How to build a Windows Phone app in less than 10 minutes
Microsoft recently launched its Windows Phone App Studio. It’s a simple tool that takes you from nothing to a working app in four steps. It took me less than 10 minutes to build a basic CITEworld app from the site’s RSS feed using one of App Studio’s standard templates. It’s not quite as easy to use as IFTTT, but it’s a lot easier than starting with a blank text editor.
Building an app with Windows Phone App Studio starts with signing in to the site. Once you're logged in, Microsoft gives you a selection of templates to get you started, or you can just start with a blank app. You’ll start by giving it a name, a description, and a 160 x 160 pixel logo (it turned out that designing a logo took a lot longer than assembling our app!). As I knew what I was planning to do with my test app, I chose the option of building a blank app, which gave me the option of adding my choice of data sources and content pages to my app.
Like an Access or FileMaker app, Windows Phone App Studio Apps use data connections to build apps around a master/detail view model. You can connect to a feed (either RSS or from YouTube or Flickr), or use the app to host your own content – and of course mix and match content from various sources, using different connections in different sections of your app. Along with feeds, there are three ways to host your own content in an app, as HTML formatted pages compiled into your code, or using simple databases Microsoft calls “collections”.
Collections are an interesting concept, giving you a simple table structure for your information; though currently there’s no way of uploading data from existing sources. Data you don’t expect to change can be compiled into an app, giving you a quick way of rendering data driven content (you’ll just need to publish a new version each time the data changes). Alternatively you can use dynamic data, which is hosted by the Windows Phone App Studio service, and loaded when a user opens your app. The same tool used to create data collections is used to update dynamic data.
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