It’s been busy around here ever since we published the Windows 8 Special Edition of MSDN Magazine back in October. We’ve invited two new columns into the fold—Modern Apps and Windows Azure Insider—and dramatically shifted the focus of another in Charles Petzold’s rebranded DirectX Factor column, which explores the native DirectX programming stack in Windows Runtime. And on the MSDN Magazine Web site, we welcomed the new Patterns in Practice column from Peter Vogel.

The pace doesn’t slow in March. Microsoft’s Doug Erickson kicks things off with “Using XAML with DirectX and C++ in Windows Store Apps.” The first in a two-part series, Erickson explores how the DirectX-XAML interop feature in the Windows Runtime lets you bridge the gap between native DirectX and a proper UI framework using C++. Erickson shows that this type of DirectX-XAML interop is great for enabling graphics-rich apps and controls where low latency isn’t a requirement (as it can be in real-time 3D games).

We also get Part 2 in our ongoing Office development series, “Exploring the JavaScript API for Office.” (You can find Part 1 here.) Stephen Oliver and Eric Schmidt explore a number of data access and event handling tasks, showing how developers can code against events in the JavaScript API for Office. Next month, the duo will dive into data bindings, custom XML parts and other advanced programming concepts.

Peter Vogel appears in our pages this month, showing developers how they can use the ASP.NET Web API to refactor codebehind ASP.NET Web Forms apps to the MVC pattern. As Vogel notes, the task isn’t trivial, but it “provides a paradigm for creating new ASP.NET applications that exploit both the productivity of Web Forms and the functionality of the ASP.NET Web API.”

If you are grappling with asynchronous programming, take a moment to read Stephen Cleary’s insightful “Best Practices in Asynchronous Programming.” Cleary attacks many of the common mistakes developers make around async, helping you get up to speed quickly with the powerful async/await support in .NET Framework 4.5. There’s more timely advice from Alex Homer and his feature “Moving Your Applications to Windows Azure.” Homer steps through a number of Windows Azure app migration scenarios to help developers make good decisions as they move through the process.

Finally, James McCaffrey is at it again, with his feature “Data Clustering Using Naïve Bayes Inference.” Data clustering, as McCaffrey explains, is a machine-learning technique that can be used for things like grouping sales data to reveal buyer behavior or grouping network data to show communication patterns. While there are many clustering patterns, McCaffrey shows how his algorithm based on Naïve Bayes Inference is a powerful tool for working with either categorical or numeric data. This feature follows up McCaffrey’s February Test Run column that looked at Naïve Bayes classification using C#.

Julie Lerman leads off the columns offerings this month, with a look at the alpha version of Entity Framework (EF) 6. EF is an open source project now following the release of EF5 and yielding nightly builds, so there is plenty to keep up with (you can find the project site on CodePlex here). Lerman says the new version should improve both the flexibility and extensibility.

Other columns includes Rachel Appel’s Modern Apps exploring data access and storage options in Windows Store apps, and Kenny Kerr’s Windows with C++ column illuminating the relationship between Direct2D and the desktop application window. Bruno Terkaly and Ricardo Villalobos write about node.js with their column titled “Real-World Scenarios for Node.js in Windows Azure,” while Ted Neward’s Working Programmer column explores the Noda Time time/date API for .NET Framework.

The March issue will go live on our Web site on Friday, March 1.