App Studio: a new tool by Microsoft for Windows Phone developers

Yesterday Microsoft has revelaed a new tool for all the Windows Phone developers, called App Studio. It’s a web application, that can be used to create a new Windows Phone application starting from scratch: by using a visual editor, you’ll be able to define all the visual aspects of your applications, lile tiles, images, logos, etc.

Plus, you’ll be easily able to create pages and menus and to display collections, which are a series of items that can be static, or taken from an Internet resoure (a RSS feed, a YouTube video, etc.). You can add also some special features, like Pin To Start (to pin a detail page to the start screen) or Text To Speech (to read a page’s content to the user). It’s the perfect starting point if you easily want to create a company app, or a website companion app and you don’t have too much time to spend on it.

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After the editing process, you’ll be able to test your application directly on the phone: by using an enterprise certificate (that you’ll need to install), you’ll be able to install the generate XAP directly from the website, even if your phone is not developer unlocked.

I know what you’re thinking: “I’m an experienced Windows Phone developer, I don’t care about a tool for newbies”. Well, App Studio may reserve many surprises: other than simply generating the app, it creates also the Visual Studio project with the full source code, which is based on the MVVM pattern. It’s the perfect starting point if you want to develop a simple app and then leverage it by adding new features; or if you need fast prototyping, to show an idea to a potential customer.

The website where to start is http://apps.windowsstore.com: after you’ve logged in with your Microsoft Account, you’ll be able to create an empty application or to use one of the available templates (which already contain a series of pages and menus for some common scenarios, like a company app, a hobby app or a sporting app). Anyway, you’ll be able to edit every existing item and to fully customize the template.

In the next posts we’ll cover the App Studio basics: how to create an application, how to customize it, how to deploy it. We’ll also see, in another series of posts, how to customize the generated Visual Studio project, to add new features to the application.

With the App Studio release Microsoft has also introduced a great news for developers: now you’ll be able to unlock a Windows Phone device even without a paid developer account. The difference is that you’ll be limited to unlock just 1 phone and to side load up to 2 apps, while regular developers will continue to be able to unlock up to 3 phones and to side load up to 10 apps.

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