Building a great Windows 8 app Step 3: Installing the SDK & Tools


    VisualStudio 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:

    • Getting a copy of Visual Studio
    • Downloading and installing the SDK
    • How do I know it installed correctly and I can start coding?

    Getting a copy of Visual Studio and Expression Blend

    • Visual Studio is the development environment used to build Windows 8 apps, so you will need to install it before you can start building your app.
    • Expression Blend is a component of Microsoft Expression Studio that allows you to design the look and feel of your application. It is not required to build a Windows 8 app, but you will probably prefer it to Visual Studio when you edit the look and feel of your app.

    Are you a student in a technical program?

    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.

    Are you a high school, college or university student?

    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.

    Do you have MSDN?

    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.

    What if I am not a student and I don’t have MSDN!

    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.

    Downloading and Installing the SDK

    Do you already have a copy of Visual Studio 2012?

    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 don’t already have a copy of Visual Studio 2012

    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.

    How do I know it worked and I can start coding?

    If you can launch Visual Studio 2012 or Visual Studio 2012 and choose File | New Project then choose either Visual C#, Visual Basic, Visual C++, or JavaScript and you can see a set of templates called Windows Store similar to the screen shot below. You are ready to start coding! If you are a Canadian don’t forget to register for Developer Movement to make sure you get rewards for your app

    Visual Studio new Windows 8 project

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    Canadian Finals announced for Imagine Cup 2013


    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:

    • A Windows 8 device (tablet or phone) for each team member, including the team mentor.

    Significant dates

    • March 15, 2013 23:59:59 GMT – deadline for registration
    • March 23, 2013 Midnight – deadline for submitting your entry (I am not sure of the time zone, I’ll find out and update)

    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!

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    Waterloo WowZapp Microsoft Worldwide Hackathon


    3617.image_0BF73627Waterloo WOWZAPP 2012 was an amazing experience! We were thrilled to see the creative work that people came up with in less than a day’s work. Our advertisement efforts successfully reached out to almost 70 students including nearby colleges.

    We started the event with a brief presentation on Windows 8 tools and development environment. A lot of people were given the Windows 8 Camp-in-a-Box kit to get them acquainted with development in Windows 8 and Visual Studio. We manage to retain around 40 people late in the evening. We ordered almost 200 slices of pizza and saw it all magically vanish in four minutes! Wow! Students are certainly a hungry set of people. The event had to officially pause at 1:00 am due to university policy however, several people took it upon themselves to spend the night and continue the development. This was a pleasant surprise when we arrived the next morning and we were amazed by their enthusiasm.

    Saturday had approximately 30 attendees. By this time, everyone was dedicated and had a solid idea for their app. Some of them wanted to continue to learn and work on the tutorials and a few people showed up at the end for the app presentations because they were curious to see the hackers’ hard work. People started understanding their way around the different tools and started getting more comfortable with the APIs which generated excitement through the event as we partnered with the UW Mobile Club and a student group on-campus working on making more data open on api.uwaterloo.ca. This was inspiration for many great app ideas for University of Waterloo students.

    At 5pm, we collected all the apps and asked the groups to present them. Check it out here! During the presentation, Harris Rasheed said “We are supposed to find the top three out of this?! This is torture”. Rewarding only the top three groups seemed too little! We awarded two Windows Phones to the top two groups, Convertr and Sneak Peek. Rudi Chen kindly offered to donate his own Arc Mouse as a reward to the third group.

    The event was a great success and we are looking forward to hosting the next one!


    Unit converters are the most common type of apps on App stores; no surprises there. However, Converter is not your average unit converter. It doesn't require you to specify the target unit but rather, it will make an educated guess on what you want and it's quite extensive! This makes the app very convenient to use. The app also implements Modern UI design guidelines very well, featuring semantic zoom, search contract, an excellent use of screen estate. Made by Richard Ye and currently available on the Windows Store! Be sure to download this steal.


    Sneak Peek allows you to watch recent movie trailers. After only 24 hours of work, the app is already an excellent example of clean and functional design, with a background somewhat reminiscent of the red tissue found in movie theatres. Made by Alexandru Blidaru and Darien Morris.


    Recipe Box features virtual cards on which you can write down recipes. The design and colors are well chosen and navigation between different parts of the interface include smooth and fluid animations. The designers have, in their limited time, managed to complete features such as the search contract. Made by Jack, Ewin and Michael.


    A grand total of ten Windows 8 and one Windows Phone applications were created. We were absolutely astonished by how incredible some of the apps were considering the sheer amount of APIs and concepts such as asynchronous calls that need to be learned to make apps. Especially in one day!

    Sudoku Solver does exactly what the name says. This app was put to the test and the developer issued an open challenge and sure enough, it solved the world's hardest problem in a matter of seconds. A number of applications made use of data from University of Waterloo Open Data Initiative, allowing them to perform functions such as finding the number of parking slots left around campus, navigating maps of campus buildings and finding unbooked rooms to study in, which, as a student, I find very practical. Equally useful are grading apps that, among other things, compute weighted averages, which can be done in fewer clicks and keystrokes than it would normally take me to do in a spreadsheet. Todoodle is a to-do list apps that makes good use of W8 APIs and is both aesthetically pleasing and practical to use; different items can be dragged and dropped across various categories. Resume Presenter displays your skillset, experience and qualifications in a modern UI style, which is an interesting way to visualize achievements.The creator, Michael Craddox, suggested that it could be used on a tablet in an interview.

    If you are a Canadian don't forget to register for the Developer Movement so you get rewarded for your published app! If you are a student consider entering your app in the Windows 8 challenge of Imagine Cup!


    MSP’s Waterloo  Rudi Chen, Harris Rasheed, Piyush Gadigone

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    Tips and gotchas for Windows Phone apps:InkSpill


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

    This week’s interview features Studio SYD, a software development startup who built a game called InkSpill

    Could you briefly describe your application/game?

    InkSpill is a puzzle/strategy game. The player start at one corner of the board, changes the color of the block to “spill” over the neighboring blocks with the same color. Once the blocked are spilled over they become a part of the Player’s blocks. Strategy is employed where the Player is competing for board space with the AI, which starts from another corner of the board.

    Did you use XNA, Silverlight or both?

    Although currently our game doesn’t employ much Silverlight component, in the future when online gaming functionality is added, UI component such as text input box for user name and password, ListBox for gamer listing, etc. will be desirable. Meanwhile XNA provide the performance boost which is much needed when we are fading hundreds of block simultaneously. This is the reason we use both XNA and Silverlight in our game.

    What was your banging your head against a wall moment?

    While not really to the point of banging our heads, some seemingly small issue such as page transition, grid layout mechanism, background music playing, etc. did give us some headache and frustration.

    Did you ever solve that issue?

    For page transition, we actually rolled up our sleeves and created our own page fading transition mechanism. It might not be that elegant but it works. A closer study of the sample XNA project on MSDN gave us the answer to the audio play back problem. And the “a-ha” moment for the grid layout issue didn’t come until we attended the WOWZAPP hackathon.

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

    Although a finished project, there are always many refactoring waiting. And we ARE going to make these refactoring when we implement our 2nd version of the game, where online gaming will be added. Some focus will be: separating the core game logic with UI functionality more nicely to ease porting, improving the state machine implementation on XNA page, etc.

    Any nice surprises?

    The space ship tutorial on MSDN does speed up our understanding and using of XNA. It’s easy to follow and covers most of the essential part of XNA, very nice tutorial, much recommended.

    Did you leverage the mobile platform?

    Our game started its life on Windows Phone. Does that count as leveraging?

    Did you leverage the touch screen?

    The gameplay is tap-tap-tap!

    Did you have a favorite feature?

    As mentioned, there was some issue with performance as we needed to flip hundreds of blocks at the same time with Silverlight, in the end we used XNA to solve the issue.

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

    Our game concept isn’t new. However, we did reinvent the gameplay with the multiplayer.

    Are you publishing your application/game?

    Yes it has been published. Here’s a link to the game at the Marketplace:


    Where can I learn more about your app/game?

    Yes and no. We are scrapping our old site and rebuilding a new site for the new version. Here’s the Facebook page for the time being:


    Who developed this application?

    We are Studio SYD, made up of developers who share the same passion about entrepreneurship, mobile technology, programming, and building new and interesting apps/things. We are based in the Vancouver, Canada area. InkSpill is our first game and we are now exploring social gaming with it.



    If you are a Canadian don't forget to register for the Developer Movement so you get rewarded for your published app! If you are a student consider entering your app in the Windows 8 challenge of Imagine Cup!

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    Get your Windows 8 app published by December 31st and you could win a Surface


    Windows 8 surfaceCanadian Developers who register for Developer Movement and publish Windows 8 apps between December 6th and 31st could win a 64GB Surface.

    Wouldn’t you like to start the new year with a Surface? Odds of winning will depend on the number of people who publish apps, but these are still pretty good odds! A big thank you to Telerik for sponsoring this challenge. They produce a toolset to help you build Windows 8 apps faster.

    Maybe you attended WOWZapp or Pure Imagination and you haven’t had a chance to sit down and publish that app yet.

    Maybe you’ve had an app idea in your head that you haven’t had time to code and publish yet.

    Regardless, exams will be over soon (Yay!) once you’ve celebrated that last exam with your friends and head home you may find yourself with a perfect window of time to finish up and publish that app. Why not take advantage of the December Developer Movement Challenge! Publish as many apps as you can from December 6th to December 31st, 2012. The more apps you publish, the more draw entries you get, and the more chances you have to win the Microsoft 64 GB Surface! To qualify you must be registered for the Developer Movement, but why wouldn’t you register? The Developer Movement gives you points for every app you publish, heck you get 1000 points just for registering. You can cash those points in for rewards. So even if you don’t win the Surface you still get cool stuff for free!

    So if you’ve started an app, or wanted to start an app, now’s the time to get it into the store. Why? With each app you could:

    Check out our Windows 8 Resources page for tips on how to get started, how to get your free student Windows 8 account, how to add a privacy policy so your app doesn’t fail certification, and more…good luck and happy coding!

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