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February 15, 2011

9 Comments

Appcelerator Titanium for Mobile Developer From a True Newbie Perspective

by in Mobile,Titanium on February 15, 2011 @ 2:06 pm

I’ve been trying to get into true mobile development — not just making a webpage look good on mobile devices — for some time now but have been extremely busy and I generally prefer using a language that I already know.  With that in mind I turned to Titanium since I had some initial success with it building a few desktop apps when Titanium first popped on the scene.  So, I’m a month into playing with Titanium for mobile development I’ve got some thoughts on it, mainly on the idea of using your webskills for native mobile functionality, lack of information and the approach of Appcelerator itself.

Before I go on, this is not meant as flame bait or to put down a great product by Appcelerator, it is simply meant to give my perspective as a new developer to Titanium Mobile and to hopefully show my progression in learning how to use it.  As of this writing I am working with the Titanium Developer 1.2.2 and Titanium SDK 1.5.1 on two separate Windows 7 machines.

When I first started reading/hearing about Titanium for mobile development one of the key phrases I’d hear was “use JavaScript to build mobile apps” and from a code syntax this is correct.  But what I’ve found is that, outside of syntax, having the notion of using JavaScript to build mobile apps in not true.  When working with the Titanium API you are working with a new language from my point of view.  You have to figure out what API functions do what and when.  I know the same can be said for learning any “framework”, ie. jQuery, Dojo, etc, but it’s a bit different in this space because a trial and error approach takes minutes to see if you were correct or not whereas in working with web based frameworks you can see if you were successful with a quick page refresh.  Basically what I am getting at is don’t come to Titanium thinking your are going to hit the ground running with your current JavaScript knowledge.

Something you might have picked up from the previous paragraph is the lack of information out there.  This is both in regards to tutorials and to code examples.  As of this writing doing a search for “appcelerator titanium mobile tutorials” brings up only two somewhat recent tutorials — one by tutsplus (using Titanium SDK 1.3 but some of it is still helpful for 1.5.1) and one by cssgallery — everything else points to old versions or are “compare” articles.  Since there is no help in the tutorial-verse, I turned to the documentation which, at first glance, is pretty good but will not help you figure out how to use the API; it is simply a reference, nothing more.  Both of these facts make starting out very frustrating so the only saving grace is the Kitchen sink application that they put out so you can see the API in action.  But again, for a new Titanium user it is still a bit hard to figure out what does what and when.

The last point I want to make and most likely is the root cause for the lack of information from other sources is Appcelerator’s business approach to this Open Source project.  There are a few things they do that kinda makeme feel dirty using Titanium, one being that I can’t use the developer tool offline!  I do a ton of work on the train but can’t do any mobile development because the developer tool needs to be online.  My guess, which seems to be the consensus, is that this is to track you and how you are using developer tool which I can only assume is for investor purposes.  Why else would it need to be online for me to recompile my changes every two minutes?  Next on my list is the plastering of training ads in every email I get.  This is true every time I open the dev tool, and every time I go to the developer center.  And then there is the fact that Titanium does not have it’s own site but is interwoven into Appcelerator’s corporate site.  From a person that is all about the community — working with the WordPress, jQuery and Codeigniter communities for many years — having to go to what seems like a corporate site to ask for help or to give help just doesn’t sit well with me.

Again, this post is not meant to bash but to simply give my current perspective.  I will be working with Titanium for the foreseeable future mainly because I am not looking to learn Objective-C and am not willing to get back into writing Java.  Titanium does have a lot of interesting facets that I am looking to investigating and blogging about.

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9 Responses to “Appcelerator Titanium for Mobile Developer From a True Newbie Perspective”

Hi Benjamin, first of all thank you for mentioning CssGallery but I would like to tell you that CssGallery has more interesting articles here: http://cssgallery.info/categor.....celerator/

Second of all, yes you are right, it takes a while to find useful tutorials but you will find help in the Appcelerator community and Twitter. Some interesting resources are:

http://guides.appcelerator.com.....arted.html – for newbies – you might wanna click on Guides Index cause you have there a lot of info – check this: http://guides.appcelerator.com/en/tutorials.html

and KitchenSink – with demos and all that: https://github.com/appcelerator/titanium_mobile/tree/master/demos/KitchenSink

I hope these links will help you get started. If you have questions just ask, I’m sure you will receive help along the way :)

Thanks for that extra information Daniel; the point I was trying to make regarding there only being two recent articles for a search was that to a new user they would not find the information they were looking for quickly.

Thanks also for the “Guides Index” bit, I’ve been on that “Get Started” page like 100 times and my eyes never seen that link.

I am writing a book right now on Titanium for a major publisher and would love your thoughts on any part or function of Titanium you are struggling with or isnt very well explained. Feel free to email me on boydlee at gmail dot com, or just shoot a contact through on the wesite if you are interested i lending your thoughts.

Benjamin,
As Daniel was kind enough to point out our guides are all located at http://guides.appcelerator.com. He also provided links to Kitchen Sink.

We’ve also got an example project for both Desktop and Mobile (iOS & Android) called Tweetanium which can be located here: https://github.com/appcelerator/tweetanium/

Additionally we’ve also got over 60 videos located here: http://vimeo.com/appcelerator

Also to note is the Developer Center Blog, and the Developer Center Q/A site.

We’re also generally available on irc.freenode.net in #titanium_app and #titanium_dev.

In regards to the developer center website, it’s currently being re-architected to provide a better experience for our developers. Some of the discussion points are around mailing lists, message forums and the like. Titanium is Open Source and our Founders and early employees came from JBoss. I myself was one of the Co-Founders of SourceForge. So trust me when I say that community is very important to us and that we hear you.

If you have any questions in regards to this please feel free to hunt me down on IRC or email me directly.

Tony Guntharp
Director of Developer Relations
Appelerator
@fusion94

Boydlee, thanks for the reply, at this point there are no true blockers for me. I’m at the “beginning to learn” phase and as with learning any new language I can’t see the forest thru the trees if you know what I mean. I would love to be able to ping you with any questions.

Yeah no problems mate, you can always ping me a short message on twitter @boydleep. I’m on there alot :)

Tony,
Very much appreciate the feedback and please understand that this post, one of many to come about titanium and my progression, was written from a “rookie’s” perspective. As with any “rookie” things are moving fast and key resources do get missed.

I have gone through most of the videos on vimeo and I’m guessing most of it is just flying over my head.

In regards to the irc channels, my guess is #titanium_app is meant for people building apps, both mobile and desktop and #titanium_dev is meant for the developers/bug fixes?

I have also been wanting to get more into mobile app construction after having worked with PHP, MySQL, and of course HTML, XML, CSS and the like. I started with Appcelerator but was having difficulty (and I am a great online learner as well as a teacher in real-life). On a teacher salary, I didn’t want to pay for all the training videos, unsure as to the quality of the tutorials. I found very little available online to help me. I switched to XCode and Objective C and have been making good progress. The “Hot Cocoa” podcast was a great place to start for me even though the early episodes use an earlier version of XCode. This morning I got an email about the the 1.6 mobile upgrade. I went ahead and downloaded and decided to give the program another try. Still really not sure what is going on with it. Going to try some of the links above and see if they help. Thanks!

@wandat thanks for your insight; yeah, sadly the learning curve at first for using Titanium is a bit steep – and there could be any number of reasons for that including preconceived notions – but after digging into it for a month with an actual app in mind (which seems to be a big key in learning it for me) I’ve been grasping it more and more. My hope is to post what I learn as I learn it to help others.


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