Cross-platform application development continues to grow in popularity due to reduced costs and shorter time to market. Despite minor disadvantages, businesses still choose the platform-agnostic route to launch their applications across the platforms without exceeding their budgets. Luckily, cross-platform development tools and technologies are expanding and becoming more effective. Nowadays, they can offer the near-native experience to the user while still operating with a single codebase. One such technology is Xamarin, a mobile app platform for building applications across platforms. Xamarin Forms is a part of this technology and allows developers to create UIs for iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS. In this article, we will focus on the advanced version of Xamarin Forms called .NET Multi-platform App UI (MAUI), discuss its benefits, and pinpoint its new features.
An evolution of Xamarin Forms, MAUI is a .NET 6 UI framework with next-level code reusability and a platform-agnostic approach. Using MAUI, you can develop high-performance applications for Android and iOS, as well as Windows and macOS. An essential element of cross-platform development platforms and tech stacks, the framework simplifies the designing process by binding assets to each platform yet offers extensive customization features.
On the one hand, Microsoft MAUI allows you to write a single codebase and apply it to any platform, and on the other, you can enrich each platform-specific feature by adding native aspects. In other words, developers can utilize MAUI as a single .NET project and include platform-specific subfolders to create native-like applications. For example, Android apps compile from C# into common intermediate language (CIL), which is later compiled into Android native code. Similar to Android, iOS apps are also compiled into native assembly code to deliver the best performance.
Xamarin Forms is a UI development framework that operates in C# and XAML and allows developers to build cross-platform applications. The framework is known for its rapid prototyping capabilities and is commonly used to create products that are not focused on platform-specific attributes. You can share up to 99% of code, making Xamarin Forms perfect for apps that need to be consistent across platforms. The technology has managed to gather quite a loyal community base that regularly contributes pre-configured UI components.
Despite relative popularity in the development community, in May 2020, Microsoft announced that they would be merging .NET with Xamarin Forms and launching .NET MAUI. The new tool would offer access to native APIs and include native UIs to make faster and more reliable applications.
Native application development refers to building a product specifically for a certain platform. You can use Kotlin to develop an Android application or Swift to create an iOS app. Although native development delivers exceptional quality and performance, the costs can be extremely high. This type of development is also lengthy, especially if your goal is to launch an application across several operating systems.
Cross-platform application development requires using a single codebase to launch your application on both Android and iOS. Tools like Reach Native and Xamarin are often used to build platform-agnostic apps as they can circumvent the disadvantages of such products. The downsides include limited functionality and lower performance and quality. However, modern tools like Xamarin offer platform-specific functions to fine-tune apps before launching on a platform.
In this section, we will dive into the most significant and popular MAUI features that will make the UI development process more efficient and productive.
All of these elements can be stored in a single location that .NET MAUI will access to use fonts and images on all the platforms you choose.
Thanks to this feature, whenever a user adjusts their font size preferences in the settings, your UI will automatically adopt this choice.
In addition to the existing layouts from Xamarin Forms libraries, you will get access to new layouts. The updates include better consistency and maintainability as well as higher customizability.
The framework now offers a variety of native-like user alerts and notifications ranging from simple forms and popups to action sheets with several navigation options.
Used to mask parts of content, clipping allows you to hide certain elements. A common example is a circle image that can be used for profile pictures.
Using gestures, developers can enable tapping, swiping, dragging, and other physical functions to allow for more advanced features.
This is a feature that allows you to implement a static splash screen that is often used as the first screen that users see. If the rest of the content takes longer to load, a splash screen is a good placeholder for users to interact with.
Additional controls include the button, label, slider, and switch, which can be utilized to complete various tasks and make your product more exciting and useful.
The main idea was to build Xamarin into .NET and enable the write-once run-everywhere approach. The shift to Microsoft MAUI allowed developers to create code without putting too much emphasis on the device. The improvements focus on performance, design consistency, and desktop application features.
Instead of juggling multiple projects at the same time, teams work with a single codebase that can be appropriated for various operating systems. Teams can focus on writing, debugging, and improving the code without worrying about device-specific aspects. As a result, software engineers use one language in their projects and then share the code across the platforms to fine-tune the specifics. You get platform-specific features and capabilities all while maintaining a single codebase.
Hot reload is a popular feature that streamlines and simplifies the process of coding for the developers and shortens the stages of the mobile app development cycle. Using this feature, developers receive instant updates whenever the code changes, thus eliminating the necessity to deploy each time. While saving time and resources, you can develop a bug-free application and launch it in a shorter time.
In addition to the Xamarin Forms Model-View-ViewModel (MVVM) pattern, .NET MAUI is extended with the Model-View-Update (MVU). Both patterns are widely used for application development and having the choice will allow your IT team to deliver the best product more effectively.
MAUI comes with graphics functionality that lets designers draw elements on the in-built canvas. As opposed to Xamarin which did not offer any APIs to facilitate drawing or painting, Microsoft MAUI extends its capabilities and allows users to easily create unique and original designs.
One of the most popular programming models for web apps, Blazor can be utilized using the MAUI framework. It allows applying Blazor to develop interactive native desktop applications in C# and HTML.
According to the data from the .NET Conference: Focus on MAUI, the performance of MAUI has increased by 68% compared to Xamarin Android and by 44% compared to Xamarin Forms. The MAUI framework offers a streamlined way to build various applications using C# as a single coding language. Eliminating the requirement of learning multiple technologies, the framework allows developers to utilize one code source to launch apps on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS.
From a business standpoint, you can save project costs by hiring only one team. Without investing money into training your personnel on other technologies or expanding the team with new members, you can focus your resources on other business goals. This can be especially vital for startups that cannot afford to maintain multiple development teams with various tech stacks. Let’s discuss the benefits of .NET MAUI in more detail:
According to Microsoft, MAUI can increase the loading speed by 1/3 and provide a better user experience to your customers. With faster UI rendering and fewer UI layers required, you can build your applications in a shorter time and launch your product before the competition does. Shorter time-to-market is a valuable benefit that businesses strive to achieve, and MAUI delivers on that.
Thanks to its single codebase nature, MAUI allows for easier customization capabilities. For example, when you add or remove a certain feature from the source code, the feature will be gone across the platforms. This allows development teams to create and maintain a consistent and holistic design on all devices without spending much time double-checking every functionality.
Even though the framework is cross-platform and works from a single code source, your end users can still benefit from native-like applications. This UI technology offers a wide range of functionalities that enrich the apps and deliver high-quality products that are specific to the platform. As a result, you can build and release applications faster and without jeopardizing quality, speed, or performance.
MAUI can also increase productivity by providing easy-to-use navigation across the folders. Upon installing .NET 6 or 7, you get access to various folders where you can add and remove assets like images, UI elements, fonts, and more. Developers receive a streamlined learning experience due to clear navigation, which reduces employees’ idle time. If you are ever lost, you can simply go to the .NET MAUI solution explorer and discover any folder you need to complete the task.
There are a few possible disadvantages of the technology that are worth taking into account when choosing the tools for your project. Since .NET MAUI was released only in April 2022, this technology remains brand new and is hence prone to potential bugs and inconsistencies. After a few cycles of feedback, MAUI will seem more reliable to the public and may grow in popularity. Another drawback is the use of XAML language, which remains quite uncommon among developers. Due to the short supply of XAML specialists, you might have difficulties assembling a team to build an app using these technologies.
Microsoft MAUI is ideal for building applications for the web and desktop that have a native feel and respond quickly. Another great .NET MAUI example is generating custom controls and UI elements to utilize in various applications. You can also visualize data via charts, graphs and dashboards in a clear and concise manner. The framework is often used to build games and interactive applications as well as business mobile and desktop tools.
.NET MAUI provides advanced features to create sophisticated and complex design elements that can help you build an app that stands out. Using an extensive layout engine, you can create various kinds of designs, inbuild all types of navigation, and customize the controls to display the UI elements in the most suitable and appealing ways. Another .NET MAUI example is building applications that utilize the native features of the device, including GPS, battery, camera, and others, to expand the functionalities. MAUI can also enrich its design capabilities by offering a graphics feature that allows you to draw and paint images.
Companies that use MAUI are focused on launching apps across platforms, including Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. If you are interested in building apps for multiple devices in a shorter time and with elevated performance, .NET MAUI can be an optimal choice.
Migrating an application from Xamarin Forms to MAUI does not require rewriting the entire product. You will however need to make some incremental changes to your code to perform a successful migration. First, you need to convert projects from .NET to .NET SDK and update namespaces and incompatible NuGet packages. Then take care of any detrimental API changes and run the app to ensure it works properly.
Microsoft also provides an assistant that can help you streamline the migration process—visit the company’s website and search for Upgrade Assistant. However, hiring an experienced mobile app development partner will help you avoid obstacles and perform a successful transition. How do you choose a mobile app development company that will not let you down? To select a reputable agency that delivers the best product possible, it’s highly recommended to thoroughly go through the company’s online portfolio and success stories. Using this information, you will learn about their clients, projects, processes, and technology stack. Another helpful tip is reviewing the feedback from the company’s clients to understand how they operate and whether they are trustworthy and reliable partners.
One of the most valuable parts of collaboration is communication and ongoing support. Even after you launch your digital product, you will most definitely require updates, bug fixes, and the release of new features. Make sure your IT partner is willing to provide these services and will scale up with you. If you need help in the migration or you would like to build an app using Microsoft MAUI from scratch, the NIX United team is here to support you. We are seasoned developers and designers with a large emphasis on customer experience. Our expertise allows us to build applications of various complexity and features across industries. Reach out to our experts to discuss your project idea and get a quote.
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