The Big Switch

On my latest project, I am trying my hand at a simple app that also has an Apple Watch component, plus a Today Extension. It has been an interesting process, to say the least.

I started off with Cocoapods, since that has worked well for me in the past. I don’t use a huge amount of third-party code, but sometimes it’s really nice to have a souped-up NSDate class, or use SnapKit for some AutoLayout goodness. However, when starting to deal with a combination of Swift, Watch extensions, and Today extensions, plus third party libraries, I had a huge amount of trouble to get Cocoapods to build things in a way that made the App Store submittal process happy. Everything worked just find during development, but getting the Frameworks directory set up just so (delete it, no, fill it, no wait, now the Swift libraries are missing! Argh!) was incredibly frustrating. Frustrating enough that I considered looking into Carthage instead.

I’ve been aware of Carthage, really just as “A dependency manager that isn’t Cocoapods”, but in reading about its simpler approach, I thought it might help avoid the problems I was encountering. And, tl;dr, it did. I feel like my builds are faster, simpler, and more under my control. I think when starting off on a new project, or each time you add a new third party framework, there’s a bit more work, rather than just running “pod install”. And the changes you need to make to your XCode project file are fairly well documented, but not entirely complete when it comes to Watch and Today extensions. But, it ultimately did work, and is more sustainable going forward.

I was lucky that almost all of my CocoaPods were already Carthage-compatible. Only one, Matthew York’s DateTools, wasn’t. DateTools was a bit of fun, since I needed to make it WatchOS and Carthage compatible, plus it’s Objective-C, so I had to make sure its API was available to my apps. All doable, and I’ve got a lovely GitHub fork with the changes if you’re interested (littlepotatosoftware/DateTools), but it was a whole new skill set I needed to learn.

I still haven’t re-introduced the Reveal library to my project. Honestly, haven’t needed it for the past few days while I dealt with built and submission issues. But now I will be using the command line linker arguments to bring it in, instead of using a Pod, so it’s only there for the Debug build. One of my app submission rejections was because I had forgotten to remove it, or at least make it conditional on the debug build, in my Podfile.

I have enjoyed using CocoaPods, and think they do great work, especially they website for Pod discovery. I’ll continue to use it for that, but will stick with Carthage for now. When CocoaPods added their new structure with named targets being required, it felt like any time I made a change to my XCode project file, I risked breaking something in the build of the pod files. And although my pods never change, it always felt like I was spending a fair amount of time every build cycle at least looking through all of the pod sources. Builds feel snappy now.

I tried to document the process as best I could, and may write something up in the future with more detail. The problem with configuration management, and app submission in general, is that you do it just infrequently enough (or at least, I do), that you tend to forget the little details and gotchas. I tried to keep a more accurate log of actions tried this time, to help save myself the cost of relearning it all the next time I have to go through the process.

I also am using fastlane (which I used on Tarrific), and find that it continues to get better and better. It is even happier now that I’ve gotten my framework linking issues taken care of!
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