While It’s Compiling: Skills Matter Interviews Martin Pilkington

martin pilkingtonWhile It’s Compiling is a series of interviews with experts across a range of bleeding-edge technologies and practices, exclusive to Skills Matter. Be sure to subscribe to this blog for future interviews, or follow us on Twitter.

Find out who we’ll be interviewing next, and get a chance to put your questions forward with the hashtag #whileitscompiling.

This week we chatted to Martin Pilkington, freelance iOS developer and founder of M Cubed Software, and has been writing for Apple’s platforms for 10 years. He started tinkering with Autolayout when it was first released and fell in love with it straight away, so much so that he is currently writing a book on the subject called The Autolayout Guide (due out Spring 2014).


1. What drew you towards mobile platforms?

I started out developing for the Mac well before the iPhone came about. One of the first apps I developed for the Mac was actually a tool to create linked collections of notes for the early iPods, so I’ve been working with portable devices for quite a while. I bought an iPod touch when they first became available and fell in love with it. When the iPhone SDK came out I jumped at the chance to play around with it, especially as all my skills from developing for the Mac were transferable.

2. Is there anything in particular about iOS that appeals to you?

The big thing is that it appeals to me as a user. There are lots of plusses as a developer, but the key question I have before developing for any platform is: “do I want to use this platform myself?”

3. What new projects are you working on right now?

I have various client projects I’m working on, which I can’t really talk about. The main project I can talk about, which is quite relevant for my talk, is a book I’m working on called The Autolayout Guide. I see a lot of people struggling with Autolayout, just as I did when I started, but the resources available now are just as lacking as they were for me. I wanted to write the definitive guide on Autolayout to help people learn to get the most out of it. It’s also a bit of an experiment as I’ll be releasing it as an iBook, so I’m hoping to add more and more to it as time goes on.

4. Where do you see iOS in the next five years?

I don’t know where it will be, but I know where it would like to be. There are two big problems I have with iOS that I’d like to see solved.

The first is the iPad. A lot of apps are designed to take full advantage of the iPad’s screen space, really making you feel the difference between the iPad and iPhone. Unfortunately, the OS is still stuck in the “big iPhone” world. This has become even more apparent with iOS 7, where the iPad feels like an afterthought. Despite the complaints Windows 8 gets, I believe it has far more interesting features on tablets than iOS (such as the split screen) and I’d like to see Apple catch up.

The second is better integration between the Mac and iOS. iCloud tabs is one small step towards this, but I want to see it in more places. If I’m writing an email, I want to be able to pick up my iPad and finish that email there. I want to be able to copy something on iOS and paste it on the Mac. And most importantly I want to be able to send files, photos, etc between the two without having to resort to email or syncing the device. Before they got shut down, Palm was starting to make inroads into this area, but no-one else has really picked it up.

5. What do you wish you’d known when you’d first started out?

How to use Instruments. I still haven’t mastered it yet, but it’s one of the most important tools in your arsenal.

6. If you could ask the iOS community anything, what would it be?

To file more radars asking for an official plugin API for Xcode. That’s probably the biggest change that could happen to our tools, and radars are the only way to get Apple to act.


Got a question for Martin? Leave us a comment below!

Martin will be giving a talk about mastering Autolayoutat iOScon, our first ever iOScon conference. Check Skills Matter for updates and tickets! 

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