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Symbian is a popular mobile operating system, mostly found on Nokia and Sony Ericsson phones. Its rise to popularity was because the operating system supported a number of applications, and it was developer-friendly.
Recently Nokia purchased the operating system, along with the parent company Symbian Software. It was turned into an open source operating system, from the version Symbian^3, further endearing it to developers.
On the other side, Symbian Foundation was created by the original owners, in an effort to continue their work with the operating system. They provide software development kits (SDKs), work on compatibility issues, and in general, foster a nurturing environment for Symbian developers.
The best place for a budding Symbian developer is at their website.
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Understanding the Source Code
With the release of Symbian^3 in February 2010, the source code for the operating system has been openly available.
As per the documentation and guides provided on the Symbian Foundation website, the C++ source code spans about 25 million lines. Of course, this would be entirely unmanageable if the source was not divided into packages – which it is. Packages are sections of code with definitions of classes and functions that are used in the main program. Seasoned developers will be familiar with the concept.
The most sensible course of action is to first plan the application thoroughly, and analyze which parts of the code would be the most useful. Prior to downloading the entire code, it is possible to view packages and zero in on what is really necessary. Once that is done, downloading the whole code is merely a click away.
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Choose the Right SDK
There are a number of software development kits (SDKs) available for the development of Symbian applications. Some of the popular options are listed below:
- Visual C++
A developer can use any SDK that they choose to; the idea is to be able to code for mobile phones, therefore it must be able to provide a similar environment. All the base packages required in mobile development need to be installed.
A good SDK will also have an emulator, to test the applications after they are built. Testing helps to ascertain whether what has been coded works correctly, and more importantly, if it fits the initial goal.
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Coding with J2ME
Although the Symbian libraries are based in C++, and most developers start from that particular point, mobile applications can also be built using Java. Java is a popular object-oriented programming language, well-known for its coding abilities.
J2ME is Java’s library for mobile application programming. The advantage of using this base to build applications is that it will potentially work on all phones that support Java.
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The biggest trouble with independently developed applications is the absence of proper documentation. In case the application is intended to be open source like the Symbian operating system, chances are that other developers will want to chip in and code as well. Documenting the process is good programming practice, and will help users and developers alike to use the application more effectively.