A Step by Step Guide on how to Create a XCFramework and Distribute it as a Swift package

Updated on January 30th, 2021

⏱ Reading Time: 2 mins

This is a post contributed to AppCoda. Here you can read only the introduction.

In WWDC 2019, Apple announced a brand new feature for Xcode 11; the capability to create a new kind of binary frameworks with a special format called XCFramework. That was fantastic news to anyone, since an ongoing inconvenient situation that was lasting for years finally came to its end. Up until then, a binary framework could be used in one target platform only, and for a specific family of devices. 

For example, it was officially impossible to build a framework that would contain code aiming on both real iOS devices and the Simulator; unofficial solutions had come up of course with the so-called fat frameworks, however such a framework usually didn’t make it all the way to App Store; it was a good reason for rejection, so fat frameworks were good just for development. Similarly, it was impossible to add a single framework to multiple platforms, such as on both iOS and macOS, so distributing different frameworks for different platforms was the rule.

All that came to change with the XCFramework format, since it’s a type of framework that provides a common roof for multiple variants of the same framework. A XCFramework can wrap up a variant of a framework that would be working on iOS devices, another variant that would be working on Simulator, another one for macOS, one more for watchOS, and so on. In short, XCFramework can bundle up any framework with flavours for any platform or device that Xcode supports. Everything in one single place, with one single item to distribute only.

However, all that is news from last year. This year, in WWDC 2020, Apple announced something else regarding XCFrameworks that boosts their distribution, starting in Xcode 12, Swift packagescan be used to distribute binary frameworks of the XCFramework format. That is really amazing news, because so far a Swift package could be used in order to distribute only open-source code. Now, it’s becoming feasible to distribute binary code as well bundled up in a XCFramework. We had talked thoroughly about Swift packages in the past in this post, and you’re prompted to read it if you haven’t done so already.

This post is dedicated to all the above, and to be specific, it has a double goal:

  1. To teach how to create a XCFramework binary framework based on frameworks variants that provide similar functionality for multiple target platforms.
  2. To teach learn how to use Swift packages in order to distribute a XCFramework, either those are local or remote.

Before I present the roadmap of this tutorial, I really recommend you to watch the WWDC 2019 – Session 416, because it contains several interesting stuff that won’t be discussed here, such as versioning or framework author considerations. You should also watch this year’s video about how to distribute binary frameworks as Swift packages as it will give you an overview of how all this works. Finally, keep this help page as it provides the outline on how to create a XCFramework.

Having said all the above, let’s have a quick look to what’s coming next, and then let’s start working our way towards the creation of a XCFramework binary framework.

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