Few days ago it was relesed a new Windows Phone App Studio Beta a powerful but easy-to-use tool to help developers create content-based apps from end to end, all within a web UI and so without writing a line of code. Sure it is a tool that can be used by hobbyists but it could be useful also for a developer, at least as a start point for a more complex project. In fact, in addition to a redesigned touch-enabled UI, a rebuilt emulator (with dynamic text updates, so you can see your changes on the fly) and new templates, there are the following new very interesting features introduced in this new beta release:
- Ability to generate a full Microsoft Visual Studio project containing both a Windows Phone and a Windows 8 version of your app, to make your app available through the Windows Store on Windows 8 and Windows Phone devices.
- Source code structure based on MVVM, the most used pattern generally used in developing WP8 and Windows 8 apps.
An other very interesting features, may be present also in the previous release, is that there are two data storage options for Collections: Static Resources (data will remain constant and does not depend on an internet connection.; if you change the data in App Studio, your app will not automatically update) and App Studio Data Services (data is stored in App Studio and depends on an internet connection; if you update your data in App Studio, your app will automatically update). This allows you to create live apps that don’t need to be updated when you want to change data that must be marked as dynamic. As well clarified here, once you create a dynamic datasource and your app is built, you only need to add/edit/delete the data from the datacollection without regenerating the app. For example if you use a datacollection to show some pictures, at first you may only have a few and then you can add more to that collection in order to be seen on the app without generating again the whole app. May be there is not a way to refresh the data reload if the app is running, so you need exiting the app completely and re-launching to refresh the data or better … modify by code the application introducing a refresh icon in the toolbar and the proper associated code 😉 ! Therefore a developer could use this tool not only for a fast prototyping but also to implement some starting features of his app and then get its visual studio project in order to add more specific functions, writing the appropriate code … at least this could be in theory! Because I had a nice experience using some web graphical tools to create web sites (see this post), I decided to try this tool that has also the interesting feature to allows the download of the generated code, in order to be possibly modified adding further features/sections. To have a better idea of you can do with App Studio, you can read the how to page, where the base concepts are explained in a way that also a not programmer can understand.
If you need to make changes or try variations on some pages of an app made graphically with that tool, you can do in a snap: however if the downloaded Visual Studio project is modified, it cannot be imported anymore and no changes can be added … so also futher dynamic data cannot be introduced: however, as long as you don’t modify the url of your dynamic datasource in the source code, you can edit the data in App Studio to update it in your app 😉 !
Finally, if you have some new suggestions how to improve this tool, you can add/vote requested features in the feedback page. So let’s start! First go to the main App Studio page and click on Start new Project (up right button): it can be convenient, expecially if you are new in Windows Phone development, to read before the how to page. Moreover, to have an idea of the possibilities provided by this tool, you can also download the two tutorial apps (Contoso Ltd and Windows Phone App Studio) and some other apps realized with it and listed here. Then you have to register in this tool and accept the Windows Phone App Studio Agreement. After that you go in the page that will allow you to create a new app possibly starting from one of the provided templates : however, as clearly stated here, you can also decide to “create an empty app, which allows you to build an app from scratch by adding Sections and Data Sources and configuring its content and style using your own creativity“.
Stay tuned … I’m going to try the tool in the next few days … I hope 😉
A useful presentation (in italian) and some examples on Windows Phone App Studio can be found here.
An introduction and analysis of the generated code can be found in the Matteo Pagani‘s blog (for your convenience, you can also download here the word document that contains all the following posts):
- App Studio: let’s create our first application!
- App Studio: let’s take a look at a generated project
- App Studio: un nuovo tool di Microsoft per realizzare applicazioni Windows Phone