Archives

Archives / 2012 / March
  • Displaying Large Text Files in Windows Phone Apps

    Have you ever needed to provide instructions or help for your Windows Phone app and found yourself creating gobs of XAML and writing it in the Visual Studio designer into a TextBlock control? Not very efficient is it? Here’s a technique you can use that might make things easier.

    Ingredients

    • 1 Text File (preferable something appropriate to your app)
    • 1 Phone Application Page
    • 30 Lines of Code

    Preparation

    Create a new Phone Application Page (or use an existing one). Add a ScrollViewer to it like so:

    <!--ContentPanel - place additional content here-->

    <Grid x:Name="ContentPanel" Grid.Row="1" Margin="12,0,12,0">

        <ScrollViewer x:Name="ScrollingTexFromHell"/>

    </Grid>

    You’ll need a text file to display so create one in your project. By default it’s type is set as Content so that’s what we want. Just make sure the file is copied to the project (you can choose to copy always or copy if newer, doesn’t matter). I use Bacon Ipsum to get me some sample text because well, it’s bacon baby.

    In the code behind add a method like this:

    private static StackPanel TextToXaml(string filename)
    {
        var panel = new StackPanel();
        var resourceStream = Application.GetResourceStream(new Uri(filename, UriKind.RelativeOrAbsolute));
        if (resourceStream != null)
        {
            using (var reader = new StreamReader(resourceStream.Stream))
            {
                string line;
                do
                {
                    line = reader.ReadLine();
                    if (string.IsNullOrEmpty(line))
                    {
                        panel.Children.Add(new Rectangle { Height = 20.0 });
                    }
                    else
                    {
                        var textBlock = new TextBlock
                        {
                            TextWrapping = TextWrapping.Wrap,
                            Text = line,
                            Style = (Style)Application.Current.Resources["PhoneTextNormalStyle"],
                            FontSize = 22,
                        };
                        panel.Children.Add(textBlock);
                    }
                } while (line != null);
            }
        }
        return panel;
    }

    Finally add a Loaded Event to your page to execute this when the page loads and assign the value of the method above to your ScrollViewer.

    // Constructor
    public MainPage()
    {
        InitializeComponent();
        Loaded += OnPageLoaded;
    }
    
    private void OnPageLoaded(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)
    {
        ScrollingTexFromHell.Content = TextToXaml("mytextfile.txt");
    }

    The Result

    screenshot_3-31-2012_8.14.49.714

    The code is really simple. It just reads in the text file as a stream and reads each line in the text file. A StackPanel is created in our method and whenever the reader hits a blank line it inserts a small rectangle, otherwise it creates a TextBlock control with the content set to the line. You can adjust the height of the space between paragraphs and the font style and size but I picked something that I think looks pretty good when reading long text.

    The paragraphs are stacked up in the StackPanel control which is then set as the content to the ScrollViewer we inserted. The user can just scroll through the entire text as they need to.

    Enhancements? Of course. You could

    • Put this into a Phone Class Library and use it as you see fit (you could even create a NuGet package!)
    • Add parameters to the TextToXaml method like font size and spacing
    • Do extra things with the reader while processing the text. For example you could recognize a new line and make each new line bold or larger so the first line in each paragraph would be a heading.

    Have fun with it. It’s simple and I find it’s better than entering the text into the XAML page directly.

  • Official and unofficial apps in the iOS, WP7, and Android marketplaces

    The last few months have seen people complaining about the lack of "official" apps in the Windows Phone marketplace. In fact a couple of months ago I wrote about this very thing here and if we really needed these official apps or could get by with third-party solutions.

    Recently a list of "Top 100 Mobile Apps" crossed my desk and it was curious. 40 iPhone apps, 40 Android apps, 10 WP7 apps, and 10 BlackBerry apps. Really? 10 for WP7? So I wondered if the media was just playing this up and maybe continuing to do what I think most vendors are doing which is treating Windows Phone as the red-headed step-child you keep in the basement while all along there's nothing wrong with them.

    I put together the list and went digging to see how many of the top 40 iOS and Android apps were also on the Windows Phone platform (sorry BlackBerry, you should just shut your doors right now). Here's the results. Note, these are all free apps. There might be other pay apps that have official representation across all mobile devices, I just chose to hunt these ones down because I'm cheap.

    In the top 40, I easily plucked out 20 that had official apps on all three platforms. These were: Amazon Mobile, ESPN Score Centre, Evernote, Facebook, Foursquare, Google Search, IMDB, Kindle, Shazam, Skype (yes, I know, in beta on WP7), SlackerRadio, The Weather Channel, TripIt, Twitter, Yelp, Flixster, Netflix, TuneIn Radio, Dictionary.com, Angry Birds, and Groupon.

    Hey, that's pretty good IMHO. 20 or so apps, all free, and all fully functional and supported (and in some cases, even better looking on the Windows Phone platform than the other platforms).

    A dozen or so more apps had official apps on some platforms but not all, so yes, there are gaps here. Here's a rundown of the hangers-on:

    Adobe Photoshop Express

    This looks great on the iOS platform and there's even an official version on droid. Hope Adobe brings this to WP7. There are other photo editing programs though if you go looking (maybe we can get Paint.NET to be ported to the phone?)

    BBC News

    A few apps offer news feeds but nothing official on the Windows Phone. The feeds are good but without video this app needs some WP7 love.

    Dropbox

    Again Windows Phone looses out here with no official app. There are a few third party ones that will help you along and offer most of the functionality that you need but no integration that an official app might bring.

    Epicurious

    Droid seems to be the trailer here as there are apps for it but nothing official (from what I can tell). Both iOS and WP7 have them.

    Flipboard

    It's sad with Flipboard as it's such a great newsreader. The only offiical app is for iOS but frankly the iPhone version looks horrible so without a tablet the experience here isn't that hot. Maybe with WP8. Currently there's nothing even remotely similar to this on the other platforms.

    Google+

    Is anyone still using this? No official app for WP7 but some clones. Apparently there's no API so people are just screen scraping. Ugh.

    Mint.com

    This app has all kinds of buzz and a lot of votes on the application requests site. Official apps for iOS and droid. No WP7 love (yet).

    TED

    Quite a few TED apps on WP7 but nothing official. I think the third party ones suffice and some are pretty nice looking, taking advantage of the Metro interface and making for a good show.

    WebMD

    There's a third party app on WP7 here but nothing official. It seems to contain all the same information and functionality the official apps do so not sure if an official one is needed but its here for inclusion.

    The other apps in the top 40 were either very specific to the platform (for example all three of them have a "Find my Phone" app). There are others that are missing out on the WP7 platform like ooVoo, Words With Friends, and some of the Google apps (Google Voice for example). Since you can integrate your GMail account right into the Windows Phone (via linked inboxes) I'm not sure if there's a need for an official GMail app here.

    Looking at the numbers Windows Phone still gets the worst of the deal here with half a dozen highly popular "offical" apps that exist on the other mobile platforms and in some cases, nothing even remotely similar to the official app to compare. This doesn't include things like Instagram, PInterest, and others (don't get me started on those).

    Still, with over 20+ highly popular free apps all represented on all three mobile platforms I don't think it's a bad place to be in. The Windows Phone platform could get a little more love from the vendors missing here, or at least open up your APIs so the third party crowd can step in and take up the slack.

    P.S. these are just my observations and I might have got a few items wrong. Feel free to chime in with missing or incorrect information. I am after all human. Well, most of me is.

  • PrairieDevCon 2012 Sessions

    As a follow-up to yesterdays note about my Windows Phone Developer Workshop (there's still room for more peeps!) here's a list of regular sessions I'm presenting at PrairieDevCon 2012.

    SharePoint Client Object Model: Accessing SharePoint Externally Using JavaScript

     

    In SharePoint 2010 there are a number of object models that can be used by developers to access the server. The Client Object Model (Client OM) is a unified model which uses the same or similar programming concepts as the Server Object Model (Server OM). The Client OM can be accessed via web services, via a client (JavaScript) API, and via REST. Everything from enumerating sites and lists, displaying list items, adding and creating content, and getting user information can be done all from the Client Object Model. In this session we'll explore the Client Object Model and create examples accessing SharePoint data using JavaScript and jQuery.

    Application Design for Windows Phone

     

    In the past year, we’ve worked with hundreds of developers and designers interpreting the "Metro" design system for their own purposes. We’ve seen great interpretations, and others that aren’t so great. In this session, we’ll share with you the foundations of great Metro application design for Windows Phone, and how to use them to build outstanding applications that will stand out and get noticed… for good reasons. We will also be providing some general best practices for building great mobile experiences.

    The Marketplace – What Makes a Successful App on Windows Phone?

     

    If you are a developer and have even thought about developing Windows Phone lately, you likely already know that every app and game that is installed on consumer Windows Phone 7.5 devices comes from the Marketplace. This is new to the traditional Windows Phone ecosystem prior to version 7, and while in some cases this does introduce a change for developers and users, there is a lot of reasons why this change is a great one. In this session, we go through both the consumer and developer/publisher experience on the Marketplace and strategies for distributing your app and game both publicly and privately. We will also provide an overview of our Marketplace presence around the world and what new countries have been introduced with the release of the new 7.5 (formerly codenamed “Mango”) update. Finally, we will provide you with strategies on how to increase the popularity of your applications and games and (if you are charging a price for your masterpiece) how to make more money.

  • Get Juiced with me and 10,000 friends at Prairie Dev Con West

    I”m happy to say that Prairie Dev Con West 2012 is almost upon us. In just over a week geeks from the five corners of the planet will get together and talk about D’Arcy Lussier’s hair and hope that the Mad Mexican doesn’t crash their session.

    Why is this picture here?For me there’s a few sessions I’m presenting including a day long workshop on Windows Phone Development. If you’re looking to learn hands-on development with a Jedi Master then you’ll need to find a different conference. If however you want to try your hand at learning with me and watch me stumble through trying to run Windows on a MacBook Pro, then bring it. Here’s a rundown of what we’ll be covering with the Windows Phone Developer Workshop.

    Start your engines and we’ll go from 0-11 in 60 minutes with building more Hello World apps you’ve ever seen. They’ll be a Hello app, a World app, and even a Hello World app. Everything you need to know to get started with Windows Phone development. After a series of Hello World apps you’ll be ready to build anything (well, anything with the words Hello and World in them)

    • Everyone talks about the Model-View-ViewModel (or as we experts say MVVM) pattern when it comes to data binding on the Windows Phone. We’ll explore every concievable angle to using the MVVM pattern, tools that make it less painful to implement the pattern, and different ways we can spell MVVM (like MVMV, MVCM, and the ever popular MCMXXVII)
    • For me I’m all about the bling and love to criticize apps that make my eyes bleed. Help me make my eyes bleed less by learning the Metro design language. We’ll just randomly pick ones in the marketplace and rip them a new one. If you like watching Gordon Ramsay yell down at people that cook like donkeys then you’ll fit right into this part of day. I guarantee you’ll know the Metro ways after this or I’ll beat your with your own skull.
    • Mango introduces about 800,000 new API features and we’ll look at every one of them in detail. There are some cool tools that will help you debug and work with apps in the emulator and we’ll go over the new and old stuff in Mango. This part of the session may extend the day so bring a sleeping bag and some Red Bull to keep you going through the night.
    • Expression Blend is the most complex piece of software ever known to man. We’ll try to figure it out. Barring that, we’ll just sit around and sing Kumbaya and make jokes about people from Edmonton.

    I’m also presenting a session on using the JavaScript Client Object Model with SharePoint 2010. We’ll build some funky stuff and learn how to iterate lists, sites, and build alternate UIs for SharePoint without writing a single line of C# code. There are also two additional sessions on Windows Phone that I’m planning on doing which is a deep dive into marketing and design. Oh yeah, there are other people doing sessions at the conference too.

    The 10,000 friends? Okay, so I think the attendance for Prairie Dev Con West is only a few hundred, but I like to use my imagination and pretend I can see ten times more people than there really are. Same effect when I drink.

    In any case, if you haven’t registered already please consider it. D’Arcy puts on a damn good show and the quality being presented here (sans me) is top notch and there’s a huge diversity of sessions to take in.

    Also remember the pre-con day-long workshops are there. If all you want to take in is a workshop, that’s cool too and you’ll get a full day earful of Agile, Windows Phone Development, and TFS Build sessions. Still an absolute cheapskate like me? Then there’s a day long Windows Azure Boot Camp you can come out to that absolutely free (as in beer,  but space is limited) and even includes breakfast and lunch (sorry, the Microsoft IT Virtualization Boot Camp is sold out).

    Come on down and get smart(ish).