While most developers use popular IDEs like Xcode and Sublime Text on their Macs, few realize that their iPhones and iPads can also handle coding apps. While they might not be as powerful as their desktop counterparts, there are certainly some capable mobile IDEs that act as powerful supplementary IDEs to your primary device. Let’s take a look at the five best coding apps for iOS.
Tip: you can quickly get rid of apps you haven’t used in a while on your iPhone. We show you how.
1. Swift Playgrounds
Whether you’re just starting to learn Apple’s programming language or are an experienced developer, the Swift Playgrounds app is going to amaze you. This app started out as Apple’s initiative to make learning Swift fun, and it grew over the years. Today, you’ll find a whole range of lessons that help you grasp the essentials of coding by solving puzzles in an interactive 3D world. However, that’s just one part of Swift Playgrounds.
The app also gives you a blank canvas for your coding, where you can practice, inspect your code, and even code something from scratch. You can easily preview your app next to your code editor, which is something other coding apps simply can’t do. It also integrates with iPadOS frameworks and allows you to submit your app to Apple’s App Store. The only downside is that Swift Playgrounds is available for iPad only and not the iPhone.
- Great tutorials and sample projects included
- Can preview the app you’re working on
- Limited to developing Swift apps
- Can’t open and edit files of your choice
Tip: did you know that you can download your iOS apps on Windows? You’ll need iTunes to do that.
2. Koder Code Editor
Koder is a fully-baked development environment built specifically for iOS and iPadOS with support for over 80 programming languages, syntax highlighting, and auto-complete, making this app incredibly powerful. If we dare to say it, Koder seems like a bulletproof option, at least while we wait for Xcode and other desktop-level code editors to arrive on iPhone and iPad.
Among other features, Koder supports both local and remote connections. In that sense, the app works with Dropbox, (S)FTP, and WebDAV. You can easily upload and download between local and remote connections. And when it comes to local file access, you can get to your files via any web browser. Lastly, Koder comes with desktop-grade distraction-free editing.
- Allows accessing files from remote locations
- Themes and colors look great out of the box
- Shows symbol bar even with external keyboard connected
3. Textastic Code Editor
In many ways, Textastic is similar to Koder. However, considering that developers can be quite opinionated about their favorite software, we felt obliged to include both Koder and Textastic in this article. Textastic is available on iOS and iPadOS, supports over 80 languages, and is even compatible with TextMate and Sublime Text 3 syntax definitions and themes.
When it comes to other features, Textastic is known for its speed. It’s built upon native iOS and iPadOS APIs, such as Core Text, allowing you to perform complex operations easily. The app offers a whole slate of options for importing your files and exporting them, supports external keyboards, and comes with cursor navigation for easy text selection. It’s easy to see why this is one of the best coding apps for iPhone and iPad.
- Tap-and-drag method to select symbols is super fast
- Smartly hides symbols bar with external keyboard connected
- User interface doesn’t look the best
Good to know: write better code with these useful Python one-liners.
4. Pythonista 3
For the Python coders out there, Pythonista 3 is a complete Python editor for coding on your iPad or iPhone. While Python developers would be familiar with the standard libraries provided, Pythonista’s benefits include the ability to interact with native iOS features, like location data, contacts, reminders, photos, and more.
You can expect desktop-level features when coding with Pythonista 3. That includes syntax highlighting and code completion as well as an outline view and support for multiple tabs. Another great feature is a powerful interactive prompt, letting you try snippets of code in an instant or perform ad-hoc calculations. And finally, we’ll also mention that Pythonista supports color themes, a custom keyboard, and comes with a snippet system to speed up your coding.
- Python sample projects included
- Can only open Python and Text files
5. Buffer Code Editor
Like other coding apps for iOS, Buffer Editor provides a native and purposely-built development environment. We’re sure that pretty much all your needs as a developer will be met by this app. That starts with Buffer’s highly customizable interface, letting you switch between a bunch of themes easily. On top of that, the app is highly optimized for iPhones and iPads, supporting various multitasking operations.
You’ll also be happy to hear that Buffer supports connections to GitHub, BitBucket, Dropbox, Google Drive, SFTP, and even SSH servers. And when it comes to Buffer’s code editor, it has syntax highlighting and code auto-complete for dozens of languages. You can also preview your code using Safari as well as any file type natively supported by iOS and iPadOS.
- Default color scheme looks amazing
- More remote connections supported, including Bitbucket and GitHub
- Shows symbol bar even with external keyboard connected
Tip: have an iPhone or iPad that’s acting funny? Here’s how you can hard reset your iOS device and fix the issue.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do any of the paid apps have a free trial?
Unfortunately, no. Textastic, Pythonista, and Buffer do not offer a free trial. If you’re worried about paying for the apps but not liking them, you can request a refund from Apple. As for Swift Playgrounds and Koder, both are fully free to use.
Are there any iOS apps that can teach me how to code?
Of the code editors reviewed, only Swift Playgrounds is geared toward teaching coding. It has plenty of content to help someone of any skill level learn how to program in Swift. On top of that, there are a few other dedicated apps that are specifically for learning to code, such as:
If you prefer learning with videos, we have this list of great YouTube channels to teach you how to code.
Can I build an iOS app without coding knowledge?
Are any of these apps available on Android devices?
No, all the apps listed are exclusive to iPhone and iPad devices.
Image credit: Pexels. All screenshots by Brandon Li.
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