A Hacker’s Guide to Windows 8 Apps is a four step guide to building apps at a hackathon on the  Windows platform. The guide is  designed to point you to quick resources and short tutorials you needed to building  winning apps at a hackathon.

1. Get  free Software!

Free software is always music to your hears at a hackathon. With programs like DreamSpark, DreamSpark Premium for students and BizSpark (see step 2) developers get the software they need for free.  With DreamSpark students get access to developer tools like Visual Studio 2012/ 201 3 (Pro and Ultimate).  In addition to this you also get a  free Windows Store or Window Phone Developer account that allows you to publish apps to the store for free.

To get you on your way to free tools all you need is : a Microsoft account(Hotmail.com, Live.com, outlook.com);  and your academic account. Once  you have set up your DreamSpark account fill free to start downloading all the tools you need.

1. Download Windows 8 (see Get the software! below)

2. Download Visual Studio Pro or Ultimate 2013 (see Get the software! below)

3. Download Windows Phone 8 SDK

Get the software!

If you are a college student in a Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM) department your department might have given you access to DreamSpark Premium (DSP).  DSP gives you the opportunity get Windows, Visual Studio, SQL Server, Windows Server,… for free.  Here are the links for a number of departments DreamSpark Premium sites.  If you are in these departments you should have access.  If not email me mschray_at_Microsoft.com (remove the _at_ and replace with @). 

Get the software! 

2. Learning Stuff!

C# Language - http://aka.ms/learn-1

Windows 8 Development in C# - http://aka.ms/learn-2

Windows 8 Development in HTML 5 - http://aka.ms/learn-3

Windows Phone 8 Development - http://aka.ms/learn-4

Video Walkthrough Building shared code apps for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 apps - http://aka.ms/W8Win8 

Visual Studio, C#, and XAML lightning talk https://vimeo.com/91136525

3. Get Cloud Computing

Windows Azure enables you to quickly build, deploy and manage web applications and services.  With a couple of clicks you  can simply spin websites, VMs , mobile services  just to mention a few.

1. Use a  Virtual Machine to  provision on-demand, scalable compute infrastructure when you need flexible resources. You can create VMs that run Windows, Linux, and enterprise applications. Or, capture your own images to create custom VMs.

2. Mobile Services are my personal favorite when building a  Windows 8  or Phone app.   With SDKs for Windows,  IOS , Android and HTML , mobile services allow you accelerate your app development by providing a way to  structure storage , authenticate users, and send push notifications.

3. How to get  Windows Azure ?

At a hackathon there are a couple of ways you can get  Windows Azure:

  • Ask your Microsoft Evangelist.  They can point you to the free trial or if you’re a student startup we can share information on how to quickly join BizSpark as a startup and give you special code (I have a limited number of these so hit me up early)

4. Try APIs

Hackathons require their participants to be nimble and creative.  APIs are great way for you to  build  quick apps with rich content.  With APIs offered by  Mashery, APIhub, NokiaOpen Data, TumblrBing API, Instagram, Windows APIs etc you could be building a functional app over a weekend.  Use your web skills with HTML5 & JS or  use your java or C skills to try XAML & C# to build an app.

To get you started to  APIs on the Windows platform all you have to do is register for an API key for the APIs of your choice.