Crashlytics Streamlines Beta Development with Fastlane

Crashlytics has improved its Beta by Crashlytics developer tool with a new way to distribute beta app builds. Fastlane automates portions of beta deployment for iOS apps with a process they claim is so simple practically anyone can set it up. The goal is to help developers speed up beta testing so they can garner feedback, iterate, and push out final versions.

Crashlytics, which is owned by Twitter and is installed on some 2 billion devices worldwide, wants to take the pain out of beta testing. The company claims fastlane automates tedious tasks and eliminates manual processes while still allowing for productive user feedback.

Normally, beta building takes time. Some of the steps include compiling the build, writing up release notes, pushing to beta testers via the app store, and ensuring the feedback mechanisms are in place and functioning. Moreover, some apps require using more than one beta distribution service. This only adds to the pain.

Fastlane is fully extensible and will let developers use a single process to automate beta deployment. Crashlytics says fastlane works seamlessly with Git and Slack, for example, and includes 170 built-in actions and 50 third-party plugins. The company says it streamlined onboarding in order to convince developers to give fastlane a shot.

"We know that one of the biggest hesitations to adopting a new tool, no matter how incredible it looks, is the fear of a terrible and time-consuming onboarding experience," explained fastlane product manager Hemal Shah in a blog post. "Nobody wants to spend days connecting everything and making sure it’s set up properly. That’s why ​we worked hard to make it easy as pie to enhance Beta by Crashlytics with fastlane​. This will be the smoothest onboarding process you’ve ever seen."

For example, fastlane can take care of building your app automatically through a feature called gym. This functionality requires only a few instruction sets. A Code Signing Guide is included in fastlane to help set up the right code signing approach for your project. This should help weed out code-based problems.

Once the app is built, fastlane can then upload it to iTunes Connect and/or other beta channels with no additional effort. Fastlane automatically passes on information about the generated .ipa file from gym to the beta testing provider of your choice. Crashlytics claims that, once set up, fastlane can be used by anyone on your development team.

At launch, fastlane supports beta testing services such as TestFlight, Crashlytics, HockeyApp, and TestFairy. Through these, fastlane can collect user feedback automatically.

Crashlytics is offering up some documentation on how to use the Beta by Crashlytics fastlane SDK. Release notes are available here, and best practices are available here.

Eric Zeman I am a journalist who covers the mobile telecommunications industry. I freelance for ProgrammableWeb and other online properties.