What Is a Software Development Kit?

by Anna Khrupa on Jul 1, 2022

The modern software development landscape is full of technologies and also challenges. The process should be well-planned and organized to make all tech solutions work smoothly and error-free. The increasing complexity of software development called for innovative solutions — various ready-made code structures, like frameworks, software development kits, and APIs. 

Today we are going to deal with SDKs.

What Is an SDK?

SDK stands for “Software Development Kit”. It’s a specific set of tools often provided as an installable package by a hardware platform manufacturer, operating system, or programming language. An SDK helps to create platform-specific applications, software, or frameworks, as well as to add some advanced functionalities (ads or push notifications, for instance) to the existing ones.  

An SDK can by right be considered the backbone of many popular apps and games. Varying from platform to platform, it often contains a software framework supplemented with a compiler and a debugger, as well as controllers or sensors. The most common SDKs, to mention a few, are the following: 

  • Java development kit. 
  • the Windows 7 SDK, 
  • the Mac OS X SDK, 
  • the iPhone SDK. 

What Is Software Development Kit Used for?

As it’s clear from the above, software development kits allow the creation of software solutions that correctly and smoothly operate on a particular platform with specific services. 

It results in a consistent user experience customized for the particular app users. With an SDK, you can always improve your solution or its ecosystem, add features, and guarantee the advantages to satisfy your app audience without sacrificing its smooth operation. Improvement of the solutions that already exist is another method of how to use a software development kit.

An SDK can be compared to a building set, where you can assemble a certain model with the help of the provided details, specific items, and even tools required to put them together along with an instruction guide.

An Android mobile app, on average, implements 15 separate SDKs, while a gaming application can have over 17. 

What Does a Software Development Kit Contain?

Software Development Kits often resemble integrated development environments; however, they are varied. So are their contents that are determined by the specific development needs to create a solution on a particular system, device, or based on a certain software package. 

Still, in general, the SDK’s set of tools can be divided into 3 categories

  • Programming or operating system (iOS, Android, etc.)
  • Application maintenance 
  • Marketing 

More specifically, Software Development Kits include:

  • API(s) or Libraries – Predetermined parts of code allowing to realize common programming tasks on the platform.
  • IDE – Integrated development environment – a kind of visual editor that facilitates specialists in designing layouts and graphical elements (buttons, text boxes, etc). Apple’s IDE, Xcode, for instance, contains a full-suite package of tools to build macOS, iOS, iPad, watchOS, and tvOS software solutions. Similarly, there are multiple IDE options for Android.
  • Tools – specific means for debugging, creating, running, and testing the developed apps that make finding and fixing code errors quick and effective.

SDKs also make the process of development easier, allowing developers to enhance the website users’ experience, and offering them more operationalities.

What is more, the majority of SDKs contain documentation, tutorials, and licenses. So they often provide instructions on how to use the tools included, far more extensive than what’s available online. Thus, it can be an ideal way to introduce developers to a certain product and encourage them to build apps on a particular platform or OS, in an integrated development environment. That is the reason why most SDKs are free – developers can download them and immediately start programming. 

Besides, documentation can be really useful when it comes to app debugging.

How to Implement SDK?

When building some solution with an SDK, it’s essential to follow such pieces of advice as:

Keep it simple and intuitive

Codebase should be simple and straightforward, and signatures and abstractions – intuitive. In such a way, more users could adopt the SDK and effectively use it. SDK should follow the design patterns standard for specific platforms and languages since non-standard patterns can make it confusing.

Stay up-to-date

Whenever a solution is developed, features added or removed, the code style should be kept consistent and the codebase clean. It’s also necessary to update dependencies or prerequisites, if there are any. It will help avoid confusion in the future for both developers and users. 

Security vulnerabilities should as well be regularly addressed.

Provide good documentation

Proper documentation is a must and making changes to the codebase, a developer should also update the changelog and documentation. Ideally, it should explain the usage of the libraries and classes, as well as contain sample code for developers to get familiar with the SDK. In case API is used, insights should be provided into how the API calls work and how the processes run. 

Make the SDK accessible

SDK should be made available for users through an accessible repository for a supported language, with file storage, or distribution facility in place. Tutorials and documentation should also be available, written in a simple and clear language without technical jargon overused. In case the software development kit is open-source, the source code should better be hosted on the resources where collaboration and community contribution are encouraged.

What Makes a Perfect SDK?

To sum up, the characteristics of the perfect SDK are like this: 

  • good functionality,
  • extensibility and compatibility,
  • example code provided,
  • easy usage,
  • thorough documentation,
  • API consistency, 
  • error handling,
  • clear versioning.

Final thoughts

The SDKs facilitate the quick and smooth development and scalability of software solutions. If implemented properly, they considerably enhance the user experience and relieve the developers’ engineering efforts.

When time is of the essence, SDKs help to save it and get the development job done fast and effectively.



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