, you can get fast time-to-market. But there are several issues where you can struggle if there is no tool. For instance, deploying and building an app for each platform can become inconsistent, and if there is a significant change in assets, you might make manual changes.

RAD Studio is one of the best environments for building apps for major platforms, and the tools inside the IDE provide more productivity for the developers. Furthermore, you can apply styles at design time; with this, prototype stylish UIs even faster by seeing immediately at design time how your styled forms and controls will look when running. Additionally, you can utilise Live Preview to see how your app looks on any device without compiling or building it.

Sometimes, the chosen technology does not keep up with all updates. For instance, if there is a new version of Android or iOS with whole new things, you might need several weeks to get that update. Because things change and ruptures happen. This is one of the truths about all of the cross-platform frameworks.

What do I need to do to get started in cross-platform development?

To sum up, you get more power with cross-platform programming languages and frameworks because most new things happen around these technologies. Moreover, it all depends on your code, business objectives, budget, time and architecture. You might even create a more robust application than accurate native apps, or you can break the whole thing if there is no structure. No matter what programming language and framework you choose, there are always options like saving money and reducing engineering hours. 

The final word is that you should select mature, stable and years of proven framework to begin your next project, and we recommend the Delphi programming language with the FireMonkey framework. Delphi programming language evolved over two decades and became one of the modern languages. Its FireMonkey framework has also been in active use and development for over a decade. This shows that FireMonkey has the best architecture, which does not break easily with new things. It provides native and cross-platform development with high productivity compared to any other platform. Additionally, the third-party libraries and resources are growing fast, and its community is always on growth.

Check out the upcoming workshops by Delphi and FireMonkey experts. If you miss the live broadcast, you can catch the replays on the official Embarcadero YouTube channel and here on this blog:

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Why not download a free trial copy of RAD Studio Delphi and try out its power and speed for native apps today?

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About author

Software Developer | CS(CyberSec) Undergrad at APU Malaysia | Delphi/C++ Builder Enthusiast | Microsoft Learn Student Ambassador | Microsoft Azure Certified
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