Xcode tips and keyboard shortcuts

I love working in Xcode. It was my first “real” IDE experience, and while I still use vim pretty regularly it’s generally not for editing code (anymore). These days, whenever I’m not working in Xcode (lately it’s almost always Visual Studio on Unity projects), I’m wishing I was.

I read iOS Dev Weekly (https://iosdevweekly.com/) most weeks, and it was via that lovely resource that I discovered this great GitHub page full of Xcode-Tips (https://xcode-tips.github.io/). I already helped include one tip there (about enabling spell-check), and this post is inspired by one of the tips I found there in particular, about using `cmd-shift-j`. 

Xcode is a 3 panel layout. The middle panel where you actually edit code can be split up in a number of ways, (tabs within tabs? c’mon), but I won’t go into that in this post.

The left panel is called the “Navigator”. It has tabs across the top and defaults to the first tab, or “Project Navigator”, showing all the files in your project hierarchy. 

  • Filesystem tip/aside: When I first started using Xcode I was surprised to learn that files presented here are not necessarily 1-to-1 with the files on the filesystem. On one of my current projects, we are using the awesome open source XcodeGen (https://github.com/yonaskolb/XcodeGen) to generate the project from files on the filesystem. It’s actually called from a script that we run from a git checkout-hook, so we almost never have to think about it. This was a new-to-me workflow, but has a lot of benefits, including keeping the project files consistent with the filesystem!

Keyboard shortcuts relevant to the navigator:

  • Hide (or show) the whole Navigator pane with `cmd-0`. (That’s a zero.)
  • Jump to any of the tabs in the navigator with `cmd-<number>` where number is the index of the tab. So `cmd-1` opens the Project Navigator. This works even when the Navigator is hidden!
  • Best of all, the aforementioned `cmd-shift-j` will open the Project Navigator and select the file you are currently editing. You can then use the up or down arrows to browse different files, and `cmd-j` and then `enter` to return to the code editor.

The panel on the right side of Xcode is the Inspector. It too has tabs, and what’s great is that the keyboard shortcuts are very similar to the ones for the Navigator, but with the addition of alt:

  • Show/Hide the Inspector with `cmd-alt-0`.
  • You can also jump to one of the tabs with `cmd-alt-<number>`, again, where number is the index of the tab. What’s interesting here is that there are a different number of tabs here if you are editing an interface builder file. (I don’t think I’ve ever used these shortcuts.)

In general, I am far more likely to want to hide the Inspector pane than the Navigator pane, so it’s kind of a shame the shortcuts to show/hide them aren’t reversed (not to mention the fact that cmd-alt is a difficult combination on my Moonlander keyboard, but of course I could fix that).

I wrote this up in part so I can create another PR and reference myself as the source for a tip about showing and hiding these panes, but this post was also inspired by sharing with another member of my team that I do the majority of my development on a MacBook, without external monitor. <insert scream emoji> One of the aspects that makes that experience tolerable are all these keyboard shortcuts that let you maximize the space you’re using to edit code quickly and easily.

I hope you learned something from this, but if you didn’t, go check out that Xcode-Tips site, because you’re sure to learn something there!

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