How to Access Documentation in Xcode for iOS App Development

By Jesse Feiler

The ability to quickly access documentation is a major feature of Xcode, and one you’ll want to use regularly for your iOS app project. If you have no idea how to do something, or how something works, you can often find the answer in the documentation.

Being able to figure out what’s going on will make your life easier. You saw that Xcode will complete your code for you, which is useful when you can’t quite remember the method signature and parameters, but what if you don’t even have a clue?

Or like many developers, you may find yourself wanting to dig deeper when it comes to a particular bit of code. That’s when you’ll really appreciate things like Xcode’s Quick Help, the Documentation and API Reference pane in the Help menu, and the Find tools. With these tools, you can quickly access the documentation for a particular class, method, or property.

Getting Xcode help

To see how easy it is to access the documentation, say that you’ve selected MasterViewController.m. What if you wanted to find out more about UITableViewController, the super class of MasterViewController?

The quick help symbol in Xcode.

The Quick Help section of the Utility area provides documentation for a single symbol. (To see the Utility area, click the rightmost View selector button in the top-right corner of the Workspace window and select the second button in the Inspector selector bar.) In an editor, click anywhere in the symbol or select the entire symbol.

The Xcode Workspace with the quick help menu on the right side.

The Quick Help section of the Utility area shows a description of the symbol and provides links to more information. For example, you can click the UITableViewConroller Class Reference link near the bottom of the Quick Help section to bring up the class reference definition in a Documentation window.

An open quick help article offers an explanation of different elements in the Xcode program.

With the Quick Help section open, information is available for three types of elements in your project, depending on your selection in the open editor:

  • Symbols, in the source editor

  • Interface objects, in Interface Builder

  • Build settings, in the Project editor

It may be more convenient to use a Quick Help window if, for example, you prefer to work with the Utility area hidden. To do so, press Option and click Symbols in the source editor.

A Quick Help window appears with the pointer indicating the item you selected (in this case, the symbol UItableViewController ):

If you want to go directly to the class reference, press Option and double-click the symbol instead.

A quick help window appears when you press Option and click Symbols in the source editor of Xcode.

The Organizer window

You can have only one Organizer window. You use the organizers in this window to manage the development resources such as devices (for testing), projects, and archives.

To display the Organizer window, choose Organizer from the Window menu. The window includes three individual organizers, whose tasks are described in the following list:

  • Devices organizer: Lets you provision a device, manage your developer profile, install iOS on the device, and work with your app and its data. This organizer is present only if the iOS SDK is installed.

  • Projects organizer: Lets you find, view, and manage an open project or Workspace, its derived data, and its snapshots. Note that a project organizer lets you managed derived data — that consists of data that doesn’t have to be recompiled each time. The Delete button lets you delete a set of derived data. It’s a bit like a “Super Clean” button to force everything to be recompiled.

  • Archives organizer: Lets you view and manage build product archives resulting from your distribution scheme.

    A project's description page in Xcode.

Each of these organizers includes task-oriented contextual help articles that you can view by choosing the Organizer and clicking in its content pane while pressing Control.

The Help menu

The Help menu’s search field (in the Xcode menu bar) also lets you search Xcode Help, the Xcode User Guide, and Documentation and API Reference. You can also choose Quick Help for Selected Item, which displays a Quick Help panel above the selected symbol in the editor.