Ian Moulster's blog

A Microsoft employee translating Microsoft technology into plain English

An alternative to the Facebook app on Windows Phone

An alternative to the Facebook app on Windows Phone

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I like the Facebook app on the Windows Phone but it’s fair to say that it has its detractors too. One school of thought says that it’s unnecessary anyway due to the way in which Facebook is integrated into the phone natively. But some people like to have a full-blown app in addition to the built-in features. Having said that, there are some pieces missing from the app – mainly little things like being unable to see who has “liked” a post you have made, or being unable to like comments people have made on a post. No doubt these little gaps will be filled via a future update but I’m an impatient kind of person and don’t want to wait.

So I started wondering if there’s another option and of course there is: Try firing up Internet Explorer on your phone and visiting http://touch.facebook.com. It’s a pretty nice touch-friendly version of Facebook and better, in my opinion, than the mobile version you get at m.facebook.com.

Now of course, this being the Windows Phone, it’s simple to pin the website to your start screen just like any other app so that you can launch it easily. And that works great, but there were a few things that bugged me:

  1. As it’s a web page you won’t get any notification toasts popping up
  2. You also won’t get a live tile count of notifications
  3. And finally, the tile icon is just a snapshot of the webpage which can look a bit untidy. I would prefer to see the Facebook logo.

So let’s take these one at a time. Firstly, the toast notification problem is solved by simply leaving the main Facebook app installed and ensuring you have the toast-notifications option set. You can tuck it away right down the bottom of your start screen. You don’t ever have to use it if you don’t want to.

Secondly, you don’t really need a live tile count as long as you have a “me” tile pinned to your start screen. As I’m sure you’re aware, your “me” tile will display notifications from Facebook on it’s reverse side when it flips, which I find even better than just a mere count. After all, it will display the text of notifications right on the tile.

So what about the icon? Well, that’s pretty easy to solve too. There’s a little bit of prep work to do first though:

  • Head over to the marketplace and download the excellent – and free – Wiztiles app
  • Use Bing to find a Facebook logo image file that you like. Actually I used a screen capture utility on the phone to capture the image of the actual Facebook app’s tile. I’ve pasted it below if you want to use it
  • Make sure you have visited touch.facebook.com on your phone and, once the news feed has loaded, copy the URL to the clipboard. It will contain information about your userid that should make the page load quicker for what we’re about to do next
  • Now fire up Wiztiles and create a new browser tile. Paste in the URL you copied as the URL for the tile you’re creating. And use the image option to set the tile to the facebook logo jpg you have downloaded. You might as well disable the reverse of the slide or, if you prefer, set it to whatever you want eg a different Facebook logo jpg so that the tile flips to bring a little movement to your start screen
  • Select the pin option within Wiztiles to pin your new tile to the start screen

fb logo

And hey presto, you have a tile on your start screen with the Facebook logo which, when you press it, loads up the touch version of the Facebook site. I think this makes a nice alternative to the native app but I’d be interested to hear any comments or suggestions. Do you like this approach? Or are you happy with the official app?

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  • Ian - Have you had a chance to look at 'Live Tiles' here (websurfaces.co.uk/.../live-tile-browser) I am trying to promote this to developers (to promote their live tiles) and users (as a way to find useful live tiles).  Anything you could do to help promote would be very much appreciated!

    Thanks.

  • Hi Ian, Wiztiles Pro offers a theme called "Metro Plus" that contains icons for commonly used sites like touch.facebook.com.  Check it out when you get the chance. www.windowsphone.com/.../f8f66960-acba-40b2-842b-1fbec2664739

  • Very cool, thanks!

  • This is awesome. Thank you, this has helped me plenty given the poor state of the current official Facebook app.

  • Actually much has changed since the original blog post and the official app now does pretty much all I need. And of course there's a new - and really useful - official app, still in beta at time of writing (June 2013) which you can get from here: www.windowsphone.com/.../93da5d29-daf0-4783-9ed5-a87b33247ec6.

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