Active Filters: Tools

"Home automation" is perhaps one of the hottest topics in technology these days.

While still an emerging market, many iOS device owners now also own at least one or two "smart home" devices.

Today we'll begin looking at HomeKit, Apple's framework for communicating with and controllling these devices from inside our apps.

Before can dive in though, there's a bit of tooling we need to learn about first. Specifically, we need to learn how to simulate HomeKit devices.

For example, we might not own any HomeKit devices ourselves. Even if we do though, we'd rather not need to phsyically change things about our home to test our app.

Not to worry, Apple provides a great solution to this challenge in the form of a HomeKit Accessory Simulator app for macOS.

In it, we can setup and configure a "simulated" set of devices in any kind of Home setup we'd like.

Sadly though, it doesn't ship with Xcode.

We'll need to head over to Apple's "More Developer Downloads" page here and search for "Hardware IO Tools for Xcode". We'll download the latest release, then install the HomeKit Accessory Simulator app.

Now, let's open it up and simulate our first accessory.

We'll click the + button in the bottom left and select New Accessory...

We'll fill out the fields with some example information. The values aren't super important, they merely need to be unique and somewhat realistic.

Neat. We've now got a (pretend) lamp. 💡

Well, sort of. There's actually one more important step, and it's speaks to the heart of how HomeKit works.

So far, HomeKit doesn't know anything about our new lamp. "Lamp" is just the name we gave it.

For HomeKit to do something useful with our device, we'll need to add a HomeKit Service to it. HomeKit Services describe the capabilities and functionality of a device

We'll click the Add Service... button on our new device, and choose Lightbulb from the dropdown menu.

We can leave the rest of the fields alone.

Neat! Not only do we now have a fully-simluted, color changing light bulb, we're also provided with some nice sliders and controls to read from, and write to, the current state of the device.

That's all for today. We'll learn more about the HomeKit Accessory Simulator as we continue to explore HomeKit. Next time we'll learn how to change this light's color in code! 🌈💡

We cover plenty of libraries and developer tools here on LBOC. Many are useful not just on their surface, but also in terms of how they allow us to learn from our fellow developers.

Through this process, we collectively explore new approaches and techniques. New ideas emerge all the time.

Every now and then, one of these ideas stands out.

Sometimes, an idea makes too much sense, or is simply too useful to ignore.

In modern times, things like Fastlane, CocoaPods, and Carthage come to mind. Slightly more seasoned folks may remember the emergence of Pull to Refresh, or BWToolkit.

Sourcery from Krzysztof Zabłocki is the latest addition to this set.

It brings the concept of "meta-programming" to Swift, and it is definitely too useful to ignore.

Let's peer into our crystal ball, and see what it can do.

At its core, Sourcery generates Swift code from template files.

It elegantly brings together two other great developer tools: SourceKitten (for introspecting our code), and Stencil (for templates).

It aims to solve a few problems:

  • Reduce time spent writing so-called "boilerplate", or repetitive/obvious code.
  • Provide a way to reason about the types in our code, and their properties.
  • Reduce simple human errors, caused by things like typos.

Ok, enough introduction. Here's how Sourcery works:

  • First, we'll write some code that looks almost like regular Swift code into "template" (.stencil) files.
  • Then, we'll run the sourcery command-line tool. This will "render" our .stencil files into .swift files that we'll add to our project.
  • Finally, when we build our app, our "generated" .swift files will get compiled just like any other .swift files we might add.

Immediately some ideas of how to use this begin coming to mind. Here's a few specific tasks that might cause us to reach for Sourcery:

  • Conforming our types to NSCoding.
  • Conforming to Equatable or Hashable
  • Writing JSON de-serialization code

Maintaining each of these implementations is a never-ending task. Anytime we add, remove, or change a property we'll need to potentially revist each of these bits of code as well. Bummer.

Ok. Let's try this thing.

First we'll need to get the sourcery command-line tool. The simplest way to do this is to download the latest release binary here.

Let's cd into the root directory of the download and copy the tool over to somewhere permanent:

cp bin/sourcery /usr/local/bin

(Note: /usr/local/bin is a common place to put command line tools on macOS thanks largely to the fact that Homebrew puts things there, so it's likely already in our $PATH).

Neat. Now we can use it anywhere.

We could also have simply copied the tool into our project, and added it to source control. Any approach is fine, we just need to be able to run it in the root directory of our project somehow.

Now, let's head into that root directory of our project, and create a couple directories:

mkdir templates
mkdir generated

We're almost ready to try things out. First though, we'll need a template to generate from.

Let's add a new file in the templates directory called Enum+Count.stencil. Then, we'll write our first template code:

{% for enum in types.enums %}
extension {{ }} {
  static var count: Int { return {{ enum.cases.count }} }
{% endfor %}

The {{'s, }}'s, {%'s, and %}'s are Stencil template tags.

Stencil deserves a full Bite of it's own, but for now we just need to know that statements within these tags get evaluated by the sourcery command line tool, and iterated or replaced when generating Swift code.

The rest of the content is regular Swift code.

Anyone who has worked on a web app in recent years should feel right at home with this technique. Instead of generating HTML though, we're generating Swift code, neat!

Let's break down what's happening in our template:

First, we want to iterate through all the enums in our project's code:

{% for enum in types.enums %}

{% endfor %}

Then, for each enum we find, we want to extend it to have a new static property called count.

extension {{ }} {
  static var count: Int { return {{ enum.cases.count }} }

This property will return the number of cases in the enum. (Providing us a piece of functionality currently missing from Swift itself).

Finally, we can run sourcery.

./sourcery . templates generated --watch

We've passed in the --watch flag to make sourcery watch our template files, and re-generate them anytime it sees a change. Neat.

This will scan our source code for a bit, then produce a new file in the generated directory called Enum+Count.generated.swift.

It will look like this:

extension SpaceshipKind {
  static var count: Int { return 37 }

extension CrewRank {
  static var count: Int { return 10 }

extension HTTP.Method {
  static var count: Int { return 7 }

How cool is that?

Now, we just need to add this generated file to our Xcode project like we would any other file. Its contents will be replaced anytime sourcery runs.

Pro Tip: We can also optionally add a new "Run Script..." Build Phase to our Xcode project to run the sourcery command (without --watch of course) at the beginning of each build of our app. Very cool.

The Sourcery Github repo offers a some very useful example templates for adding things like Equatable and Hashable. These examples are a great way to learn more about what's possible.

We've of course only barely scratched the surface of what's possible with Sourcery. Look out for future Bites where we'll explore much more...

Learn more and find full documentation of Sourcery at

Today we'll dive back into the world of Xcode Source Editor Extensions (Bite #239). These extensions can not only help us save time and effort, they're also a great way to customize Xcode to our exact needs. Let's dive in! 🏊

First up, Cleaner Closures. We can use CleanClosureXcode from Patrick Balestra to clean up all those unnecessary ('s and )'s from our Swift closure definitions:

Beautiful. No more manually arrow-key-ing around to get rid of those.

Next, let's look at a common feature of many IDEs and text editors: the ability to "jump" the cursor multiple lines up or down. Xcode can't really do that... until now. Thanks to Jump, we're given a few new menu items in our Editor menu to move the cursor up or down by 2 or 5 lines. Neat.

Pro Tip: We can use the Key Bindings tab of Xcode's Preferences window to customize the keyboard shortcuts for each of these movement commands (or any other commands).

Finally, let's check out QuickAdd from Sidney de Koning.

This extension allows us to select some text, and then insert a new function definition into our code, complete with documentation comment, and placeholders we can press tab to jump between.

This allows us to employ a workflow of:

1.) Call a function that doesn't yet exist when writing some code as a sort of "placeholder".
2.) When we're done with that chunk of work, select the name portion of the function call and press a keyboard shortcut to "generate" the function and insert it into our file.
3.) Profit!

Full installation instructions are here.

Know of another neat Source Editor Extension? Send it along!


#283: Generating Models from JSON with json2swift ⚒


Integrating our apps with HTTP APIs often involves a fair amount of "busy work". Writing models to match API responses, manually iterating each field in a JSON object, and typing each in as a Swift property can be a bummer. Today we'll check out a great new tool from Josh Smith called json2swift that can help us here. It can generate Swift model code from a JSON object. Let's give it a try.

After we've installed json2swift, we can run it like this:

json2swift Spaceship.json

This will create a new file called Spaceship.swift in the same directory as our .json.

This means if our Spaceship.json file looked like this:

  "name": "Tantive IV",
  "topSpeed": 950

The resulting json2swift-generated Swift model would look like this:

struct RootType: CreatableFromJSON {
  let name: String
  let topSpeed: Int


json2swift has generated an immutable Swift struct from our JSON file. Pro Tip: We can also run this on a directory full of JSON files, and it will process all of them.

json2swift will even try to determine which properties should be optional, and which are required. It will then generate the appropriate init code.

We're even provided some special handling for things like Date parsing. If we put a special String like this in our original JSON:

  "name" : "Tantive IV".
  "buildDate" : "DATE_FORMAT=yyyy-MM-dd"

This will give us a:

let buildDate: Date

property, as well as generate the appropriate Date format/parsing code needed to make it work. Neat!

We've only scratched the surface, json2swift has great support for intelligenty inferring types for things like numbers, and even URLs. Learn more about json2swift at

We touched briefly on this topic back in Bite #273 with Generating Initializers. Today we'll take a look at a few additional Xcode Source Editor Extensions (Bite #239) that can help us save time while working. Let's begin.

First up, Equatables. We can use XcodeEquatableGenerator from Serg Dort to quickly generate the long list of property comparisons often required when adopting the Equatable protocol in our Swift Structs or Classes:

Whew! That used to take ages! Full installation instructions are here.

Next, Localization. We've all been on a project with no localization. Adding that first round of NSLocalizedString() calls can be a pain. No longer! Now we can use Localizer from Esteban Torres.

With it, we can select a line of code like this:

let _ = "Mission Control Panel"

Then, when we run Localizer's command, this line becomes:

let _ = NSLocalizedString("Mission Control Panel", comment: "Mission Control Panel")

Neat! Learn more about Localizer here.

Last but definitely not least, is XcodeWay by Khoa Pham. This one is a bit different in that it doesn't modify or generate any code, but rather lets us quickly open a bunch of commonly used directories, by adding them to our Editor Menu:

Nice! No more hunting around in Finder or Terminal for these.

Know of another neat Source Editor Extension? Send it along!

Xcode Source Editor Extensions are really starting to come into their own. Today we'll look at one that solves an age-old annoyance for Xcode users: Importing.

We've all been there. We're deep down in the depths of file, and we realize we need to import a module. We dutifully scroll all the way up, type the import, then scroll back down trying to find our place, and get back in "the zone". Yuck.

Let's try out a new Source Editor Extension (Bite #239) from Marko Hlebar called Import.

As the name suggests, it allows us to type an import Module statement anywhere, then press a keyboard shortcut and have the import fly to the top where it belongs.

Let's try it out.

After installing the extension, we'll import CoreGraphics.

Xcode's Autocomplete still works here to help us find the module we want to import. Neat!

By default the keyboard shortcut is Command + Control + P. This trigger is also available via the menu item: Editor > Import > ☝️.

Success! Now we don't have to lose our place, or our train of thought when we need to import something.

Learn more about Import (including full installation instructions) at

In some cases, Swift Initializers can be a pain to implement.

They can often be 100% boilerplate code, and feel like a chore to write.

This issue is at its worst when defining we're Swift Structs in a framework or module.

In Swift, Structs are automatically given a synthesised initialiser... with an internal modifier. Doh. 😣

This means the initializer is only accessible/visible inside the module we're defining it in.

This means we're stuck needing to manually add our own initializers for each of our Structs.

Creating and keeping these initializers up to date can add up to a ton of boilerplate code maintence. Yuck.

Today we'll try out an Xcode Source Editor Extension (Bite #239) from Bouke Haarsma that can help us write these automatically.

The extension works by taking the Swift properties defined within our selected text and converting them to parameters in a Swift Initializer.

After we install the extension, we can write up an example Struct in our code to try it out:

public struct Record {
  public let name: String
  public let type: UInt16
  public let unique: Bool
  public let ttl: UInt32
  var data: Data

We'll select just the properties, then select Editor > Generate Swift Initializer > Generate Swift Initializer.

Success! We just saved ourselves a ton of time, and typing. Neat!

Learn more about SwiftInitializerGenerator (including complete installation instructions) at

Xcode Project folders can be a messy place. Today we'll check out a tool from the folks at Venmo that can help us tidy up called Synx. Let's take a look.

At its core, Synx's main purpose is to reorganize the files and folders in our Xcode project folder to match the groups and structure we've setup inside Xcode's Navigator pane.

We can start by organizing a project full of content:

Then we'll install Synx:

gem install synx

Then we can simply head into our project's directory and run the main command:

synx ./OCMock.xcodeproj

Synx will work its magic and re-organize our files on disk, creating directories and moving files as needed to make things match the groups in our project.

Additionally, we can also use Synx to remove files no longer referenced in our project, like this:

synx --prune ./OCMock.xcodeproj

We're also provided a couple arguments to help us control how Synx behaves.

We can exclude files:

synx --exclusion /OCMockTests ./OCMock.xcodeproj

Last but not least, for those of us who like to manually sort our files by concept rather than name, we can disable sorting:

synx --no-sort-by-name ./OCMock.xcodeproj

Choosing how to organize projects can be a very subjective and personal choice, this is just one approach. Always use whatever works best.

Learn more about Synx at

Today we'll take our first step towards contributing to the Swift language. We'll learn how to download the codebase, compile it, and run tests. Let's get started!

First, we'll prepare our environment. We'll be doing all of this on a Mac today, but all of this is also possible on Linux (and a bunch of other platforms).

We'll begin by using homebrew to install a couple of build tools:

brew install cmake ninja

Once that's done, we'll make a new directory somewhere sensible where we can put everything:

mkdir -p ~/projects/swift

Next, we'll do the first clone:

git clone

Once this is done, we'll pull down all the dependencies and other projects involved with building Swift:

./swift/utils/update-checkout --clone-with-ssh

We have now cloned and checked out a lot of code, it's time to get building. We'll head into the swift directory and kick off a standard build, then run basic tests like this:

cd swift
./utils/build-script -r -t

That's it! At this point we can go get a cup of coffee (no really, this is going to take a while, even on a fast machine).

With these skills in hand though, we can now edit code, and see what effects our changes have on tests.

We can run basic tests at anytime with:

./utils/build-script --test

Or run more intensive validation tests like this:

./utils/build-script --validation-test

This is just the beginning, in the future we'll look at fixing a Swift bug, and contributing our work back to the project.

The Swift language is always evolving. Bugs are being fixed, new proposals are implemented, etc. It'd be great if we could try out these features out as they're being implemented, without having to wait for official releases.

Today we'll take a look at how to download, install, and try out the latest Swift Toolchain in Xcode. Let's get started!

We'll begin by heading to and looking for the "Snapshots" section. Here we can also find many other preview releases, etc.

Click "Xcode" to download an installer:

We'll run open the installer, and complete its steps.

We can now open Xcode and select our new Toolchain.

We can also manage Toolchains in Xcode's preferences:

With our new Toolchain selected, all builds will use it, neat!

Getting involved with Swift's development is a great way to stay informed on where things are headed. We'll look at getting even more involved in future Bites!

Page 1 of 5