How to publish and update your Windows 8 Store App

How to publish and update your Windows 8 Store App

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For the last few weeks, I have been attending a number of final year project submission meetings across the UK. I have seen a number of amazing apps/games and projects from students across the UK many of these have been produced as part of their academic coursework and now being used to demonstrate the skills which the students have mastered to potential employers.

One of the key things which frustrates me is the number of students who have built amazing apps or games and simply haven't published these a app store! to simply demonstrate their understanding of app development and more importantly have a app/game which they can demonstrate to a potential employer as part of their portfolio.

So the following blog is to simply help you all understand how to publish and maintain your published app or games and ideally help you get started on the development of a real portfolio of apps and games in the Windows 8 store.

So get your completed course, assignment or module published.

Publishing your app or game requires a series of steps..

Log in to the Windows Store

Before you can publish your app, you need a Windows Store account. Go to the Windows Store to register. If you haven't claimed your free Windows Store account via dreamspark go to https://www.dreamspark.com/Student/Windows-8-App-Development.aspx

After you log in to the store with your live ID (the one you used for your store account),  go to “Dashboard

If this is your first time logging in since you created your account, you may see a message that says

“Before we can list any of your apps in the Store, you’ll need to verify your payment method. Verify your payment method.”

When you created your account you entered credit card information. A small amount was charged and then reimbursed on your credit card to validate the card. You need to find your billing statement (or call your credit card company) to find out the transaction amount that was charged.

Select the Verify your payment method link and you will be taken to the Payment account verification screen. When you get there scroll to the bottom of the screen. using the information from your credit card billing statement, enter the amount that was charged or the 3 digit code from the transaction description and select Next.

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Once you see the message saying “We successfully verified your payment account” You are ready to begin submitting your app!

How do you Submit your app for Publishing on the Windows 8 Store

From the top menu, select “Dashboard” then select “Submit an app” from the menu on the right.

Use the dashboard to see all the applications you submitted and their status in the store certification process. It can take as little as 2 days or as much as 2 weeks for an app to be published after you submit it.

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Choose a Name for App/Game

Your app/game name is important! It is the first thing a customer sees when they find your app in the store. Be creative! Make sure you don't use names that are trademarked by others or those who own the trademark could ask to have your app removed from the store.

So step1. is do some research, search the store for names, phrase, titles and ensure you pick a unique one.

Enter the app name you wish to use and select Reserve App Name. If you get a message back informing you your app name is already in use, you will have to enter a different app name.

NOTE: The app name you enter here must match the Display Name in your app manifest in your created app/game

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TIP: You can just do this first step to reserve your app name before you have the code ready to publish. Your name will be reserved for 12 months.

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Selling details

Price - This is where you set the price of your app, and your free trial options. If you choose to charge for your app, pricing can start at £0.99. The price you select may include a sales tax that the customer must pay. Your proceeds will be based on the pretax amount.

TIP: Apps with free trials of some sort usually get more downloads, you can either limit the duration of the trial, or in your code you can limit the features available on the trial version. Use the license Information class to determine if a trial has expired, or if a user is running a trial version. You can find more information about handling trials in your code here.

Markets - Select the countries where you want your app to be available. Selecting a country does not guarantee your app will be published there. There is some content and features that is restricted to certain regions, you could be using a feature that is not available in a particular region yet. You might want to consider the primary languages spoken in a particular country when deciding which countries you select.

TIP: When publishing a game, the countries Korea, South Africa, Brazil, and Taiwan require a game to be rated by a rating board and certified to prove the age rating of the game. If you do not have certificate files to prove you have completed that process, make sure you do NOT select those markets or your app will fail certification.

 

Release Date - If you want your app to be published as soon as it is certified select the first option.

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Category - Now, select the category that best matches your app, this will affect where your app will be listed in the store, so consider your choice carefully. If a Windows user was searching for an app like yours in the store, which category would they choose to search? It's important to make it as easy as possible for users to find your app in the store. Picking the wrong category can also result in failing certification, because the testing team may not feel the category is appropriate for your app.

Hardware requirements – If your app has minimum RAM or DirectX requirements, you can specify that here.

Accessibility – Only select this check box if you have gone through all the accessibility guidelines and tested your app to ensure it is accessible. Accessibility includes testing for users with low vision or screen readers.

Advanced features - You only need to complete this section if your application supports push notifications (often used to update tiles), connect services such as SkyDrive and Single Sign-On, or in-app purchases. In app purchases is a popular way of making money with apps, the app is free, but a user can make in app purchases improve their app experience. For example, there are games where players can purchase weapons or armour. If you have not implemented any of the above features you can just leave all the fields in this section blank.

Age rating and rating certificates - This section is to describe the audience for your app and upload your rating certificates. If you can't decide between two age ratings, for example your app has content you feel is suitable for 12 and older, but requires an account that can only be created by users 16 or older, choose the higher age rating. Some countries requires will also require that your app be rated through a ratings board, especially for games. So check the list to see if a market you selected requires a rating certificate. If you try to publish to a market that requires a rating certificate and you do not provide the certificate file, your app will fail certification.

Cryptography - You must declare whether your app calls, supports, contains or uses cryptography or encryption. There are US regulations regarding the exporting of technology that use certain types of encryption. Apps in the Windows store must comply with these laws because the app files can be stored in the US. These rules apply even if you are a developer in UK selling apps in the UK through the store. So if your app is doing some type of cryptography or encryption you should read up on the regulations to see if your app requires an Export Commodity Classification Number (ECCN).

Packages - Now it's time to upload your app to the Windows Store. But there are a couple of things you need to do first:Build your package and run the WACK test.

Building the App package

· In Visual Studio, change the Build type from Debug to Release and Build the solution by choosing Build | Build Solution from the menu.

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· From the menu choose Project | Store | Create App Packages…

· When asked “Do you want to build packages to upload to the Windows Store”, select Yes. and then select Sign In.

· Sign in with the same email account you used for the Windows Store.

· Select the app name you reserved to indicate the app for which you are creating a package. If you are resubmitting after a failed attempt to publish or to update your app in the store, you will want to select the checkbox “Include app names that already have packages” so you can see your app in the list.

· After you select the app name, select Next.

· Now you must choose which platforms will be able to install your application. If you pick Neutral, you will get a single package with builds that will run on any Windows 8 hardware. If you select individual builds you will get a different package for each build type. NOTE: If you are building an app which requires a lot of memory and processing power and you have not tested it on ARM, you might want to consider selecting x86 and x64 specifically and not including ARM in your release.

· For the version number, I recommend using the Automatically increment. Otherwise you must make sure the version number in your app manifest file matches the version number on this page.

· Make a note of the output location, because you will need to upload the file from that location to the store after the package(s) is/are created.

· Select Create when you are ready for Visual studio to generate the app package.

Running the Windows App Certification Kit (WACK) test

After your package is created, you are prompted to launch the Windows App Certification Kit. This will run your app through a series of tests to check for issues that could cause it to fail certification. While it is running you will see the app occasionally launch and close. Do not interact with the app while the WACK test is running.

To start the WACK test select Launch Windows App Certification Kit. This process can take 10 minutes or so. You will know when it is complete because you will see the test summary page informing you if your app passed or failed. The results window does not automatically appear in the foreground, so you may want to occasionally check your task bar and desktop to see if the test is completed..

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If your app failed, select “Click here to view full report” then investigate and resolve the issues that caused it to fail, then create a new package and try again. If your app passed, you are ready to upload the package to the store.

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Uploading the package

Once your package is created you will find a new folder called “AppPackages” inside your application folder. Inside the “AppPackages” folder is a file that ends with “.appxupload” extension. This is the file you will select when you upload your app.

If you made changes to your app and rebuilt the package, make sure you pick the most recent app package, the version number in the package file name or the date created can help you identify the most recent package(s).

Go to the Packages section in the application submission and then drag your package(s) to the app submission page. (remember if you chose to make separate builds for x86,x64 or ARM you will have multiple packages and you will need to upload all of them to the store.)

You will know when your package is uploaded because you will see it listed as an uploaded package.

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Description

App Description - This is where you describe what your app does and this is what users will see when they look at your app in the Windows store. If you want your app to be downloaded by a lot of people, make sure to take time to write a good description. Take a look at the descriptions of similar apps in the store, how will your description stand out? Make sure the first couple of sentences grab their attention. Make sure you have a short list of your app's best features. If you offer a free trial, this is a good place to explain how the trial works. There are some good tips on writing your app description here.

TIP: If your app will require anyone to log in to complete certain tasks, you must mention that in your description or you will fail certification.

Screenshots - After you add the description of your app, you will need to upload images of your app including a logo that the will be used to feature the app.

If you don’t have these images already, you can create them using the simulator in Visual Studio. Change the launch option to Simulator using the drop down key in the menu.

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When the app launches, on the right side of the simulator is a button with a camera icon which will let you to take a snapshot of the screen and put it in your clipboard. Then you can open an app such as Paint paste it and save it as a .PNG file. If your image is larger than 2 MB you may have to use a tool like Paint .NET (which you can download for free) to save it at a lower resolution. You can’t just resize the image because it must be at least 1366 x768 pixels (landscape) or 768X1366 pixels (portrait).

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Keywords – If someone was searching the store, what keywords would they use to find your app? Specify these as keywords to help users discover your app.

Copyright and trademark info – this is a mandatory field where you specify the copyright information for your application. Basically this is where you get to say, whose app is this.

Promotional Images – If you have a great app, make sure you include some extra images so your app has the potential to be featured in the store! Being featured always results in more downloads, so if you’ve done something amazing, make sure to include all the promotional images so your app could be highlighted!

Website – If you have a website for your app or other apps you have built, you can include a link to it here

Support Contact Info – you must provide a way for users to contact you if they have problems with the app. An email address, or a link to a website with a Contact Us option will suffice.

Privacy Policy - One of the main reason that apps fail certification is developers forget to include a privacy statement in the description section. You may think you do not need a privacy statement because you are not collecting email addresses or personal information. However, if your app connects to the internet, or if the app manifest says it connects to the internet (which it does if you used any of the default templates and you haven't changed it) then your app requires a privacy policy. Any app that connects to the internet fetches the user’s IP address. If your privacy statement is less than 200 words, you can put the text directly in the About page of your app and on this submission page (the privacy statement must appear in both places). If it’s more then 200 words, you need to include a URL to a website that displays your privacy statement. Below are some resources to help you figure out if you need a privacy statement, and how to add a privacy statement

· Windows 8 Certification Tips: The privacy statement
· Use a free Azure website to host your privacy policy!
Notes to testers

This is a place for you to add any notes you wish to share with the people who are testing your app for certification. For example, if your app requires a login to an online service, you must provide the login information for an account the testers can use. If your app is only intended for a limited audience, it is good to mention that in notes to testers as well, because your app can be rejected because it does not appeal to a wide audience. So, if you are making an app for a specific audience, make that clear in the description and notes to testers. The information you enter in this section is not seen by users of the app, it is only seen by the team who tests your app to see if it is suitable for the Windows Store.

Submit for certification

After you have completed all the sections you should see a checkmark beside every section. If there is a section without a checkmark, go back to see if you either missed a mandatory field, or you have a field entered incorrectly.

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If every section is marked as complete you can now select Submit for Certification.

Congratulations! You have just submitted your app to the store!

Once you submit your app, it will take up to 1 weeks to get certified, you can track the progress of your app in the main dashboard. You don’t have to keep coming back here to check the status. If you fail certification, you will receive an email and a detailed error report explaining why it failed so you can correct any errors and resubmit. If you pass certification, you will receive an email with a link to your app in the store!

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The Windows team has created this great checklist to help you prepare and organize all the required info to make it easier to enter the info when you submit an app.

Your app is now live and ready for consumers to download and install.

But what happens when you make a update or find a bug that needs fixing or even adding extra functionality?

Here is how do you submit a new version of an app/game to the Windows store after you have made updates to the code

Updating your App/Game

You’ve submitted your app, and now you’ve made some improvements based on comments or feedback from users, or maybe just because you had some time to improve it. Here’s how you do it.

Log in to the Windows Store at dev.windows.com and go to the Dashboard.

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Select Details for the app you want to update

 

When you get to the Details page, select Create New Release

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You will need to upload a new package to the store containing your new code.

Go to Visual Studio, open the .appxmanifest file, go to the Packaging tab and increase the Version number, so it indicates this is a new version of your app.

You decide how you want to increment the version numbers, but here is some general guidance:

  • Increment the Major number if you are adding significant functionality
  • Increment the Minor number when minor features or significant fixes are added
  • Increment the Revision number when minor bugs are fixed.

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Now go to the menu and choose Project | Store | Create App Package and follow the prompts to build your new app package. It’s always a good idea to launch the Windows Application Certification Kit on your updated app to make sure it still passes the tests with your updates.

After you have built your new package, return to your app submission screen, select Packages, and upload the new package from your Visual Studio project AppPackages folder (REMINDER: the package is the file with the extension .appxupload).

When you submit a new version of an app, you must indicate the contents of your update in the Description section.

App Description

Enter a description of the update in the Description of Update field.

Description of Update

Although it is not required, if you are adding new functionality to your app, consider updating other fields that describe your functionality to users. You want to ensure potential users are aware of the full functionality of your application when browsing the store. Attributes you might want to updated include the Description, the App features list, or the Screenshots.

If you wish you may change other attributes of your app such as price, age ratings, but that is not required to submit the update.

After you have uploaded your new package, completed the description of update and made any additional changes you wish to make, select Submit for Certification to submit your updated app to the store.

Submit for certification

That's it you have just submitted an updated version of your app to the store.

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  • I have had a few great ideas for apps and I have always had a few challenges... your one tip of making sure that  if there is a sign up that you add it in the description of the app.. I never thought of it but I just assumed they knew to do that HAHA I guess it can make or break the expernece. Great Blog!!

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