How can I develop for iPhone using a Windows development machine?

1211

Is there any way to tinker with the iPhone SDK on a Windows machine? Are there plans for an iPhone SDK version for Windows?

The only other way I can think of doing this is to run a Mac VM image on a VMWare server running on Windows, although I'm not too sure how legal this is.

This question is tagged with ios iphone windows

~ Asked on 2008-08-22 13:35:01

40 Answers


516

It's certainly possible to develop on a Windows machine, in fact, my first application was exclusively developed on the old Dell Precision I had at the time :)

There are three routes;

  1. Install OSx86 (aka iATKOS / Kalyway) on a second partition/disk and dual boot.
  2. Run Mac OS X Server under VMWare (Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) onwards, read the update below).
  3. Use Delphi XE4 and the macincloud service. This is a commercial toolset, but the component and lib support is growing.

The first route requires modifying (or using a pre-modified) image of Leopard that can be installed on a regular PC. This is not as hard as you would think, although your success/effort ratio will depend upon how closely the hardware in your PC matches that in Mac hardware - e.g. if you're running a Core 2 Duo on an Intel Motherboard, with an NVidia graphics card you are laughing. If you're running an AMD machine or something without SSE3 it gets a little more involved.

If you purchase (or already own) a version of Leopard then this is a gray area since the Leopard EULA states you may only run it on an "Apple Labeled" machine. As many point out if you stick an Apple sticker on your PC you're probably covered.

The second option is more costly. The EULA for the workstation version of Leopard prevents it from being run under emulation and as a result, there's no support in VMWare for this. Leopard server, however, CAN be run under emulation and can be used for desktop purposes. Leopard server and VMWare are expensive, however.

If you're interested in option 1) I would suggest starting at Insanelymac and reading the OSx86 sections.

I do think you should consider whether the time you will invest is going to be worth the money you will save though. It was for me because I enjoy tinkering with this type of stuff and I started during the early iPhone betas, months before their App Store became available.

Alternatively, you could pick up a low-spec Mac Mini from eBay. You don't need much horsepower to run the SDK and you can always sell it on later if you decide to stop development or buy a better Mac.

Update: You cannot create a Mac OS X Client virtual machine for OS X 10.6 and earlier. Apple does not allow these Client OSes to be virtualized. With Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) onwards, Apple has changed its licensing agreement in regards to virtualization. Source: VMWare KnowledgeBase

~ Answered on 2008-08-26 16:46:56


187

Xamarin is a solid choice. It was purchased by Microsoft and is now built directly into Visual Studio. You code in C#. With all the updates and features they are adding, you can do everything but submit to the App Store from Windows, even compile, build and deploy to an iOS device.

For games, Unity 3D is a great option. The editor is free to use for development, and even for distribution (if you have less than 100K USD in annual revenue). Unity supports iOS, Android and most other platforms. It may be possible to use Unity's "Cloud Build" feature to avoid having to use a Mac for deployment, although by default Unity actually spits out an Xcode project when building for iOS.

Other options:

PhoneGap (html/javascript) also works. It isn't quite as nice for gaming, but it's pretty decent for regular GUI applications.

Flutter (dart) is a free cross platform mobile app development framework from Google. Write your code in Dart.

React Native (javascript) is another popular cross-platform framework created by Facebook.

Note that: for all of these options, all or most of the development can be done on Windows, but a MacOS device is still required to build a binary for submission to the App Store. One option is to get a cheap MAC Mini to do your final build.

~ Answered on 2009-11-11 20:09:02


152

If you have a jailbroken iPhone, you can install the iphone-gcc toolchain onto the iPhone through Cydia and that way you can just compilie the apps on the iPhone. Apps that are developed this way can still be submitted to the App Store.

And although Mr Valdez said it is a grey area (which it is), jailbreaking is incredibly easy and pretty much risk free. Yes, it voids your warrenty but you can just do a restore and they will never know.

~ Answered on 2008-09-22 07:10:33


84

Most of "so called Windows solutions for iOS development without Mac" require Mac at the end just to sign and send to app store. I checked a few, not all though (who has the time?)

At the end it's just too much trouble to learn "their super special easy way to program iOS without Objective-C", they have lots of bugs. Really the goal they are setting is unachievable in my view.

Also a lot of time they make you use Objective-C equivalent statements simply in another language. They kind of look the same but there are always subtle differences that you have to learn on top of obj-c. Which also makes even less sense, because now instead of learning less you have to learn more. So where is the gain? Also they cost a lot, because they are very hard to develop.

Many lack any debugging abilities whatsoever.

In my honest opinion, if you are a hard-core iOS developer then for sure buy the best Mac and learn objective-c. It's expensive and takes time, but if it's your path, it's worth it.

For an occasional use, it's just easier to rent a remote Mac service, like XCodeClub.com

~ Answered on 2012-10-28 00:47:55


57

The SDK is only available on OS X, forcing you to use a mac. If you don't want to purchase a mac you can either run OS X on a virtual machine on your windows box, or you can install OS X on your PC.

In my experience the virtual machine solution is unusably slow (on a core2 duo laptop with 2G ram). If you feel like trying it search for the torrent. It's probably not worthwhile.

The other option is to install OS X on your PC, commonly referred to as a hackintosh. Hackintoshes work quite well - my friend just sold his mac because his Dell quad core hackintosh was actually much faster than the apple hardware (and cost about 1/3). You can find lots of articles on how to do this; here's one on how to install on a Dell Inspirion 1525 laptop: hackbook pro tutorial

Of course both of these options are likely counter to some licensing scheme, so proceed at your own risk.

~ Answered on 2008-09-16 16:59:31


55

You can use WinChain

Quoting the project page:

It's the easiest way to build the iPhone toolchain on a Windows XP/Vista computer, which in turn, can take Objective-C source code that you write using their UIKit Headers (included with winChain) and compile it into an application that you can use on your iPhone.

~ Answered on 2008-09-16 00:24:37


28

You don't need to own a Mac nor do you need to learn Objective-C. You can develop in different environments and compile into Objective-C later on.

developing for the iphone and ipad by runing osx 10.6(snow leopard)

This article one of our developers wrote gives a pretty comprehensive walk through on installing OS X Snow Leopard on Windows using iBoot, then installing Vmware (with instructions), then getting your iPhone dev environment going... and a few extra juicy things. Super helpful for me.

Hope that helps. It uses Phonegap so you can develop on multiple smart phone platforms at once.

~ Answered on 2010-11-24 23:53:07


21

A devkit that allows one to develop iPhone apps in Objective-C, C++ or just plain C with Visual Studio:

Check it out at iOS build env

You can build iPhone apps directly within Visual Studio (2008, 2010, Express).

Pretty neat, it even builds IPA files for your app after a successful compilation. The code works as is on jailbroken devices, for the rest of the planet I believe the final compilation & submission to the App Store has to be done on a Mac. But still, it enables you to develop using a well-known IDE.

~ Answered on 2011-05-16 20:08:10


21

You can use Tersus (free, open source).

~ Answered on 2010-02-21 06:00:24


19

Of course, you can write Objective-C code in notepad or other programs and then move it to a Mac to compile.

But seriously, it depends on whether you are developing official applications to put in App Store or developing applications for jailbroken iPhone. To write official applications, Apple iPhone SDK which requires an Intel Mac seems to be the only practical way. However, there is an unofficial toolchain to write applications for jailbroken iPhones. You can run it on Linux and Windows (using Cygwin).

~ Answered on 2008-12-18 12:29:37


18

Try macincloud.com It allows you to rent a mac and access it through RDP remote control. You can then use your PC to access a mac and then develop your apps.

~ Answered on 2011-02-21 20:48:22


17

You will soon be able to use Adobe Flash CS 5 to create Apps for the iPhone on Windows:

flashcs 5

flashcs5 apps for iphone

~ Answered on 2009-10-07 16:44:21


12

Hooray! You can now more easily accomplish this with the latest Xamarin.iOS, using a network-linked mac providing the build and deployment capabilities.

See here for more details:

introduction to xamarin ios for visual studio

~ Answered on 2013-03-08 20:12:02


11

If you want it to be legitimate, you have two options, cloud based Mac solutions or cross-platform development tools. You may consider the hackintosh approach or virtual machines if you don't care about legal stuff. If you have a decent PC, running a virtual machine would be the easiest way to go. You may never know which hardware will have driver issues on a hackintosh.

I've tried all these approaches and they all have pros and cons, but for the second group, I feel kind of guilty. I develop apps to make a living and I wouldn't want to rip off someone else for it.

If you are making a small project, cloud based Macs may prove useful. Rent it for a short time, develop your project and off you go. Don't bother learning anything new.

However, if your project is getting big, cross-platform frameworks seem to be the only alternative. The critical thing is that you need to choose wisely. There are so many hybrid frameworks, but what they do can be summarized in one sentence as "diplaying web pages in an app wrapper" and developers' negative experience with hybrid frameworks also affects native frameworks.

I tried three of these (Titanium, Smartface and Xamarin) and they all claim to produce "real native output" and in my opinion their claims are correct. You need to test and see it yoursrlf, it's not easy to describe the native feeling. In a previous comment, it was indicated that it takes some effort to learn these platforms, but once you get to know them, you can develop not just iOS applications but Android applications as well, all with the common code base. And of course, they are much cheaper than a cloud Mac. Some of them are even free. You would need a Mac only for store submission.

If you know JavaScript, try Titanium and Smartface and if you know C#, try Xamarin. Just note that for the device simuator, Titanium is dependent on a Mac, but Smartface has a simulator app for Windows development and it works better than I expected. On the other hand, Xamarin requires a Mac in your network.

~ Answered on 2015-01-03 13:00:19


9

If you want to create iPhone apps but no Mac, then you should try http://www.pmbaty.com/iosbuildenv/

It allows you to easily develop native iOS apps, like with XCode, deployable on any iPhone, iPod or iPad (jailbroken or not).

Use your favourite IDE to code in Objective-C, C++, C or ARM assembly, like in XCode. ARC and blocks are supported.

Compile your iPhone apps directly inside Visual Studio

It works on Windows all versions (XP, 7, 8), FreeBSD and Linux

Now with iOS8 support.

~ Answered on 2014-12-17 16:55:53


8

You can use Intel XDK with that you can develop and publish app for iOS without mac.

Click here for detail.

~ Answered on 2014-02-14 11:35:10


8

YOU CAN DEVELOP IPHONE APPS ON WINDOWS PC. I've done it, with complex apps. And it works perfectly. You can develop iphone apps without ever seeing a mac or iphone.

You can develop on windows an HTML (or better: HTML5) app, using tools like Sencha or JQTouch, or mobi1. (They used to all be free for a while)

Then you use openSSL to sign the app. And Adobe PhoneGAP Build service to build IPhone App.

But you need the iphone developer licence to install it on an iphone. But you don't need a mac or iphone at any minute to compile, build or test it - all that is done ON THE PC.

I've done it, and it works perfectly. (But with Android type responsiveness - not as fast as a native IPhone app)

You could also use a program from the the Babylonian era (circa 300 bc) running C and C++ called dragonfly. If your app has one or two screens with limited interactivity, and many calculations, go for it. It includes an emulator. You compile to the iphone at the press of a button. (Not sure, but I think you do need a developers license in any case)

And then there is Xamarin. You develop in C# with special calls to native code. You'll have to learn the environment.

~ Answered on 2013-01-21 21:58:11


8

Interesting that no one has mentioned the cross-platform wxWidgets option.

It's less than an optimal solution, though.

IMHO, the business-wisest way to go is to invest the money in Apple's endorsed framework. That way, if you find yourself stuck with some mind-boggling problem, you have a much larger community of developers to consult with.

~ Answered on 2012-10-03 14:37:15


8

Oracle VirtualBox allows users to install Mac OS X in a virtual machine. If you are comfortable with it, you could just use that way to use Xcode. This is legal if you "dual boot" your mac into windows, then install the VirtualBox within windows (or linux).

Other possibilities are cross-compilers such as Appcelerator Titanium (HTML, CSS and JavaScript) or MonoTouch (.NET).

~ Answered on 2010-05-25 19:31:18


8

Check out this:

Over view

It is a project that attempts to be able to cross-compile programs written in a variety of source languages to a variety of target languages. One of the initial test cases was to write programs in Java and run them on an iPhone. Watching the video on the site is worthwhile.

With that said, I haven't tried it. The project seems quite beta, and there isn't a lot of activity on their SourceForge site.

~ Answered on 2008-12-03 05:10:24


7

Two other options

  1. Titanium Developer - free community edition - write in HTML/JavaScript - compile with Xcode (requires a Mac or VM)

  2. OpenPlus ELIPS Studio - write in Flex, compile on Xcode (requires a Mac or VM) - they just started charging for their product however.

I think there may be 'toolchain' options for these and some of the others mentioned, which allow you to compile to binary on Windows, and I have seen that you can upload a zip file and have a toolchain style compile done for you online, but this goes against the Apple licensing.

If I am not mistaken, a product such as Titanium that outputs/works with Xcode and does not use any 3rd party / alternative / restricted libraries should be in compliance, because you are ultimately compiling in xcode - normal Objective-C code and libraries.

~ Answered on 2010-07-30 11:19:58


6

You can use Sentenza for make applications for iPhone, on Windows. Tested with success. It's not a solution but a good alternative !

~ Answered on 2009-12-10 20:43:15


6

As has been pointed you can attempt to use the WinChain but if you are a newbie coder it won't be easy.

The iPhone SDK will work on Hackintoshes (a normal PC with OS X installed on it). I know as I have one and it does.

So after you go buy an OSX license you could TRY to install it on your PC on a different drive using Boot-132 or one of the other installers like iDeneb. The issue you will have to do a lot of tinkering and things still won't work quite right.

~ Answered on 2009-04-11 11:25:59


6

Using Xamarin now we can develop iPhone applications in Windows machine itself with the help of Xamarin Live Player.

Using this Xamarin live player dev/deploy/debug cycle can now be done without an Apple system.

But to sign and release the app Apple system is required.

Find the reference here

I checked the reference nothing dodgy

~ Answered on 2017-05-11 17:49:20


5

Yes and you don't need to learn Objective-C and buying Apple software and hardware.

Adobe have created compilator from ActionScript 3 to program for iOS. And later Apple approved this method of application creation.

This is best way to create Apple applications under Windows or Linux/BSD (and another one for MacOS-X)

~ Answered on 2011-06-02 10:32:39


4

You can install OSX on PC but experience wont be great and it needs lot of work. Alternate is to use a framework/SDK Codename one: which is based on JAVA and can be used to code in WP8, Android, iOS on Windows (eclipse) with all extensive features

Features Overview:

  1. Full Android environment with super fast android simulator
  2. An iPhone/iPad simulator with easy to take iPhone apps to large screen iPad in minutes.
  3. Full support for standard java debugging, profiling for apps on any platform.
  4. Easy themeing / styling – Only a click away

More at Develop Android, iOS iPhone, WP8 apps using Java Disclaimer: This is my review for the product

~ Answered on 2013-02-22 10:27:32


3

If you want to develop an application on Windows environment then there is an option, you can install MAC OS in your windows Platform name is : "Niresh'MAC OS" , you can search that text on Google

then you can download the whole MAC OS Source and easily installed MAC OS in your Windows PC, Niresh is able to Hack the whole OS.

Hope this will help you.

~ Answered on 2013-02-01 11:20:16


3

If you have ssh access to a Mac, then you can use a VNC (like Vine VNC, which allows multiple uses at once - thin thin client) to control XCode.

This could be useful if you wanted to access a Mac Mini from a laptop, or your S.O. is hogging your MacBook.

~ Answered on 2011-02-28 13:08:31


3

Develop iOS Apps on Windows With Cross-Platform Tools

Cross-platform tools are awesome: you code your app once, and export it to iOS and Android. That could potentially cut your app development time and cost in half. Several cross-platform tools allow you to develop iOS apps on a Windows PC, or allow you to compile the app if there’s a Mac in your local network.

Well, not so fast…

The cross-platform tool ecosystem is very large. On the one side you have complete Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) like Xamarin, that allow you to build cross-platform apps with C#.

The middle ground is covered by tools like PhoneGap, Cordova, Ionic and Appcelerator, that let you build native apps with HTML5 components. The far end includes smaller platforms like React Native that allow you to write native apps with a JavaScript wrapper.

The one thing that stands out for all cross-platform tools is this: they’re not beginner friendly! It’s much easier to get access to a Mac, learn Swift, and build a simple app, than it is to get started with Xamarin.

Most of the cross-platform tools require you to have a basic understanding of programming, compilation options, and the iOS and Android ecosystems. That’s something you don’t really have as a beginner developer!

Having said that, let’s look at a couple of options:

If you’re familiar with Windows-based development tools and IDEs, and if you already know how to code, it’s worthwhile to check out Xamarin. With Xamarin you code apps in C#, for multiple platforms, using the Mono and MonoTouch frameworks. If you’re familiar with web-based development, check out PhoneGap or Ionic. You’ll feel right at home with HTML 5, CSS and JavaScript. Don’t forget: a native app works different than a website… If you’re familiar with JavaScript, or if you’d rather learn to code JavaScript than Swift, check out React Native. With React Native you can code native apps for iOS and Android using a “wrapper”. Always deliberately choose for cross-platform tools because it’s a smart option, not because you think a native platform language is bad. The fact that one option isn’t right, doesn’t immediately make another option smarter!

If you don’t want to join the proprietary closed Apple universe, don’t forget that many cross-platform tools are operated by equally evil companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Adobe and Amazon.

An often heard argument against cross-platform tools is that they offer limited access to and support for smartphone hardware, and are less “snappy” than their native counterparts. Keep in mind that any cross-platform tool will require you to write platform-specific code at one point, especially if you want to code custom features.

~ Answered on 2018-04-20 11:59:37


2

(accurate as of late 2014)

For access to the native tools (Xcode etc) there are two main options:

1. Virtual machine

Look around for the mavericks (10.9) vmware image that works with a modified Vmware Workstation/Player. Once the machine is able to boot, it can be updated to 10.9.5 with no apparent issues.

The good: relatively low learning curve (if you are somewhat familiar with vms)

The bad: reduced performance due to virtualized environment, no 3d acceleration (QE/CL)

2. Hackintosh

This is the sensible option if you are planning to procure new hardware (or at least partly), instead of retrofitting existing equipment (but you might be lucky to have one of the common OEM models (like Dell) that already have recipes written for it)

The good: no penalty on hardware performance, which might even surpass that of a real mac. The same hardware can also be used for other OSes if you are open to multibooting

The bad: higher learning curve, more hardware limitations (no drivers for certain Intel wifi etc) which may translate into higher investment if you had no intention to get new hardware originally

Needless to say, both options above are frown upon by the fruit company, so licensing compliance is not part of the discussion.

3. An actual mac (added in 2016)

This option is perfect for people who already have a mac and use it as a Windows development machine via Bootcamp etc. This also has the least support issues (apart from complications that may result from multi-booting), so it is recommended for those looking for a long-term solution (hardware that works not just for the current OSX version but future versions as well)

~ Answered on 2014-10-02 07:45:56


2

As many people already answered, iPhone SDK is available only for OS X, and I believe Apple will never release it for Windows. But there are several alternative environments/frameworks that allow you to develop iOS applications, even package and submit to AppStore using windows machine as well as MAC. Here are most popular and relatively better options.

PhoneGap, allow to create web-based apps, using HTML/CSS/JavaScript

Xamarin, cross-platform apps in C#

Adobe AIR, air applications with Flash / ActionScript

Unity3D, cross-platform game engine

Note: Unity requires Xcode, and therefore OS X to build iOS projects.

~ Answered on 2014-05-19 21:40:07


2

You may try to develop web apps for iPhone using HTML, JavaScript, CSS. Check the getting started info at Apple's site.

~ Answered on 2010-06-16 19:11:17


2

Visual Studio + Xamarin will do the job.

Visual Studio

Yet, I'd recommend you get a Mac and develop iOS apps in Xcode.

When in Rome, live like the Romans do.

~ Answered on 2017-12-12 09:47:36


1

So the bad news is that XCode is needed for its iOS Simulator as well as its Application Loader facility for actually uploading the programs to iOS devices for "real" testing. You'll need XCode for signing your apps before submitting to the App Store. Unfortunately, XCode is only available for OS X.

However, the good news is that you may be able to purchase OS X and run it in a virtual machine such as VMWare Workstation. I don't know how straightforward this is, as it is rather difficult to get OS X to run on non-Apple hardware, but a quick Google search shows that it is possible. This method would (likely) be cheaper than purchasing a new Mac, although the Mac Mini retails in the US for only $599. Some posts I've seen indicate that this may or may not be legal, others say you need OS X Server for virtualization. I'll leave the research up to you.

There are also services such as MacInCloud that allow you to rent a Mac server that you can access from Windows via remote desktop, or through your browser. Unfortunately, I don't think you'd be able to use Application Loader, as you have to physically connect the device to your computer, but it would work for development and simulation, at least.

Good luck!

~ Answered on 2013-09-05 06:53:05


1

This is a new tool: oxygene which you can use to build apps for iOS/Mac, Windows RT/8 or Android. It uses a specific language derived from Object Pascal and Visual Studio (and uses .net or java.). It seem to be really powerful, but is not free.

~ Answered on 2013-06-03 22:19:52


1

There's also Sencha Architect and Sencha Touch from the company that makes Ext JS.

~ Answered on 2012-10-17 13:51:26


0

B4i is a new development tool that creates native iOS apps. It runs on Windows. When a full compilation is required (in most cases it is not required) the project is compiled on a hosted builder. Each compilation takes about 5 seconds. B4i

~ Answered on 2014-12-16 08:31:09


0

Please take a look at Xamarin. They have an extension for Visual Studio (http://xamarin.com/visual-studio).

Taken from their site:

Xamarin provides Visual Studio add-ins so that you can develop your iOS, Android and Windows apps all in a single solution. The Xamarin extensions support building, deploying, and debugging on simulator or device.

~ Answered on 2013-12-10 09:15:53


0

I use Flutter. I develop on my Windows machine and test on an Android emulator. When I'm ready to test on iOS, I run the code on macOS. From my experience, a Flutter app runs exactly the same on Android and iOS. If you don't have a Mac, you can download VirtualBox and install macOS on it. On VirtualBox, macOS runs exactly as it does on a real Mac, and you can build your app on it.

~ Answered on 2021-02-01 02:46:28


0

Check out NS Basic/App Studio. It's Visual Basic for the iPhone. (though you can also code in JavaScript). It produces WebApps which can be distributed without going through the App Store. Apps will also run on other platforms, like Android. NS Basic/App Studio

~ Answered on 2011-03-05 16:02:20


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