Getting Started – Part 1

Xamarin provides many Getting Started advice and tutorials. Just follow this link for a complete overload of information.

Xamarin Getting Started

However my getting started isn’t about how to actually install it, its about what my setup is and why I chose that.

My Goal

Build cross platform, all Windows, Android and iOS via a single code base, all in Visual Studio and stay away from OSX as much as possible.


  • I chose the Xamarin Business Edition as I really recommend the Visual Studio support. You get what you pay for. I know it’s expensive from even a small business stand point but worth it.

Update 2016-04-27: Xamarin is now included free with Visual Studio, even Community Edition. There is no need to purchase it anymore.

Yes, I know, it would be awesome if it was on the BizSpark subscription but Xamarin aren’t budging at all on pricing and honestly I support their pricing. They need to be paid for writing the software that’s saving me hundreds of hours of coding and learning, probably thousands.

  • Download Xamarin for Windows, which will include the Xamarin Visual Studio Extension.

Xamarin offer their own IDE called Xamarin Studio

  • Get a mini mac or similar and install the Xamarin Build Host on it.

Xamarin can’t build iOS apps on Windows, hence they have a build host app that runs on a Mac, that will build and run your app in the iOS simulator.

Windows and Android mobile apps can all be built on Windows.

  • Use the Xamarin Forms template when creating a new project. It will create all the 3 platform specific projects for you. Recommended you choose the Portable Xamarin project.

Note: You may be wondering about Shared vs Portable (or PCL). Portable was the way to go for me. I have failed to find any reason to ever choose Shared at this point in the 4 Xamarin Forms app’s I have created. PCL is my preferred approach.

Shared code means that the code is similar to a linked file. Each project uses this exact code when it compiles. PCL is compiled into a separate DLL and is referenced by each project as a normal DLL would be.

Where’s my Intellisense and Visual Designer?

Probably the first thing that runs through everyone’s mind and here is the answer.

1. The Intellisense is a Visual Studio Extension. In Visual Studio go to Tools > Extensions and Updates. Expand the Online tab, click Xamarin and Xamarin.Forms.Intellisense will be listed there for you to install for VS 2013. For VS 2015 it is pre-installed.

2. Now the Visual Designer – well, it doesn’t exist. Its all code from here!


Now you should have 4 projects, 1 for each platform and a Portable class library. The portable class library is the shared code between each mobile app project and will host the Views and other code.

You can add more portable class libraries and reference them from your existing portable class library as your project expands.

Next up, now what do I do?