Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Changes in Visual Studio 2012

Introduction

Nowadays, we see that software development process is shifting from enterprise-driven process to consumer-focused approach, in which applications are fully based on the taste of consumer market and the devices they want to use. And the speed at which these devices and platform are emerging, it is becoming more and more challenging for developers. Earlier applications were used to run on a server or a desktop but today many more devices like smartphones, tablets are becoming ubiquitous. So, in this case developer must either create applications that work on multiple platforms or make applications tailored to each platform with similar logic and the most important thing is, there should be a connected experience that allow user to seamlessly move among all these devices and platforms.
But as long as Microsoft is with developers, developers need not worry. Agree ??? 

Visual Studio 2012 

Launch of Visual Studio 2012 solved a lot of problems. Now instead of the developer worrying about platform and devices, Visual Studio will take care of it. Isn't it good? Visual Studio 2012 makes it easy to develop apps for multiple platforms including Windows Smartphones, slates, Xbox and of course traditional desktops. With the birth of Portable Libraries, developer can write and compile the code once and then deploy the assembly anywhere. Enhanced version of Team Foundation Server is another major addition. Continuing to all these, one major change are App Store which help consumer to quickly search and acquire the required application software. In App Store, Applications can be monetized also either by charging or including advertisements in the application. Visual Studio 2012 provides integrated tools to publish our applications in this app store.

Major changes done in Visual Studio 2012
  • Interface of Visual Studio is redesigned in order to remove significant clutter from the screen, while still providing a fast access to major features.
  • Visual Studio 2012 is not only for developers, but many other people like stakeholders, architects, project managers, designers, testers etc.
  • Visual Studio 2012 helps developer create applications that span device boundaries. Project templates, debugging tools and portable class libraries all help to make this process easier 
  • Visual Studio 2012 supports developers by enabling them to create solutions that are highly scalable, supporting a range of models from durable full duplex synchronous services to high-throughput asynchronous services.
  • Developing a scalable solution is only half the challenge: You must also provide a suitable environment to act as a host. With Visual Studio you can develop for a range of infrastructure choices. Whether you choose to target a physical server, a virtual server, or a private or public cloud, Visual Studio 2012 is your solution. If you decide to use the Windows Azure™ public cloud offering, you can deploy directly from Visual Studio to the cloud. Visual Studio also includes IIS Express (lightweight IIS), which is suitable for testing the apps.

Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2012

  • It enables stakeholders to participate as equally as developers throughout the application life cycle and help developers in faster delivery with more business value.
  • As earlier version, Visual Studio TFS can be installed on local server but in Visual Studio 2012, Team Foundation Server is available as an online SaaS version.
  • Sometimes, some teams may be using a different development environment, such as Eclipse™. Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2012 provides adapters to connect to supported IDEs so that developers can work in their preferred development environment. 

Blend

  • It enables developer to create more stunning applications using XAML.
  • Portability between Visual Studio 2012 and Blend has been improved, and the design surface in Visual Studio has been upgraded to more closely match the experience in Blend.

Visual Studio Test Professional 2012

  • This helps testing process to fully integrate into Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC).
  • Using this test cases and testing can be performed more quicker using the same tools as developers.
  • It allows Exploratory Testing, which enables testing without creating any formal test plans. It allows Test Manager to record, attach screenshots, and create a test case
  • Testing on remote devices without installing Visual Studio 2012 or Test Manager on the device itself (only a small test agent need to be installed on the device). 
There are lots of interesting facts, which are associated with Visual Studio 2012, which I'll be posting as and when I'll get time.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Windows App Splash Screen - Beginners Tutorial

Introduction
Continuing to my previous article title, here we will see about splash screens, how to set the splash screen image and how to change the background color. 

Splash Screen
Every Windows Store app must have splash screen. Splash screen consists of image and a background color. Whenever the user will launch application, splash screen will be the first to come up. Now you might be thinking, what is the purpose of splash screen???
We all know that, whenever any application is launched, lot many things happened at backend before our application is fully launched. So, splash screen provides a way to hide all those background details from the user. This splash screen is launched, when application is initialized and as soon as our application is ready for interaction, this splash screen goes off. Isn't it a nice thing ?
Now question is can we customize this splash screen ? Then my answer will be Yes. You can customize image as well as background color. Enough of theory, let's try it out ...

Demo and sample code
Open the project in Visual Studio. Open the package.appxmanifest file from the solution explorer. Opening the manifest file by double clicking will automatically open the file in Visual Studio Manifest Designer as
















Open the ApplicationUI tab and scroll till the end, until you find Splash Screen section. If you have not modified anything in Splash Screen section, you will be able to see "images\splashscreen.png" path in the Splash Screen field and if you want to see the markup code for it then open your manifest file in the notepad or any text editor as:  
<applications>
    <application id="App" entrypoint="HelloWorldSample.App" executable="$targetnametoken$.exe">
      <visualelements description="HelloWorldSample" backgroundcolor="#464646" foregroundtext="light" smalllogo="Assets\SmallLogo.png" logo="Assets\Logo.png" displayname="HelloWorldSample">
        <defaulttile showname="allLogos">
        <splashscreen image="images\splashscreen.png">
      </splashscreen>
    </defaulttile>
  </visualelements></application></applications>


If you want to change this default image, then click on browse the browse button to select the image of your choice. Note: Please make sure that the image you are selecting must be of 620 x 300 pixels. 
Now coming to Background Color, it is also pretty simple. In the Splash Screen sectioour n, you will find the field with title Background Color. You can enter the color of your choice in this field. Setting of background color is optional for splash screen.

Things to remember while customizing splash screen:
BE careful while customizing the splash screen: As it is the first screen or let's say welcome screen of our app, it should have a good combination of image and background color. It should be very appealing. Here one thing to keep in mind is, when your application is launched, only the background color is adjusted as per the screen size, not the image size. Image size will always be intact.

USE extended splash screen
If you feel that your application needs to perform lots of background tasks before the user interation can happen or before the landing page appears, then extend your splash screen in a way, that it gives user a pleasing experience, instead of annoying.  Alternatively, you can provide additional information on the splash screen, in order to keep user busy by showing more interesting information about your application.

NEVER display advertisements
The purpose of splash screen is to let user know that app is loading, using the same for advertising and other useless stuff can confuse user also.

NEVER display about page
The main purpose of splash screen is to give user a smooth loading experience. So, your splash screen should never show information about version, date , etc.

USE proper image
It is always recommended to use the image, which gives idea about your application

USE progressbar
If you feel that your application is going to take more than a few seconds, then it is always good to show user a progress bar about application loading process.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Creating Windows Store app - Beginners tutorial

Introduction
In this tutorial we will be creating a very basic Windows Store App using XAML and C#. As this is the very first tutorial of this series, I'll be focusing mainly on project setup and basic workflows and later on, in other upcoming series, I'll be picking up more advance concepts. So, before moving forward, let's talk about the environment setup to execute our app.

Pre-requisite
In order to complete Windows 8 metro style app, our machine need following things:
  • You need Windows 8 with Microsoft Visual Studio Express 2012
  • You need developer license 

Creating a project

  • Launch Visual Studio 2012. Select File >> New Project. The New Project dialog window appears and from the left pane you can select template of your choice
















In the left panel, you can select 'Windows Store' template. Once selected, center pane will show you the list of available items for the selected template. Here we are using Blank App, which will not contain any user controls by default. If require, we can add the controls at later point of time.
Give the name and location of the project and press OK button. After clicking on OK, you will see the structure similar to as shown below:























Here you will see that, your solution contains lots of file. I'll try to brief about each of these items.
  1. Logo.png and SmallLogo.png images - to display in the start screen
  2. StoreLogo.png - to represent your app in Windows store
  3. SplashScreen.png - to show at startup of your application
  4. MainPage.xaml - to run our app
  5. Package.appxmanifest - to describe your app and lists all the files that your app contains
These above files are required for all Windows Store apps, which are built using XAML and C#. While using Blank App template, we can replace our blank page with any other page templates, in order to take advantage of layout and other helper classes. 

Replacing the MainPage

  • Delete the MainPage.xaml from Solution Explorer by rightclick nad select Delete
  • Select Project >> Add New Item
  • SelectWindows Store from left pane and pick any page template from center pane. Here I am selecting Basic Page
  • Enter the name of the page. Here I am giving MainPage.xaml. First time when you add a new page to the Blank Template, Visual Studio will show you a message as











Click Yes, to add these files. You will see, all the newly added files under the Common folder.
Build your app and now you will be able to see your page in design view. Press F5 and you will be able to see your app running as:














At this point of time, there is no button to close the app. So, you can use Alt+F4 to close it, typically we don't close Windows App (what is the reason behind this, we will see in our next article of this series). Now press the Windows key, you will be able to see a new tile added for your new app. Now to run the app, you can click or tap on that directly. Isn't it a good feature ???
Congratulations on building your first Windows store app.

Working with App.xaml

App.xaml is one of the most important files as this file is store the things, which you can access across the application. Double click and open the file. You will notice that, it contains a ResourceDictionary, which in turn has a reference of StandardStyles.xaml ResourceDictionary. This StandardStyles.xaml contain lots of style, which give look and feel to our app:

<application.resources>
        <resourcedictionary>
            <resourcedictionary.mergeddictionaries>                
                <resourcedictionary source="Common/StandardStyles.xaml">
                  </resourcedictionary>
        </resourcedictionary.mergeddictionaries>
 </resourcedictionary></application.resources>


Now go to code behind file of App.xaml. It contains a constructor, which calls InitializeComponent() method. This is the auto generated method, whose main purpose is to iniyialize all the elements, which are declared in xaml file. It also contains the suspension and activation methods as:

using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.IO;
using System.Linq;
using Windows.ApplicationModel;
using Windows.ApplicationModel.Activation;
using Windows.Foundation;
using Windows.Foundation.Collections;
using Windows.UI.Xaml;
using Windows.UI.Xaml.Controls;
using Windows.UI.Xaml.Controls.Primitives;
using Windows.UI.Xaml.Data;
using Windows.UI.Xaml.Input;
using Windows.UI.Xaml.Media;
using Windows.UI.Xaml.Navigation;
 
// The Blank Application template is documented at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=234227

namespace HelloWorldSample
{
    /// <summary>
    /// Provides application-specific behavior to supplement the default Application class.
    /// </summary>
    sealed partial class App : Application
    {
        /// <summary>
        /// Initializes the singleton application object.  This is the first line of authored code
        /// executed, and as such is the logical equivalent of main() or WinMain().
        /// </summary>
        public App()
        {
            this.InitializeComponent();
            this.Suspending += OnSuspending;
        }
 
        /// <summary>
        /// Invoked when the application is launched normally by the end user.  Other entry points
        /// will be used when the application is launched to open a specific file, to display
        /// search results, and so forth.
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name="args" />Details about the launch request and process.
        protected override void OnLaunched(LaunchActivatedEventArgs args)
        {
            Frame rootFrame = Window.Current.Content as Frame;
 
            // Do not repeat app initialization when the Window already has content,
            // just ensure that the window is active
            if (rootFrame == null)
            {
                // Create a Frame to act as the navigation context and navigate to the first page
                rootFrame = new Frame();
 
                if (args.PreviousExecutionState == ApplicationExecutionState.Terminated)
                {
                    //TODO: Load state from previously suspended application
                }
 
                // Place the frame in the current Window
                Window.Current.Content = rootFrame;
            }
 
            if (rootFrame.Content == null)
            {
                // When the navigation stack isn't restored navigate to the first page,
                // configuring the new page by passing required information as a navigation
                // parameter
                if (!rootFrame.Navigate(typeof(MainPage), args.Arguments))
                {
                    throw new Exception("Failed to create initial page");
                }
            }
            // Ensure the current window is active
            Window.Current.Activate();
        }
 
        /// <summary>
        /// Invoked when application execution is being suspended.  Application state is saved
        /// without knowing whether the application will be terminated or resumed with the contents
        /// of memory still intact.
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name="sender" />The source of the suspend request.
        /// <param name="e" />Details about the suspend request.
        private void OnSuspending(object sender, SuspendingEventArgs e)
        {
            var deferral = e.SuspendingOperation.GetDeferral();
            //TODO: Save application state and stop any background activity
            deferral.Complete();
        }
    }
}

Now moving to MainPage.xaml. This file defines the UI for your app. In code behind of this file, you will notice that, it uses LayoutAwarePage, which extends Page class and provides various mathods for navigation, view management and page management. In MainPage.xaml.cs file, you can add logic and event handlers for your application. The Basic Page template has two mathods, which you can use to save and load the page state.
protected override void LoadState(Object navigationParameter, Dictionary<string,string> pageState)
  {  }
 
 protected override void SaveState(Dictionary<string,string> pageState)
 {  }

Adding content to MainPage.xaml
Open MainPage.xaml from solution explorer. Now if you want to add more content, just open the xaml and start adding it as:

<stackpanel margin="120,80,0,0" grid.row="1">
                <textblock width="Auto" height="29" text="Welcome to my first windows store app">

Run your application by pressing F5 and you will see below changes:




Hope this material will be a very good start for beginners.

The URL you requested has been blocked as per DOT guidelines

Today while doing internet surfing, I found that few sites are giving error message as: 








and the solution to this error is:
  1. Go to this URLand download Tor Browser Bundle 
  2. Extract the downloaded folder on your machine
  3. Run start Tor for browser
  4. And you are done. Now access the internet and your issue is resolved. 
Hope it helps :)