Sponsored by Windows 8 Updates & Events

Sponsored by Windows 8

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10 reasons you should develop an app for Windows 8

We give you 10 reasons why you should develop an app for Windows 8 from new creative opportunities for app designers to free development tools.

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  • 10 great resources for developing Windows 8 apps!

    Where do you start if you want to create an app? We bring you ten ways to prepare for creating your first Windows Store app. From technical preparation to design guidelines, you’ll find everything you need right here. So what’s stopping you? dive in!

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  • The Pro Guide to Windows Store App Development

    Developing for Windows 8 really is easy, as this article will demonstrate. There are a few pre-requisites but the support available from the huge Microsoft ecosystem is fantastic, and there really are no barriers to you getting some fantastic apps out there and selling on the Windows Store. So how do we get started?

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  • Submitting your app to the Windows Store

    Getting an app into the Store and seeing it available for download by millions of users is a great buzz for any developer.  However, in order to make your app available in most stores you first need to go through a certification process, and Windows 8 is no different.

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  • 10 reasons you should develop an app for Windows 8

    We give you 10 reasons why you should develop an app for Windows 8 from new creative opportunities for app designers to free development tools.

    Read more.

    Windows 8 App Competition: Awards night report

    It’s been a thrilling three months for Windows 8 developers up and down the country, as they’ve gone head-to-head in a prestigious app-building competition run by Microsoft in association with Future Publishing – the home of such well-known digital media brands as Tech Radar. net magazine and Creative Bloq.

    The contest, which offered a range of amazing prizes worth a total of £40,000, reached its heady climax on the evening of 7 th February. Entrants travelled to London with friends and family for a glittering awards ceremony, where prizes were given out for the top 10 shortlisted apps and the overall Grand Prize winner.

    The awards night, which took place at London’s Modern Jago. showcased the high standard of apps currently being developed for Windows 8. Developers are keen to build apps for the platform, as they can now take advantage of unique features such as Live Tiles, Contracts and SkyDrive to design experiences that engage with millions of consumers in exciting new ways. And the apps on show, including everything from social media clients to music apps, creative games and beyond – demonstrated the huge range of possibilities Windows 8 offers.

    The judging panel featured representatives from Future’s leading design and technology titles, including the Digital Design Group’s editor-in-chief Dan Oliver, Creative Bloq’s Craig Stewart. net magazine editor Oliver Lindberg, and Computer Arts editor Nick Carson. Rounding out the panel was deputy editor of Tech Radar Dan Grabham, who has been using and writing about Windows 8 since the early developer preview build.

    All were extremely impressed with the high quality of entries to the competition, with an imaginative mix of those that had kept to the style guide for Windows 8-style apps and those who had taken Windows apps to a new level.

    But there could only be ten shortlisted winners and one overall winner. These were introduced by Tim O’Brien, who leads the platform strategy group in Developer & Platform Evangelism at Microsoft, and has been at the forefront of the company’s cloud efforts since 2005. The winners were handed their gongs by Declan Gough, publisher of Future’s Digital Design Group, and the night was rounded off with a thank-you speech by Anna Kinney, director of Microsoft’s Live@edu program.

    You can find out who the victors were and learn about their winning apps here .

    Features

    10 reasons you should develop an app for Windows 8

    Jonathan Seal and Matt Salmon of Mando Group reveal 10 reasons you should start developing for Windows 8 today!

    Given the strong existing market for apps across Android and iOS, developers could be forgiven for thinking “why bother?” with Microsoft’s latest offering – or at least adopting a “wait and see” approach following the release of Windows 8 only last month.

    And let’s face it, even without ambiguity on sales for devices or Windows 8 installs, the Windows Store is not exactly the bustling marketplace Microsoft would like to see. Microsoft is avoiding stats –partly for legitimate reasons – but even the most ardent supporter would acknowledge that the much-hyped 100,000 apps in the store by January 2013 is reliant on engaging with developers on an unprecedented scale.

    Regardless of whether the Windows team are covered in egg or champagne at the end of Windows 8’s first quarter, the only thing that matters longer-term is how much of an impact it makes in those critical tablet and mobile markets, so you’d have to be pretty confident to suggest jumping into Windows 8 app development now, right? Yes. Here are ten reasons it makes sense …

    Microsoft are taking Windows 8 into an already crowded tablet market. Is the new OS and hardware are suitably differentiated from the competition?

    1. The potential user base

    On the desktop it might not seem like the behemoth that is Windows 7, and comparing numbers with iOS for phones and tablets makes uncomfortable reading too, but don’t be fooled into thinking Windows 8 won’t give you the audience your app deserves.

    The somewhat sluggish start to the release is to be expected from consumers.  Remember that Windows 8 is a far broader platform than iOS and Android, and will accompany a far wider range of target devices.  A less tightly-controlled product range is bound to lead to some hesitation and the sense that a different/better Windows 8 device may arrive imminently.  That inertia will fade as the gravitational pull of 1bn existing Windows users starts to feed into upgrades and new product cycles, and the marketing machine of Microsoft push into their more traditional home-office and office user base.

    In this frontier world, smaller developers also have more potential to make an impact than is now the case on established platforms.  Lower app numbers can work in your favour as we see a repeat of Android and iOS consumption behaviour, with new platform users willing to give apps a chance before more conservative habits kick-in.

    1. A realistic platform for business users

    Ever tried to do more than just view Office documentation or calendar entries on your beautiful Apple tablet?  It may be a joy leafing through magazines and media surfing, but some of us have work to do!  There’s only so many times you can play the “Email to self, edit in Pages, email to self” ping pong game before the whole thing seems very cumbersome.

    Windows 8 has business productivity built into its bones, a fact that will inevitably drive adoption by IT managers previously resistant to the clamouring for tablets.  This creates scope for apps geared around the Office suite of course, but just as critically the adoption of Win 8 tablet computing across the mainstream business community significantly builds up the overall market for apps of all kinds.   And these business users are unlikely to leave their shiny Win 8 tablets at the office in the evenings, right?

    Deep and seamless integration with the wider Microsoft product landscape opens a corporate market in which competitors will continue to struggle

    1. It provides new creative opportunities for app designers

    We asked Anthony Dry, Lead Designer at Mando Group, for his take on what the new UI provides for creatives.

    “The biggest opportunities with Windows 8 are a result of the radical departure from the typical skeuomorphism we see on phone and tablets.  In reading content you still have a sense that you are picking up a leather-bound book from a bookshelf and turning pages, but Microsoft’s ‘content over chrome’ approach has broken that link and created something extremely minimalist which is also extremely beautiful.  The live tiles and full screen view of your app both deserve a mention, as they allow me to provide great information and functionality for users without having to take up space with unnecessary design clutter, all within a consistent UI experience.

    “Another key part of the landscape is the infinite canvas, forcing you to design in a very responsive and scalable way for use across the range of devices all using the same app.  In designing financial apps it creates great opportunities to enhance data, and it will be interesting to see how games designers bring the canvas into their thinking to create a truly platform specific concept game.”

    Anthony found that the Windows 8 design metaphors lent themselves well to the display of financial data when designing the user interface for Brookson’s Window 8 application

    Designers can put aside the usual boxes and chrome, and instead focus on elimination of the gap between the user and the content they are consuming

    1. You may already have the development skills you need

    Web developers rejoice! Because for those who have a preference for open languages which can be used elsewhere, the capabilities of the underlying Windows 8 platform – WinRT – are also accessible from JavaScript. Therefore the alternative approach is to start with HTML5 markup for application structure and CSS3 for layout and styling, and build the application logic using JavaScript.

    If you have a background in Windows application development, or you’re a web developer using the Microsoft technology stack, then moving into Windows 8 territory will offer many familiar and reassuring landmarks. The developer tools are rolled into the same Visual Studio suite already offered, and the choice of development approaches evolve and iterate upon existing languages and syntax.

    Developers of Windows rich client applications will already have skills in XAML, the markup language used to define the structure, layout and visual theme of application components. A variant of this language, combined with Visual Basic.NET, C# or C++ for logical application control, is the belt-and-braces approach for native Windows 8 app development.

    1. HTML5 is a full-fledged application platform in Windows 8

    Most developers know a little bit of HTML and JavaScript, even if you’re not a web specialist. When you choose to build a Windows 8 app using HTML5 and JavaScript, all of the Windows 8 platform capability is exposed using these standard web languages. To give an idea of the complexity of application that is possible using this approach, consider that this is the way the Windows 8 mail app has been built, proving that the HTML5 approach isn’t just for small scale consumer apps but is equally valid for line-of-business applications

    The Windows 8 mail app, built using HTML5 and JavaScript. See here for more details

    A basic Windows 8 application page using HTML and JavaScript. Note the references to the WinJS libraries (JavaScript and CSS)

    1. Best-of-breed development tools. For free.

    Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows 8 is the perfect way to start developing Windows 8 applications

    Microsoft receives a lot of heat in the press about the quality of their software (Windows Vista, anyone?).As a Goliath in the software space they tend to polarise opinion, but one of the truly outstanding products Microsoft offer is their developer workbench, Visual Studio. If you’re a developer on the Microsoft platform the chances are you already have everything you need, but even for a hobbyist the barrier to entry couldn’t be lower thanks to the free “Express” flavours such as Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows 8 .

    Once you have the tools installed, getting a “hello world” app up and running takes minutes. From there the learning curve is a gentle incline thanks to Visual Design surfaces, intuitive debugging features and an inbuilt device simulator to check how your app responds on different hardware. When you’re ready to dive deeper and build your first app, you couldn’t be better supported, with extensive API documentation. sample apps and guides on Microsoft’s DevCenter, not to mention recorded sessions from Microsoft’s Dev Camps events available via Channel 9. Even for the die-hard Android or iOS developer, there’s a lot here to tempt.

    1. Cool platform features

    The Windows Store apps section of the Windows DevCenter showing code downloads and related content for a feature sample

    Nobody is going to be interested in creating a new app for a mobile or tablet device unless they have access to all the ‘old hat’ features offered by competitors, plus some innovative differentiators. In Windows 8, the ‘expected’ features, from geolocation to splash screens, are delightfully easy to implement using code samples available in the DevCenter .

    Here’s our pick of 3 top differentiating features in Windows 8:

    a. Notifications for any occasion. Live tiles provide the user with at-a-glance updates directly from their start screen. Toast notifications, which pop out much in the same way as their namesake, are slightly more demanding of the user’s attention. You can even show small notifications on the ‘locked’ screen when the device is not being used. All are highly configurable.

    b. Background task framework. Allows your app to do work even when the app isn’t running, such as sending a notification, or fetching data from the web.

    c. Contracts. These are the Windows 8 platform’s way of saying “if you do this, your app will get all that infrastructure and functionality for free”. Your app can be searchable, shareable and use a common user settings framework by implementing the appropriate contracts.

    1. Connected standby allows apps to keep their data fresh

    It’s clear that Microsoft have put some serious ground-up thought into the user experience of Windows 8. One of the biggest gripes Windows users have had is the extended startup time when their PC is being switched on, so it’s a delight to see a Microsoft OS which snaps into life within seconds of being woken. But what’s going on under the hood when the device is in standby mode is also significant from an application perspective, as the default ‘off’ mode is a state known as ‘connected standby’.

    In connected standby mode, the objective is for the device to use almost as little power as if it were switched off, meaning that there is no need for sleep or suspend options. However, apps can still receive data and respond to events, such as keeping Live Tiles updated with fresh content or receiving emails, albeitwith a throttled power allowance dictated by the hardware. A great summary of how this works and supported application scenarios can be read on the ‘building Windows 8’ blog .

    1. Straightforward publishing of your app to the Windows Store

    The Windows 8 Store dashboard showing key facts about your apps and ways to improve

    So you’ve installed the tools, got a developer licence. chosen your development language, read the documentation and put together your first Windows 8 application. Time to unleash it upon the world!

    Your application must pass the certification requirements published by Microsoft before it can be included in the Store, but the terms of these requirements are explained in plain English and there is a Certification Kit available which means that you can validate many of the requirements yourself before submission. Visual Studio provides the means to package your application and upload it to the store via the Store menu, and once submitted you will receive feedback on each stage of the certification process, including any reasons for rejection. As an application provider logging on to the Store, you have access to a dashboard which shows downloads, revenue and ways to improve your app, plus comparisons with other similar apps. If you tweak your app as a result of this feedback, you’re free to submit updates to your app as long as you describe the updates and do not reduce functionality.

    1. And finally…It pays more (in theory)

    Sadly there is no ‘make money’ button…

    For most developers, the dream of striking gold with a commercial app remains just that.  However, if you do create something staggeringly popular, your returns from the Windows store will be proportionally higher than those of a few other app stores we could mention.  When your app’s lifetime revenue hits the equivalent of $25,000 you move from the industry standard 70% up to 80%.

    And to help oil those commercial wheels, standard Windows store functionality allows you to create a single app that also acts as a time or feature limited trial, enabling users to transition to the fully paid app without losing data or settings and saving you time and effort managing multiple versions of the code base.  As expected, they also offer in-app purchasing, advertising, and third-party transactions to support monetisation for your apps.  What are you waiting for ?

    10 great resources for developing Windows 8 apps!

    Windows 8 is here, and it has the potential to be huge! The majority of new Windows tablets and PCs will be bundled with Microsoft’s latest operating system in 2013, and if you want to steal a march on the competition then you should be thinking about developing apps for Windows 8 right now.

    Microsoft has taken the bold approach to ditch UI elements that have featured in its OS for decades – the Start button, Task Bar, all gone – and Windows 8 apps (or Windows Store apps, as we’re encouraged to call them) will now have a consistent, elegant, minimalistic design and UI, thanks to new a new visual language developed in Redmond.

    Microsoft has also done its best to make things as simple as possible for devs. Windows Store apps can be built using skills you’ll already have if you’ve worked in a Windows environment (C#, VB.NET and C++), but has also made it easy for web devs, too (with a JavaScript version of Visual Studio Express 2012).

    But where do you start if you want to create an app? In this post we bring you ten ways to prepare for creating your first Windows Store app. From technical preparation to design guidelines, you’ll find everything you need right here. So what’s stopping you? Dive in!

    Get hold of Windows 8

    Before you do anything, you need to get hooked up with Windows 8. You won’t be able to test or develop any Windows Store apps without it, and there are two main ways to get it as a developer.

    If you are already an MSDN member then you can get your hands on a version of Windows 8  under the ‘Download software’ link. There are a host of versions to choose from, and there are no restrictions for MSDN members.

    If you’re not an MSDN member, and it’s hardly something you’re likely to pay for if you’re merely experimenting, then you can still get a 90-day evaluation copy of Windows 8 for free here. It’s worth noting, though, that if you do opt to install this version, you can’t then upgrade.

    You’ll have to reinstall a previous version, and upgrade from there. With this in mind it’s worth running the trial in a virtual environment. And if you’re on a Mac, simply set up a Windows partition using Boot Camp, Apple’s free utility for running Windows.

    Microsoft Visual Studio Express 2012

    It’s the IDE of choice for any discerning Windows Store app developer, and this free tool for building apps – based on .Net and the Windows APIs – brings you everything you need in one app.

    The Express 2012 release provides you with IDEs for developing Windows 8 appsusing XAML in conjunction with C#, VB.NET and C++. Web developers can also use HTML5 and JavaScript or build hybrid applications to get the best of every environment. And there are also tools for code analysis and testing, with the Simulator functionality enabling to see how your app will look when it’s finished (with the need for standalone test PCs and tablets).

    To develop and test Windows Store apps, you need a developer license, which is free. Following installation, when Visual Studio prompts you, simply follow the prompt to get your license. And don’t forget that Microsoft also provides some great remote testing tools for Visual Studio 2012 here .

    Blend for Visual Studio 2012

    As part of Microsoft Visual Studio Express 2012 you also get Blend for Visual Studio 2012, a modified version of Microsoft’s app design tool, which now supports visual authoring for HTML and CSS.

    Blend for Visual Studio 2012 now has greater support for Windows 8 app features such as bars, Grid view, and view states. In a bid to provide a seamless app development environment for those of you looking to build Windows 8 apps Microsoft has now included native C++ support to this version of Blend, and both Express 2012 and Blend for Visual Studio 2012 share a code base for easy transition between the two apps.

    Make great Windows Store Apps

    If you’re going to read one article as an introduction to how to make great apps for Windows 8, then this is probably it.

    As an overview, it’s a good introduction to the new Microsoft design aesthetic; reiterating the importance of the new touch system, and presenting the new standards for controls and interactions that will – for the first time – provide Microsoft with a consistent user experience across the apps on its OS.

    As part of this introduction, you also get a video from Bonny Lau, Senior Program  Manager of Windows User Experience. Titled ‘8 traits of great Windows Store apps’, the video does a great job of visually introducing the elements of a Windows 8 app, and also introduces the Contracts system – the way apps can interact with one another. Microsoft calls Contacts the ‘glue that binds’ its apps together, and it opens up exciting opportunities for the way apps will work together in the Windows 8 ecosystem. You can read more about Contracts here .

    Planning great apps

    The British Army knows a little bit about planning, and there’s an old adage in the military called the 7 Ps, which goes along the lines of Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. There’s a version without the profanity, but it helps reinforce the huge importance of planning in any project.

    To help you get this part of the process right, Microsoft has produced a seven step guide. which looks as areas such as features to include, how to monetize your app, tips on a great UI, validating your app and more! The guide is littered with practical tips, and links out to great tutorials such as this one. on animating your UI.

    Writing apps (in C#/C++/VB)

    If your primary experience is in coding with C#, C++, or Visual Basic then the chances are – unless you’re some kind of masochistic freak – that you’ll want to create your first Windows 8 app using your current skills.

    A number of posts help you out with some of the major pain points hat you’ll finds when coding your app, such as the big differences between Windows 8 and other XAML-based platforms (Windows Presentation Foundation, Microsoft Silverlight or Silverlight for Windows Phone).

    You’ll also find tips on taking advantage of asynchronous coding, which greatly improves performance and continues to be simplified in the Windows Runtime.You can find all the articles here .

    Writing apps (in JavaScript)

    We all love HTML5, right? And Microsoft has been one of the biggest champions of the interactivity that it can bring to your web experience. And now, using those dev skills and more, you can move beyond web apps to create your first Windows 8 app (and take advantage of all the OS benefits that a proprietary app has over a simple web experience).

    Whilst the core of creating a JavaScript app for Windows 8 is based on existing web technologies that most developers are familiar with, there are some differences. And you should read this post to discover how Windows 8 apps can include additional HTML features, such as control styling and date elements.

    You can also get hold of Visual Studio Extensions for JavaScript. which includes files to help debugging and IntelliSense (auto completion in Visual Studio), as well as JavaScript controls, objects, and helper APIs and patterns and CSS styles that make it easier for you to create apps more efficiently.

    Designing UX for Windows 8

    It’s fair to say that, over the years, interface design and UX isn’t an area that Microsoft has led. Apps and iterations of the OS have looked good, but in its recent design language, known as Modern UI. Microsoft is putting design front-and-centre.

    First seen in Windows Phone, and now being rolled out to the Xbox and Windows 8, Modern UI is a bold and brave move beyond the skeuomorphic trends favoured by Apple. It’s clean, typographically elegant, and provides designers with – for the first time in a Windows context – a clear set of design and UX principles.

    Microsoft has provided a host of great guides. from top level considerations such as navigation design and how to present page filtering, to primers on how to best brand you app. The Windows 8 touch language, as one of the standout features of Windows 8 apps, gets particular attention, and is probably the most important single topic for devs and designers to acquaint themselves with .

    This group of articles is a comprehensive resource, full of great tips and advice, which bring app builders up to speed with the design principles and lingua franca of Windows 8 apps.

    Help for iOS app developers

    There’s no point avoiding the subject: to get developers on side, Microsoft is doing everything it can to illustrate how easy it is to make the switch from developing iOS apps to the Windows 8 equivalents, and this includes porting over existing products.

    To begin with, if you come from an iOS background Microsoft has gone to great lengths to produce documentation to help you along the way. There are basic guides, an Objective-C versus C# overview, and an API mapping index, which enables you to easily cross-reference common iOS APIs with their Windows 8 equivalents.

    You can even find a tutorial on translating an iPad app to a Windows Store app. which isn’t about converting your code, but is more about applying Microsoft’s principles to what you’ve no doubt already spent a lot of time crafting. It’s a well written guide, presented by ex-Saatchi & Saatchi Art Director Bart Claeys, who is currently Lead User Experience Designer at Ratio Interactive.

    Support for Windows 8 app development

    Even if you’re not a member of MSDN, there are a number of great support networks out there, should you choose to develop a Windows 8 app.

    First up, you should check out if there’s a Windows 8 Developer Camp happening near you. With camps taking place around the world over the next few months, the chances are that you’ll find one that’s suitable, and the best thing is that they’re completely free. For camps in the UK visit here  or for further afield visit here. There are also Windows Store App Labs (London listing ) in London and other cities, where you can drop in and play with the latest devices, as well as speaking to experts who can help out with any technical questions you might have.

    www.windows-store.co.uk/training

    If you prefer to do your research online, Microsoft has that covered, too. You can access forums here. and there’s a ‘Windows Store for developers’ blog that’s also starting to post content on a more regular basis. So, whether you’re looking for face-to-face guidance, or research at your own pace online, there’s something for everyone.

    Chick this out