Susan IbachTechnical Evangelist
This series features interviews with student Windows 8 app developers who share the lessons they learned building windows 8 applications.
This week’s interview features Richard Ye a student from The University of Waterloo who built an application called Converter.
Could you briefly describe your application/game?
Unit converters are one of the easiest and most overdone apps that are made for any platform. A conversion from meters to feet, for instance, is a simple multiplication by a constant factor, and is ridiculously easy to implement. However, because it’s so easy to implement an app like this, many of the apps in the store aren’t very good, or polished, or easy to use, and most of them consist of a bunch of menus and a single number input.
When I made Converter, I tried to do better, and the result is an intelligent, polished app that predicts conversions as soon as users start typing. The app can return results in as little as a single keystroke, making Converter the fastest and easiest to use Unit Converter out there. In the words of one reviewer, “effort was put into this app”.
Did you use .NET and Silverlight, HTML and Java, or DirectX and C++ ?
What was your banging your head against a wall moment?
Did you ever solve that issue?
If you had to build this same app again from scratch, what would you do differently?
Any nice surprises?
Did you leverage the mobile platform?
Unit converters are rather simple apps, and there’s not much in terms of mobile technology which I leveraged. I used a simple, tiled interface that I optimized for mobile devices and the on-screen keyboard, but that’s about it.
Did you leverage touch?
The libraries were pretty good at making sure touch worked nicely for my app. Have a pretty simple interface which is basically just a bunch of tiles, but semantic zoom is also supported.
Did you have a favorite Windows 8 feature?
I definitely appreciated the tiles feature, and how it basically implemented a smooth and consistent interface for me.
What is one thing you think you did really well in this application?
I really think that Converter is the best unit converter out there, simply because it is faster and more polished than the competition. People shouldn’t have to navigate through menus just to make quick conversions, and I think I’ve solved that problem with Converter. I hope that people will find it useful.
Are you publishing your application/game?
Yes, Converter is available right now on the Windows 8 Store. It’s free and ad-free, and I plan to keep it that way for the foreseeable future.
Where can I learn more about your app/game?
If you don’t have Windows 8, I have an old web version that you can check out here . It doesn’t share any of the code, but it has similar functionality.
Who developed this application?
I’m a student in Computer Science at The University of Waterloo. Some of the backend code was written by Nick Frosst, a Computer Science student at The University of Toronto.
Don’t forget to create your account in the Windows 8 store, reserve your app name, and get your app out there. For information about how to create your account and resources on how to get coding check out our Windows 8 resources page
This blog is part of a series, you can see the rest of the series here.
If you want to develop for Windows 8, you need to decide which programming model best suits your needs and skills and find some resources to help you get started with your chosen model. Don’t forget in Canada, any app you publish before end of March 2013 can earn you rewards through the Developer Movement, and students building apps can enter them in Imagine Cup!
Let’s look at options for different types of developers:
There are a number of options for game development on Windows 8, what makes sense for you depends on your existing game experience and the complexity of the game you plan to build.
I would not recommend C++ and DirectX for a beginner programmer, but, when it comes to high performance games, serious gamers turn to C++ and DirectX. With DirectX and C++ you can build great games for Windows 8. To get started, check out the Developing Games for Windows 8 or Developing apps with C++ and DirectX (scroll down to the section Game Programming in C++.)
Easier for beginners than DirectX, you might be surprised at the games you can build with HTML and Canvas. It is growing in popularity for web games, especially with fewer platforms supporting Flash. The same HTML and Canvas capabilities that exist on the web can be used to build cool games for Windows 8. To get started here’s a good post by David Rousset called Everything you need to know to build HTML5 games with Canvas
XNA is not included on Windows 8, however there is an open source cross platform implementation of the XNA framework called MonoXNA that you can use to build Windows 8 apps. To get started check out Tara Walker’s blog on Windows 8 development using C#, XNA and MonoGame 3.0
There are a lot of companies out there who produce tools for beginner and experienced game developers. These products have their own development environments and generate the application code for you. Some of these tools are free, some charge you either for the development environment tools, or to publish the apps. To get started check out cross platform tools that support Windows 8
If you are already familiar with the .NET framework, you will probably find it easiest to develop your apps in C# or VB .Net with XAML. To get started check out the Roadmap for Windows 8 apps using C# or Visual Basic.
If you have already coded in Java, you will find it pretty easy to pick up C#. Consider building your apps with C# and XAML.To get started check out the Roadmap for Windows 8 apps using C# or Visual Basic.
Go ahead and build your app using C++ and XAML. To get started check out Building your first Windows Store app using C++.
There’s some great resources to help you bring your knowledge of Objective-C, Cocoa Touch, and XCode to Windows Store app development. To get started check out Resources for iOS developers. If you are planning to build a new app and want to target multiple platforms you may also want to check out Cross platform tools that support Windows 8.
The platforms are different, but you can certainly take an app you built for Android and port it to Windows 8. To get started check out this article Porting Android apps to Windows 8 . If you are planning to build a new app and want to target multiple platforms you may also want to check out Cross platform tools that support Windows 8.
How will Canadians compete in this year’s Imagine Cup? What prizes can they get? Here’s the scoop
Last year Canadian students showed off amazing creativity in the 2012 Imagine Cup, and team Greeni from George Brown College travelled to Australia to represent Canada at the worldwide finals.
This year, the Imagine Cup Canadian finals will feature the following three categories:
We will select one winner in each of the three categories. Each of the three finalist teams will receive:
From the three finalists, one overall winning entry will be selected by the judges to travel to St. Petersburg, Russia (at our expense) to participate in the worldwide finals. The school at which they are registered will be awarded Windows 8 devices worth up to $1500.00 CDN. First, second, and third place at the worldwide finals will win $50,000 USD, $10,000 USD, and $5,000 USD respectively!
Winning is a big deal, but we also want to encourage greater overall participation, that’s why the Canadian school with the most registrations for entry will be awarded Windows 8 devices worth up to $1500.00 CDN and Windows Phone devices worth up to $1500.00 CDN
Find a team (1-4 people) and consider getting a mentor (maybe a prof) to help you out and show us what you can do with Microsoft technologies such as Windows 8, Windows Phone, Xbox, and Kinect!
Got a cool app idea but not sure it fits into one of these categories, you can enter as an individual in the Windows 8 challenge, Windows Phone Challenge, or Windows Azure Challenge.
Last year we saw amazing work by teams from Carleton University, McGill, UBC, and George Brown at the Canadian finals. We know you have amazing ideas. This is the time to bring them to life! Register today! All dreams welcome!
How do you get the Windows 8 SDK and Visual Studio? What if you have Visual Studio already?
This blog is part of a series, you can find the entire series here.
In Step 2 we learned where to find and different options for installing Windows 8 which is required before you download and install the SDK. Now you need the Windows 8 SDK and a version of Visual Studio 2012. In this blog we’ll look at what you need to install so you can start building a Windows 8 app. This blog post covers the following:
If you are in a technical program like Computer Science you may have access to DreamSpark Premium which is usually accessed through your school IT department or through a special portal maintained by your school like this one from Carleton where you can download Visual Studio and Expression Studio.
If you are a student in a non technical program such as business administration or you are in a technical program that does not have a DreamSpark Premium subscription, you can still get a copy of Visual Studio through DreamSpark Standard. DreamSpark Standard subscriptions are given to universities, colleges, and even school boards so that high school students can access Microsoft developer software. They are usually tied to a school email address. For example a student with an email address that ends in @Ryerson.ca is recognized as a student from Ryerson who can access the Ryerson University subscription. If your school does not have a subscription, you can request a verification code by contacting your local Microsoft representative. (In Canada that’s us!). Now you can
Note: when you download Visual Studio and Expression Studio, you will get an .iso file. You will need to either burn a copy of the .iso onto a DVD or use a tool such as Virtual Clone Drive to read the .iso and allow you to install it.
If you are a Microsoft Student Partner, or work at a company with an MSDN subscription you can download a copy of Visual Studio from the Microsoft Download Center.
That’s okay you don’t need a full version of Visual Studio to develop an app, when you install the Windows 8 SDK it will install a copy of Visual Studio 2012 Express with Blend you can use to develop your app.
If you do have access to a full version of Visual Studio 2012 and Expression Blend, install it before you install the Windows 8 SDK. When you install the Windows 8 SDK it will detect your copy of Visual Studio 2012 and install the Windows 8 templates into your existing copy of Visual Studio. Visit the the windows dev center (dev.windows.com) to download the tools and SDK.
If you do not have a copy of Visual Studio 2012 already, then all you need to do is download the tools and SDK and it will install a copy of Visual Studio 2012 Express and Blend for Visual Studio on your system so you can start developing.
Where do I get Windows 8? Can I set up a dual boot? Can I install it in VM? How? This post answers those questions
This post is part of a series, you can see all the posts in the series here.
You can’t build a Windows 8 app without installing Windows 8. So you need to get a copy of Windows 8 and you need to install it. This blog post will either explain or provide links to references that explain the following:
First check the System requirements to make sure your PC can handle Windows 8. You do not require touch, Windows 8 works fine with keyboard and mouse. Though you might want to learn a few keyboard shortcuts.
All of the options below will provide you with a .iso file, so you will either need a DVD burner so you can burn a DVD with the .iso file to install Windows 8, or you will need a tool like Virtual Clone Drive to read the .iso file directly.
You may be able to download Windows 8 for free from DreamSpark Premium. Note: this is only available for students in programs that have DreamSpark Premium. Many students have access to DreamSpark Standard which allows you to download a lot of free software including Visual Studio, but does not include the operating system software such as Windows 8.
if you are a Microsoft Student Partner, or you work at a company that has an MSDN subscription, you may be able to download Windows 8 using your MSDN subscription.
There is a 90 day evaluation version of Windows 8 you can download for free, but note: IT CANNOT BE UPGRADED TO THE FULL VERSION. To upgrade, the evaluation must be uninstalled and a non-evaluation version of Windows must be re-installed. So if you are going to choose the trial version, you probably want to do it as a dual boot or in a virtual machine.
Until Jan 31, 2013 you can buy a Windows 8 Pro upgrade for $39.99. You can do the upgrade easily if you are running Windows 7. If you are running Windows XP or Windows Vista you will need to reinstall your apps after you upgrade.
If you are downloading the trial version, or you just aren’t ready to upgrade yet (though honestly I found, after a week on Windows 8, I didn’t miss Windows 7, and was completely comfortable working with Windows 8, my existing printer, external monitor, mouse, and programs all work fine on Windows 8). But still I understand that you may have reasons for keeping a copy of Windows 7 running on your laptop. You can of course set up your laptop to have dual boot so you can start it in Windows 8 or Windows 7.
Installing Windows 8 in a Virtual machine won’t run as fast as upgrading your operating system to Windows 8 and from what I am seeing in the comments on these blogs, you may need to brace yourself for a bit of fiddling to get it working. But for those of you who are not ready to upgrade, it is certainly an option and I’ve seen lots of developers at our hackathons building Windows 8 apps inside a VM.
Here’s a twist on the virtual machine option to consider as well. Windows 8 comes with Hyper-V support. So you could install Windows 8 on your machine and then run Windows 7 in a Hyper-V virtual machine on your Windows 8 PC.
Now you’ve got Windows 8 installed, you can develop apps for Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8! Great preparation for the Imagine Cup or your first step to getting rewards from the Developer Movement. Get coding!