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BetaBuilder for iOS Applications is a tool for easing the pain of the iOS ad-hoc beta process.
For the past few years, we’ve had to go through the same song and dance: gather device IDs, create ad-hoc builds and then try to explain to users how to install them via iTunes. This can be trying for even technical users and non-technical users can get totally flummoxed. Let’s not even talk about people on Windows where the files often unzip in strange ways, leaving them totally confused.
Thankfully, Apple has made incremental improvements to this process over time. iOS 4.0 brings Web-based, wireless distribution of ad-hoc apps and the ability to embed provisioning profiles right into the IPA bundle. Your beta users can now install the software without ever using iTunes at all!
The only problem is that it’s not really documented, at least not in an end-to-end manner. On top of that, while Xcode can help you create some of the files needed for distribution, it doesn’t seem to go all the way.
I wanted to use this method to distribute my beta apps but I found myself creating the required XML and HTML files over and over again. There had to be a better way.
Enter BetaBuilder – a simple MacOS X app takes your archived IPA file and creates the required manifest and HTML files for wireless distribution. It even zips up a copy of the app for folks on 3.x that need to install via iTunes.
Just drag and drop your IPA file and specify the URL where it will be deployed to create the required HTML and manifest files.
++ Why Use This Instead of Other, Web Based Tools? ++
There are some great new tools on the Web for similar deployments.
BetaBuilder is a simple, focused tool that also enables you to host your betas yourself, which may be a security or regulatory requirement.
++ The Process ++
How does this work? Here's the step-by-step:
1. Create your provisioning profile for an ad-hoc build with whatever devices you want to allow.
2. Configure and build your IPA using 'Archive' (Xcode 4) and then 'Share'. This will produce a .ipa file with the provisioning profiles embedded.
3. Drag and drop that IPA on top of the BetaBuilder icon - the data should pre-populate into the app.
4. Enter the URL where the app will be published - this needs to match where the app will live online.
5. Click the button to generate the files - upload and go!
To use this app, you still need to sign your app using Xcode and have an available Web server to publish the generated files.
This app does not subvert the ad-hoc publishing process - it works within the existing framework of tools and options.
++ Extra Features ++
BetaBuilder allows you to use custom HTML if you'd like change the look and feel of the generated files. Just create your own template in the Application Support directory.