Other than Xcode, are there any full functioned IDEs for Objective-C?


I know and have Xcode, but I was wondering if there were any other complete development environments that support Objective-C? I'm not looking for solutions with vim or emacs, nor editors like BBEdit that support syntax highlighting, but a full fledged IDE with:

  • code completion
  • compilation
  • debugging
  • refactoring

Extra points for being cross platform, supporting vi key bindings and supporting other languages.


I've updated and accepted my answer below as Jetbrains has released Early Access for AppCode, their new Objective-C IDE. Since this has been a fairly popular question, I thought it worthwhile to update the information.

6/20/2020 9:12:55 AM

Accepted Answer

I recently learned that Jetbrains the make of my favorite IDE (Idea) may support Objective-C (though it is unclear how much it will work for iPhone/iPad development). See the thread here for early discussion on this.

In the last year or two, they have started adding additional language support both in their flagship IDE as well as specialized IDEs (for Ruby, Python, PHP). I guess this is just another step in the process. I for one would love to have another option other than XCode and I couldn't think of one that I'd love more.

This is obviously vaporware at the moment, but I think it is something to keep an eye on.

This is now a real product, albeit still in Early Access. See here for a the blog on this new product, which will give you pointers to check out the EAP.

UPDATE: AppCode has now been released and offers a true alternative to using Xcode for Objective-C and iPhone/iPad/Mac development. It does still rely on Interface Builder for layout and wiring of GUI components and uses the iOS simulator, but all coding, including a slew of refactorings, smart templating and static analysis, is available through App Code.

10/30/2011 8:28:52 PM

Textmate is an editor like BBEdit but it has the ability to run commands such as compilation, debugging, refactoring (though it will do so via XCode). It also has code completion.

In addition, you can write your own commands for Textmate that you can then run.


I have been searching for something like this that does NOT run on mac for quite a few months now. Unfortunately I think that due to the relative obscurity of the Objective-C language that nobody has ever bothered producing such a full featured IDE for it. Until now, and we only have Xcode.

Using JBuilder I fell in love with the auto-completion and displaying the function 'hints' on the screen while I type. I am that sort of person who remembers the 'ideas' better than the actual syntax and really benefits from knowing right then and there that the code I typed was correct, not having to find out a minute later at compile time. And then to have to try and figure out if I just misspelled something, or if I truly made a conceptual error due to a misunderstanding of proper use of the language. Code completion and hints have always saved time on this for me.

I know some people may look down on this and say the feature is unnecessary if you know what you're doing, but I never claimed to be better than anyone else.

I may have to just give up and try and get OS X running on my PC. Which doesnt bother me in the least, just the rebooting to go back and forth to windows. I've tried to run it virtualized under VMWare but XCode kept crashing :( That reminds me I am going to google 'leopard vmware' and see if any progress has been made in that area.

Another problem in designing a full code-completion system with objective C is that the syntax is a little more forgiving, I dont know the exact technical term (strongly typed?) it is much harder to say exactly what sort of object belongs in a certain parameter and ANY object can be sent ANY message whether it implements that function or not. So you can spell a function name wrong, but it doesnt necessarily mean you made a syntax error... maybe you mean to call a function of that OTHER name and you just want nothing to be done if the function is not implemented by your object.

That's what I would really like to see for Objective-C, is an IDE that once it notices you are sending a message to an object, it displays a list of methods and function definitions that the object is known to accept, and walks you through filling in the parameters.


I think you would waste less time by sticking with Xcode rather than looking for another IDE if you want to develop for the Mac (or iPhone).

Apple made a lot of effort to kill any competitor in that area to make sure any developer wanting to develop for the Mac platform use Xcode and only Xcode.

It might not be the best IDE but it does work well and it is the IDE developers at Apple are using. Somehow it does its job. The frameworks and the documentation are very well integrated.

I use TextMate a lot and also SubEthaEdit but they are not full IDE as you’ve described above.

Best Regards.


The short answer is: No. There are thousands of IDEs but Xcode is the only one which you seriously can name IDE. I suggest you have a look at the tries of GNUStep (in form of Projectcenter, Gorm) and then you can imagine the state of affairs.


I would like to second Troy's answer and note that JetBrains has AppCode in early access, so you can try it for free. It has the familiar UI of their other products, and yes, it supports vi! So far it has been very good. I have run into a few issues, and a few vi-isms that don't work quite right, but it is still better than suffering with Xcode. I do text editing with syntax completion in AppCode, but switch back to XCode to get into the GUI builder which is actually quite good in Xcode.

If you are an old vi-guy like myself, it is invaluable.