React Native for Mobile – Initial Impressions

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I’ve always done mobile development in the device native language (Objective-C/Swift for iOS, and Java for Android)

Recently I worked on a project that needed to be deployed on Android, iOS and eventually the web, using the same code base if possible. After reviewing the options I decided to use React Native.

React Native lets you build mobile apps using only JavaScript. It uses the same design as React, letting you compose a rich mobile UI from declarative components. It is the library used to build Facebook, Instagram, and many other applications.

The project was originally a native Android app – used by TED for handling attendees checking in to individual sessions during a conference. It makes multiple API calls to the server back-end, does NFC scanning, needs local data storage, and must work offline as well as online.

I’ll post more further down the road about working in React Native so for now I’ll list some initial pros and cons…

Pros

Performance – better and faster json parsing, cleaner program flow, screen redraw update appears faster than native if state is used properly

Multi-platform – same code base for Android and iOS, can also develop for web using React Native for Web.

Open source – strongy supported by facebook, code available on github, 1,700 contributors, 68,000 stars

Cons

Javascript – the language still makes me nervous, I like a strongly typed language – recommend using typescript or flow to lower your risk.

Debugging – debugging tools aren’t as mature as I would like, using Chrome and a lot of console.log calls – which is definitely old school.

Tools – no integrated tools, I use a mixture of the command line, Chrome, and Sublime Text as my editor.

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Further reading

How to Get Started with React Native

The Basics of React Native

An iOS Developer’s Journey Into React Native

Building the F8 App

Learning to Program

I get asked quite often for good sites to learn programming or web site development, here are a few resources I recommend.

freeCodeCamp – the best place to learn html, javscript and the rest of technologies necessary for front end web development, they are also working on a full stack developer course as well – can’t recommend these guys enough – a great intro to web technologies

Google has a list of resources and a guide intended for Computer Science students seeking an internship or university grad role at Google but it is useful for anyone who is interested in a software development career.

CS for All is an open book by professors at Harvey Mudd College which teaches the fundamentals of computer science using Python. It’s an accessible read and perfect for programming beginners.

If you’ve never programmed before check out the Getting Started page on Learn To Code with Me by Laurence Bradford. She’s done an incredible job of breaking down the steps beginners should take when they’re uncertain about where to begin.

This short 5 minute video explains why it’s better to think of projects you’d like to build and problems you want to solve with programming. Start working on those projects and problems rather than jumping into a specific language that’s recommended to you by a friend.