• Go DevMENTAL

    Tips and gotchas for Windows 8 apps: Convertr

    • 0 Comments

    screenshot_11112012_071147This 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++  ?

    I had some existing code for my concept already built in JavaScript, so I decided to stick with it when making a more fleshed-out version for Windows.

    What was your banging your head against a wall moment?

    Integrating with the Search Charm was a rather time-consuming process. From what I’ve seen, JavaScript isn’t the most popular choice of language, and I couldn’t find and easy-to-understand guides on how to integrate at the time.

    Did you ever solve that issue?

    Eventually, I figured it out by carefully reading the JavaScript documentation.

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

    Though it was very possible to use the JavaScript toolkit, it’s not as full-featured as the other ones. It would probably be easier and faster to have use another language with more extensive tools, like C#, to build the app.

    Any nice surprises?

    My existing backend code built in JavaScript just worked, with little modification required. I could make improvements to it just like I’ve always done when working with websites, which was nice.

    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

  • Go DevMENTAL

    Building a great Windows 8 app Step 4: Pick your programming language

    • 4 Comments
    Windows 8 start screenWhat’s the best programming language for your Windows 8 app? .NET, JavaScript with HTML/Canvas, or C++?

    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:

    • Are you a web developer?
    • Are you a game developer?
    • Are you a .NET developer?
    • Are you a Java developer?
    • Are you a C++ developer?
    • Are you an iOS developer?
    • Are you an Android developer?

    Are you a web developer?

    If you’ve been coding HTML, HTML5, CSS or JavaScript you can use those same programming skills to build a Windows 8 app. To get started check out the Roadmap for Windows 8 apps using JavaScript.

    Websites have been built with HTML, CSS and JavaScript for years. In the past few years the trend has been towards HTML5. Microsoft started to enter the HTML5 world with Internet Explorer 9. IE9 added a lot of support to HTML5 features, and IE10 took it even further. Windows 8 continues the trend of supporting HTML5. If you haven’t explored it yet, HTML5 is more than just new markup tags like <video> and <audio> it includes improvements to CSS (like media queries to handle different screen sizes) and updates to JavaScript. HTML5 has been gaining in popularity in the web space because it does not require any plug ins and every year more HTML5 features are being supported by more browsers. So if you are already developing websites with HTML and JavaScript take what you know and apply it to Windows 8 app development.

    Are you a game developer?

    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.

    C++

    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++.)

    JavaScript with HTML and Canvas

    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

    Have you already built XNA games?

    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

    Do you prefer a 3rd party tool which generates the code for you?

    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

    Are you a .NET developer?

    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.

    Are you a Java developer?

    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.

    Are you a C++ developer?

    Go ahead and build your app using C++ and XAML. To get started check out Building your first Windows Store app using C++.

    Are you an iOS developer?

    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.

    Are you an Android developer?

    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.

  • Go DevMENTAL

    Canadian Finals announced for Imagine Cup 2013

    • 0 Comments

    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!

  • Go DevMENTAL

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

    • 0 Comments

    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

  • Go DevMENTAL

    Building a great Windows 8 app Step 2: Installing Windows 8

    • 0 Comments

    Windows 8 start screenWhere 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:

    • Where do I get a copy of Windows 8?
    • How do I install Windows 8 as dual boot?
    • How do I install Windows 8 in a Virtual Machine?
    • What can you do after you have Windows 8 installed?

    Where do I get a copy of Windows 8?

    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.

    Are you a student in a technical program?

    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.

    Do you have an MSDN subscription?

    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.

    • Visit the MSDN download center
    • Log in with your live id
    • Type Windows 8 Pro into the Search box
    • Choose Windows 8 Pro and download the .iso

    Try it

    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.

    Buy it

    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.

    How do I install Windows 8 as a dual boot?

    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.

    How do I install Windows 8 in a Virtual Machine

    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.

    What can you do after you have Windows 8 installed?

    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!

Page 1 of 3 (11 items) 123