For Microsoft Kool-Aid Drinkers, Non-paid MS Evangelists written by a Senior Consultant, Passionate about Tech

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ApplicationBar

Okay, we have finally made it to our final post on using the awesome tool, Metro Studio, by Syncfusion to create great assets for your Windows Phone Application.  Hopefully you got something out of the last three posts:

Metro Studio, Part 1 – Splash Screen

Metro Studio, Part 2 – Icons and Tiles

Metro Studio, Part 3 – Background

Todays focus is going to be on creating a quick application bar using the plethora of icons available in Metro Studio.  It is amazing how quickly we can create a great looking application bar for our application.  So, let’s get to it.

Before we get started, I have a little bad news.  My system crashed the other day and I lost the Metro Studio project that we were using for the previous posts.  I did, however,  have the Visual Studio project backed up, so we are good there.  I won’t be going back to create everything the way it was before, so, hopefully you are smarter than me and back up your work.  Okay, what do we do next?

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WinPhoAppLifecycleWindows Phone 8 allows users to open an application in various ways.  Obviously, you can open an application from a tile on your Start Screen or by selecting the icon from your application list. However, Windows Phone 8 will also put your application into a suspended state when you navigate away from it.  If you want to go back to your application you can either hit the back button or use the Task Switcher.  Since Windows Phone 8 will suspend your application into memory, when it loads back up, you get right back to the state you were in when you left.  Nice right?

Well, there is a gotcha.  When you navigate away from your application, and then go to open it back up using the Start Screen or application list, it will terminate the suspended application and start a new instance of your application, hence, loosing the state the application was in when you navigated away.  Not really what the user is expecting.  Bummer huh?

Guess, what?  There is a solution.  In Windows Phone 8, there is a new feature called Fast Resume.  This feature will tell the OS to resume the application if it is suspended, otherwise, open a new one.  The best part is that this feature is really easy to turn on, and very little effort is necessary to support it in your code.

Let’s take a look.

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So, you are anxious to get rolling on some Windows Phone 8 Update 3 coding huh?  Well, how do you know if the device you are installed on has the update?  It is actually pretty simple.

With this small snippet of code, you can check to see if the update is installed on the device your application is running on …

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PanoramExampleOne of the coolest design elements of a Windows Phone application is the parallax effect that uses the background image to make the content pop out at the user.  You probably won’t believe this, but yes, Microsoft had one of the coolest design concepts in their mobile platform before even Apple.  Apple is just getting this effect in iOS 7.  Over 2 years after Microsoft introduced it in Windows Phone 7.

Okay, so we have gone over how to use Metro Studio, by SyncFusion,  to create splash screens, Metro Studio, Part 1 – Splash Screen, and icons/tiles, Metro Studio, Part 2 – Icons and Tiles.  Now, let’s use the parallax effect in our application.  The best part is that it is already built into the controls that come with the Windows Phone SDK.  It is called the Panorama control and allows us to easily set a property defining the background image that it uses.

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IconsWell, hopefully you are back because you enjoyed Metro Studio, Part 1 – Splash Screen of my series on Metro Studio, by Syncfusion, a wonderful tool that I use to create great looking splash screens, toolbars, application icons and more.  In my last post in the series, we discussed how to use Metro Studio to create a simple splash screen for a Windows Phone 8 application.

In Part 2 of the series, I will show you how to use Metro Studio to create an application icon, store icon and tile images for our application.  I will also introduce you to a great little tool that will take an icon we create in Metro Studio to produce a splash screen, application icon, store icon, tile images and more for your Windows Phone 8 application.

Windows Phone 8 Icons

Just a little primer on Windows Phone 8 icons/tiles might be necessary here.  If you already know everything there is to know about them, you could skip this section.  However, if you don’t, let me first give you a quick definition of a tile and it’s goal.  Here is an excerpt from the Windows 8 developer site reference that would also apply to Windows Phone 8:

A tile is the front door into an app. Sitting on the Start screen, it is an extension of the app and can provide much more personal and engaging information than a traditional icon. Invest in designing a great tile to draw people into your app.

Provide fresh content through live tiles and notifications to let people feel connected to your app. Make sure you help your users connect with the people and devices that they care about.

Though we aren’t going to talk about live tiles and notifications in depth, you will want to consider the design of your icons/tiles to accommodate them in the future.  Here is a great reference for all your Windows Phone 8 tile needs.  It can give you a lot of great information that will enable to you to plan ahead and create great solutions for your application.  I will, however, take you step by step through creating an application icon, a set of tiles and a store icon for your sample application.  Read more


FelixTo play off of my last post on Text to Speech in Windows Phone, I thought I would continue the theme of cartoon characters.  So, anyone out there heard of Felix the Cat?  Felix the Cat was a funny cartoon character in the silent film era.  He always found himself in a fix and needed to resort to his bag of tricks.  Well, let’s jump into the Windows Phone SDK bag of tricks and see how we can send voice commands to our Windows Phone 8 application.

Windows Phone 7.x introduced simple voice commands such as “Open Ebay”, “Call Ed Glogowski”, “Find food in Apple Valley”, “Text John Cannon” or even “Note It is my wife’s birthday on Friday”.

Windows Phone 8 has given developers the option to extend the voice commands to call directly into their application.

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imageDoes anyone out there recall the old cartoon, “Captain Caveman”?  Well, if you don’t recall it is probably because there is a great chance that you haven’t ever even heard of it.  He was basically a really hairy caveman, with a club, who could pull anything out of this hair and eat about anything you can imagine.  His club would also open up with miniature dinosaurs that would perform various tasks.  Here is a quick video in case you are interested.

So, you are probably wondering about now where I am going with this, huh?  Well, just as Captain Caveman could reach into his hair for goodies, so can we with the Windows Phone SDK.  One very powerful feature we can pull out is the Text to Speech API.  Windows Phone developers are given a SpeechSynthesizer object that you can use to add some very powerful functionality to your app.  It can provide subtle user feedback as well as very elaborate speech feedback.

At the time of this writing, SpeechSynthesizer supports 15 languages and each supports both a female and male voice.  You can view these languages in your phones settings under Speech.  In the Speech settings you will see the a number of settings, but the important ones to note are the Text to Speech voice and the Speech Language.  These settings will be what the SpeechSynthesizer uses as its default.  Your app will have the ability to change it programmatically as well.

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