Sunday, May 25, 2014

How Dropbox Uses C++ for Cross-Platform iOS and Android Development

Ole Begemann:

When work started on the Mailbox app for Android, the team made the choice to write a large portion of the non-UI code in C++ — rather than rewriting the entire app in Java — with the goal of sharing that common C++ layer between iOS and Android. The iOS app used Core Data at the time, so migrating it off of Core Data to the shared C++ library was also part of the process. C++ seemed like an obvious choice because it is available on every platform and team members preferred the language over Java.


All UI code uses the native UI APIs on all platforms (Objective-C/UIKit on iOS, Java on Android). Most of the “model layer” code lives in the shared C++ library. Rather than calling it a model layer, Steven likened the design to a client-server architecture where the server (the C++ library) is never offline and has zero latency. Seeing the UI code and the shared library as two separate entities helps design clear interfaces between the two and thus keep the concerns properly separated.

The client-server architecture inside the app also predetermines how data is passed between the UI and the C++ layer. The two layers don’t access the same data objects. They use message passing to send copies of the data from A to B.

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Sounds like one step forward (cross-platform dev), two steps backward (coding in C++).

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