Here’s a first look at Swift Playgrounds 4 ahead of release

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Apple announced at WWDC 2021 in June a new version of its Swift Playgrounds development app with major improvements. Although the company never said when it would become available, Apple is now inviting some developers to try out Swift Playgrounds 4 ahead of the official release of the update.

According to 9to5Mac’s sources, Apple has been inviting developers in recent weeks to join the Swift Playgrounds 4 beta program through TestFlight. Developers must agree to a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) in order to gain access to the beta app, which means that they cannot share details about Swift Playgrounds 4 publicly.

For those unfamiliar, Swift Playgrounds is an Apple app to help developers and students learn the company’s Swift programming language. Here’s how Apple describes the app:

Swift Playgrounds is a great way to learn to code right on a Mac or iPad. With Swift Playgrounds 4, coming later this year, users will be able to create the visual design of an app with SwiftUI. App projects can be opened and edited in Swift Playgrounds or in Xcode, and when they’re ready, users can build a real app and submit it directly to the App Store right from their iPad.

This year, Apple will finally let developers build and submit their Swift Playgrounds projects directly to the App Store, which is huge for iPad users. One of our sources who has access to the Swift Playgrounds 4 shared some screenshots with 9to5Mac, which show how developers can submit their projects to App Store Connect without having to build the app using Xcode on a Mac.

Interestingly, when preparing an app for submission to App Store Connect, users can quickly create an icon by choosing a color and a symbol. A custom icon can also be set from an image file, and the app automatically scales it to the right resolution.

Swift Playgrounds 4 also lets users preview and see changes in real time as they type. Live editing also works when the developer shares the project with someone else via iCloud Drive, so multiple people can work on the same project at the same time. Users can even test the app in full screen, explore SwiftUI controls, search across all files in a project, use quick inline code suggestions, and easily switch between Swift Playgrounds and Xcode (or vice versa).

It’s worth noting that, according to our source, some of the app’s features require iPadOS 15.2 – which remains available as a beta for developers. This suggests that Swift Playgrounds 4 might be released alongside iOS 15.2 and iPadOS 15.2 sometime later this year or early 2022.

You can download the current version of Swift Playgrounds for free on the App Store. The tool is available for both iPadOS and macOS.

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