If I can build a Windows Phone app anyone can! Extra controls for free!


    While the default controls in the Windows Phone SDK are nice, there are more free controls you can download and use as well to make your applications even better!

    My continuing adventures exploring Windows Phone application development. If you missed my early stories, you can find them here. Don’t forget Canada, you only have until May 20th, 2012 to have your app published to get prizes from developermovement.com

    I finally have a bit of time to go back to my Windows Phone app. I have a textbox for entering a time which forces numeric input. It works but I can’t help but feel there should be a better control than just a textbox. When I look at other windows phone apps I see a lot of really nice looking controls that I don’t see in my toolbox. After a little searching I discovered you can download a Windows Phone Toolkit and get more new Windows Phone controls for free!

    In this blog post I’ll talk about.

    • How to install the toolkit
    • How to add the new controls to my toolbar
    • What controls are in the toolkit

    So let’s see if I can figure out how to install this and take a look at what it gives me.

    Install the toolkit

    1. First I download the Silverlight for Windows Phone Toolkit.msi file to install the toolkit
    2. Agree to the terms of use.
    3. Run the file (you can save it then run it if you prefer, but I have pretty good internet connectivity so I’m going to run it directly)
    4. Now the installer launches, I accept the license agreement, click install, choose allow when prompted whether I want to let Windows run this software, and within a minute I get a message saying the software is successfully installed.

    Getting the new controls on your toolbox

    It’s installed, so now I launch Visual Studio and open up my project, but…uh… I don’t see anything different! When I go to the toolbox I still see the same list of controls. I look at the documentation tab ‘This project does not have documentation yet’, I read the page,lots of stuff about the controls, nothing about how to get them to show up in Visual Studio! Developer community to the rescue, a few Bing searches reveals the answer.

    1. In the Solution Explorer, add a reference to toolkit.dll which was installed but may not be added as a reference to your project. It shows up as Microsoft.Phone.Controls.Toolkit after you add the reference.


    2. Add a new tab to your toolbox by right clicking on the toolbox and choosing Add Tab (You don’t have to do this, but by creating a new tab you can put all the new controls in one place so you can easily find them)

    3. Add the controls to the toolbox by going to your new tab in the toolbox, right click and choose Choose Items. In the Filter box type Microsoft.Phone.Controls so that all the phone controls are listed. Then select all the new controls you want to add. Just a quick note, some of these aren’t really controls unto themselves and are classes that are used by the controls (for example ListPickerItem is an item in the ListPicker Control). So you may not want to add all of them to your toolbox. Adding the reference allows you to use their functionality, adding them to the toolbox just gives you the ability to drag and drop them to your screens.


    4. You should now see the controls in your toolbox


    What new controls do I get?

    Wow there are a lot of them I’ll do what I can here to summarize, but I may not cover every single control. I’ll break it down the same way I did when I talked about the Windows Phone standard controls. There is no formal documentation of this toolkit so I have hunted for blog posts to help wherever possible.

    Controls for entering and displaying data

    • AutoComplete – This control allows you to have a list of words in the properties of the control. For example states, cities, provinces, countries. When someone starts typing in the control if they start typing a value in your list it will autocomplete the word. Found a blog with some tips on how to use it here
    • DatePicker – I like this one, it allows users to choose a date by scrolling to choose the day, month and year. image
    • ListPicker – This is basically a combo box control for Windows Phone, for really long lists you might prefer the LongList control. I found a blog post on ListPicker here.
    • RecurringDaysPicker – Enables you to select one or more days of the weekimage
    • TimePicker – allows you to select a time of day


    • PhoneTextBox – is a rich text box control that allows action icons inside the text box that the user can tap as well as hints for users and length indicators. Good blog post here
    • LongListSelector – This is a good control for list boxes with a lot of values for the user to choose from. Found a good blog post here.
    • MultiSelectList – this is a list box control that allows you to select more than one value. Good blog post here.
    • ToggleSwitch – This is a great little control that is used in many Windows Phone applications for specifying ON/OFF values. Good blog post here.image

    Controls that do stuff

    • ContextMenu – you’ve seen this before, when someone taps and holds an item on the screen and a little pop up menu appears. We do it a lot in Windows applications. Like when you are in Microsoft Word and you right click you get a context menu for Cut, Copy & Paste. I found a blog post with some tips on this control here
    • PerformanceProgressBar – This control allows you to give feedback to a user about progress of a long running operation. Blog post here.

    Controls to make things look pretty

    • HubTile – just like the live tiles you see on the front page, you can add tiles to your application. Good blog post here.
    • WrapPanelControl – this allows you to create a panel that will organize child controls either horizontally or vertically. Blog post here.
    • LockablePivot – this control allows you to add a mode to the pivot control so that only the current item is shown. Blog post here.
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    Meet the Phone Game Design finalists for Canadian Imagine Cup


    IC-Logo_300pxWideMeet the teams who will be competing in the Windows Phone Game Design category at the Canadian Imagine Cup to win phones, Xbox, Kinect, mentorship opportunities and more!

    Last week our judges narrowed down the Canadian entries in Phone Game Design to the top three who we have invited to come present their games on stage at the Canadian Imagine Cup finals April 30th at the University of Waterloo.  Game development has become a huge industry over the years. These teams were challenged to not only build a game but tie it to the 2012 Imagine Cup Theme “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems”. You can come out and cheer the teams at the finals, register here.

    Let’s meet the teams who will be competing at the Canadian finals, in alphabetical order by team name.

    Novarum from Carleton University

    The Problem: Our team is attempting to solve the problem of world hunger, as well as the issues of active participation from the mass population in solving such problems.

    Our Solution: Our team is attempting to solve the problem of world hunger by donating to an effective charity that makes a real impact in the world. We do this by raising funds via in-game advertising and raising awareness through gameplay.

    Novarum Team Photo
    Team Novarum: Ryan Bottriel, Zara Tooth, Matthew Fournier, Skye Gagne and Jean-Sylvain Sormany (mentor)

    Phylo from McGill University

    The Problem: Traditionally, multiple sequence alignment algorithms use computationally complex heuristics to align the sequences. Unfortunately, the use of heuristics do not guarantee global optimization as it would be prohibitively computationally expensive to achieve an optimal alignment. This is due in part to the sheer size of the genome, which consists of roughly three billion base pairs, and the increasing computational complexity resulting from each additional sequence in an alignment.

    Our Solution: Humans have evolved to recognize patterns and solve visual problems efficiently. By abstracting multiple sequence alignment to manipulating patterns consisting of coloured shapes, we have adapted the problem to benefit from human capabilities. 
    By taking data which has already been aligned by a heuristic algorithm, we allow the user to optimize where the algorithm may have failed.


    Team Phylo: Chu Wu, Alfred Kam, Jerome Waldispuhl (mentor)

    Project Beacon from Carleton University

    The Problem: The problem with today’s society is that we take the environment for granted. We know the consequences but we lack the mentality to change because it does not affect us directly in our daily lives. Environmental damage is a long-term process that can only be solved through environmental sustainability, and with that, we will ensure future generations will live in a safe and sustainable world.

    Our Solution: The goal of Project Beacon is to show, through a game, the impact of human activity on the planet, and how actions of one person can help to improve the environment. Our game will highlight the importance of renewable energy sources (sun, wind, water), and focus on the art style in order to show, visually, a shift between a polluted world and a clean world.

    Team Beacon

    Team Project Beacon: Gar Lam, Clark McGillis, Curtis Field, Eva Demers-Brett and Jean-Sylvain Sormany (mentor)


    Congratulations again to our Canadian finalists and to all the other great entries we received in the Windows Phone game category! It's students like you who inspire all of us to make a difference! We’ll see you at the finals!

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    Meet the Software Design Finalists for Canadian Imagine Cup


    ImagineCupEmailcontentMeet the teams who will be vying for title of Canadian Imagine Cup champions and a trip to Australia to represent Canada at the Canadian Imagine Cup Finals Monday April 30th at the University of Waterloo.

    Last week our judges had to make the difficult decision of which three Canadian teams to invite to our Canadian Imagine Cup Finals. In the end three different schools with three very different ideas were selected. Congratulations to the teams and their schools! We can't wait to see your presentations at the finals April 30th at the University of Waterloo. If you want to come out to watch the finals you can register here.

    In alphabetical order by team name

    D19 from McGill University

    The problem: Meeting the high demand for qualified doctors in rural India. Over 600 million rural Indians have no access to doctors or proper hospitals. While we cannot provide physical care or hospital-level facilities using software alone, we are aiming to bring a doctor's consultation, diagnosis and medical advice (potentially prescription depending on legal issues) to people who cannot afford to travel to see a doctor in person.

    The solution: Our application name is 'Neem', named after an Indian medicinal plant. Our solution consists of three parts - a mobile application that allows village health workers to collect patient data and pass it on to doctors, a desktop application which allows doctors to receive this data, conduct a video chat with a patient and perform a diagnosis electronically, and an analysis tool that allows public health workers to analyse the (anonymous) patient data and identify any important trends in vaccination tracking, disease spread or general health of a community.
    Team D19 Photo

    Team D19: Abhijeet Kalyan and Shravan Narayan

    Greeni from George Brown College

    The Problem
    : Our team implemented a solution that helps to reduce factories’ pollutions and make our environment cleaner. It is achieved by controlling energy consumptions in the working areas and corridors.

    Our Solution: Our Application name is Greeni. The system is based on the Kinect sensor that monitors human's motions in the cubicles and corridors. If there is anybody in the cubicle, the system will turn on the light and ventilation system

    Greeni team

    Nimbus from University of British Columbia

    The Problem:
    Over 14 million people are killed by infectious diseases each year, 90% of which are in the developing world. More alarmingly, most of these diseases are preventable or treatable with existing medicines. Currently, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 1.7 billion people, nearly one third of the world’s population, have no access to essential medicines.

    Our Solution: Our application, Global Pharmacy Connection (GPC), aims to make essential drugs available and affordable to developing countries. To achieve this, GPC provides a portal where healthcare providers (buyers) and pharmaceuticals (suppliers) can connect, which enables buyers to gain access to more drugs at lower pricing by obtaining drug supplies from multiple suppliers.

    team Nimbus


    Congratulations to our Canadian finalists and to all the other great entries we received in the Software Design Category! It's students like you who inspire all of us to make a difference!

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    Get Inspired, Get Energized! Cheer on your fellow students at the Canadian Imagine Cup Finals!


    IC-Logo_300pxWideThe finalists are selected, the big day of the finals is coming up. We invite YOU to come out and be part of a day that celebrates the power of students!

    Wow after almost a year of planning it’s hard to believe it’s time for the Canadian Imagine Cup Finals! We have put together a fantastic day and we want to invite you to come out and be part of it! The students, the guest speakers and the judges are sure to leave you feeling inspired and empowered! This is a day to celebrate the power of students. We want you to be there!

    Who: You!

    What: Canadian Imagine Cup Finals

    Where: University of Waterloo, Kitchener, Ontario

    When: Monday April 30, 2012

    Why: because this is going to be one of those days where you walk away feeling energized, inspired and empowered! Two great speaker keynotes, amazing ideas from your fellow students as they present to our celebrity/invited experts panel, even a showcase area to see the entries up close or check out the latest Microsoft technologies.

    How: Register today!

    Price: Free! but space is limited make sure you register!

    Take a look at the incredible speakers and judges you will see at the finals!

    In order of appearance:

    Gladstone_Grant_Small Welcome and opening keynote by Gladstone Grant the Vice President of the Developer and Platform Group at Microsoft Canada.

    The Developer & Platform Evangelism Group (DPE) mission is to “Secure the Future of the Microsoft Platform” by ensuring that students, startups, developers, IT Pros, and ISVs choose Microsoft platforms. This group’s mission is critical to the long term success of Microsoft. It is a unique group that combines product marketing, audience marketing, sales, business development and technology evangelism

    Presentations by our teams in Software design and Windows Phone game design will be judged by an accomplished celebrity panel!

    Carol Leaman

    Carol Leaman is the CEO of Axonify, a software company that uses technology to identify, measure and close critical knowledge gaps in employees.  Using principles of behavioural psychology the company provides an interval reinforcement platform that quickly and easily enhances knowledge retention of key policies and procedures.

    Prior to Axonify, Carol was CEO of PostRank a software company that tracked where and when online audiences were interacting with content in the social sphere.  After receiving acquisition interest from a number of parties Carol sold PostRank to Google in June 2011.

    Carol has also been CEO of RSS Solutions and Fakespace, two other tech companies that she sold to strategic acquirers in North America.  She has a finance background and a Master of Accounting from the University of Waterloo. 

    Carol was recently recognized for her contributions with an Entrepreneur Hall of Fame Intrepid Award for being an entrepreneur who is a strong leader and has great promise for future contribution. She loves all things technology, and sits on the boards of several organizations.

    Michael Furdyk

    Michael Furdyk is the Co-founder of TakingITGlobal, which provides innovative global education programs that empower youth to understand and act on the world's greatest challenges.

    In the past, he turned his interest in technology into several successful online companies, including MyDesktop.com, which sold to Internet.com in 1999. In 2008, he was named by Contribute Magazine as one of 10 Tech Revolutionaries Redefining the Power and Face of Philanthropy.

    Michael has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, presented at TED, and was named one of Teen People's "Twenty Teens that will Change the World". Over the last decade, he has keynoted over 100 events across sectors, sharing his social media expertise and insights on youth engagement and educational reform to audiences in over 30 countries. He sits on several non-profit boards, including the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition, and on the International Advisory Council for Microsoft's Partners in Learning program

    Marc Saltzman

    Marc Saltzman has reported on the high-tech industry since 1996 as a freelance journalist, author, lecturer, consultant, and radio and TV personality. His specialties lie in consumer electronics, computers, Internet trends, video games and DVD/Blu-ray reviews.

    Along with his weekly syndicated columns with Gannett ContentOne (formerly Gannett News Service), CNN.com and USAToday.com, Marc currently contributes to more than 50 prominent publications, including USA Today, CNN.com, AARP - The Magazine, The Costco Connection (U.S. and Canada), MSN, Yahoo!, Sympatico, Toronto Star, PostMedia (CanWest), Connected (Rogers Publishing), Telus Talks Business, IT Insider Online, Common Sense Media, Inc.com, Playboy, Movie Entertainment, Chill, Homefront, and others.
    Tim Jackson

    We’ll wrap up the day with an inspiring keynote from Tim Jackson, someone who is living the theme of Imagine Cup “Making a Difference” as a founder and partner of Social Venture Partners of Waterloo Region, a venture fund that blends volunteerism and philanthropy together to invest in social/community initiatives.

    Tim has a long history as an entrepreneur and business leader. A founder and partner of Tech Capital Partners, he was earlier CFO and CEO at PixStream. He has also acted as CFO, CEO, or board member for numerous other technology companies. Tim is a frequent speaker on innovation, corporate culture, leadership, community building, acquisitions and investing, and related topics.

    Active for many years in the not-for-profit sector, in 2009 Tim was awarded the inaugural annual Barnraiser Award for “inspirational, collaborative achievement” in Waterloo Region. In 2007, he was honoured with the Legacy of Leaders Award from the City of Waterloo and the Leadership Award from the Volunteer Action Center.



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    Tips and gotchas for Windows Phone: Road Trip Runner


    This series features interviews with student Windows Phone app developers who share the lessons they learned building windows phone applications.

    This week’s interview features Kam Shing (Joe) Yip a student from Concordia University who built a game called Road Trip Runner

    To see more stories like this go here.


    Could you briefly describe your application/game?

    Road Trip Runner is based on the imaginary little man that I used to think was running next to the car as I was bored looking out the window during a road trip. The player can choose the side of the window from where he wants to play the game. The game displays a little man running across the scene on your car window as seen with the camera from your Windows Phone.

    Tap on the screen to jump and dodge the incoming shurikens. The simple gameplay keeps the game casual.

    Did you use XNA, Silverlight or both?

    I used both XNA and Silverlight, but the game is mostly made in XNA. In particular, the textures calls, game loop and logic are in XNA. However, the game cannot be completed with XNA alone as XNA does not have access to all the tools necessary. For Road Trip Runner, I needed the raw camera data which can be accessed only through Silverlight.

    What was your banging your head against a wall moment?

    Save and load data. FileIO is not the same on the phone, I didn’t know the proper way of accessing data. In my mind I thought that a game is not the same if there cannot be a high score to beat! So I kept on pushing for the feature.

    Did you ever solve that issue?

    I wouldn’t say I solved the issue by myself. Fortunately, I have other friends working on their own apps and games which require save/load features. I asked for their help and they managed to help me solve it.

    If you had to build this same app again from scratch, what would you do differently?

    The menu, I wish I could have made a nicer menu system and better screen manager.

    Any nice surprises?

    The simplicity of the camera API was a surprise to me. In the beginning I didn’t have the right tools. I was using the 7.0 SDK. Raw camera data access can be found in the 7.1 SDK only. It took me a little time before realizing this, but when I got the chance to code in the right environment, it wasn’t long until I got the camera working. It went smoother than I expected it would.

    Did you leverage the mobile platform?

    The game is very mobile specific I would say. It is design to use what is particular about the mobile platform. So, it cannot be just any game. Mobile may have less power in terms of process or graphic, but there are functionalities that are specific to the phone, so the game is designed to use what is particular about new smartphones, their camera.

    Did you leverage the touch screen?

    The game uses tap for having the little man jump. It is the only way to control him

    What is one thing you think you did really well in this application?

    The idea I would say. It is funny how many people actually imagine a little man running alongside their ride. I saw a post on a webpage about the topic and I realize how many people actually imagine a little man running or at least something similar. I would like to bring this little game of ours to life and I did it.

    Where can I learn more about your app/game?


    Who developed this application?

    Joe Yip, that’s my publisher name. People call me Joe, but some calls me Kam Shing which is my other name. I am a computer science student at Concordia University in the computer games option. I make games for school projects, personal projects or events. I enjoy making games, not only it is fun, but it also gives me a sense of accomplishment.

    Look for Road Trip Runner on the Windows Phone Marketplace.

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