My Programming Romance With Windows 8 App Development

Windows 8 App Romance

Windows 8 and I have been flirting for a while, ever since my (rather awesomely built) Dell laptop came with it preinstalled. Like most experiences with a new Operating System (especially Microsoft’s), Windows 8 and I have had our moments.

We shared some moments of pure despair (oh, start-button, why hast thou forsaken me??) and moments of joy (desktop applications on a tablet! squee!) and, yes, some of mixed feelings, as I was trying to convince Windows 8 that a mouse can be just as satisfying as touch. She relented, but only after some convincing on my part.

Windows 8 App Workshop

About a month ago, a Microsoft Evangelist came to my campus for a Windows 8 App Workshop, opening the way to programming Windows 8 Apps for the store and for the phone.

The deal was sealed. Windows and I were officially an item, and I decided to start manipulating its components and producing some awesome new touch-enabled apps. The process was fairly quick; Windows 8 Apps can be programmed with with Javascript/HTML5 or C#/XAML. I’m fairly fluent in Javascript, so that was a breeze, and C#/XAML is not too different from the Java I’m used to. Overall, Windows 8 and I have bonded as we went through the steps of development together: tutorial-hunting, dev-tools conquering, WinJS mastering, and preset-chomping. It was magical.

Visual Studio Projects

During the workshop, I was introduced to Visual Studio 2012, the program that is used to build apps. It has a number of powerful features that really helped me get to know Windows 8’s core behaviors and needs. Visual Studio was like our relationship therapist, making me put myself in my Windows 8 shoes, and encouraging her to listen to my whimsical needs.

One of the cooler things Visual Studio offers us is ready-to-use preset projects. They’re pre-filled with code that works out-of-the-box and sets the stage for really cool data-driven applications. Start a “Split App” or “Grid App” projects, and all that’s left to do is change the data they read, work on their presentation, and watch your new app come to life.

Of course, Visual Studio (and specifically the WinJS environment) also has its quirks.

It’s very conventional, and seems to air on the side of caution when new experiences are presented. We bonded, eventually, when it finally allowed me to experiment on Windows 8 with non-conventional libraries like RaphaelJS and MathJax. It was a process filled with struggles and triumphs, but we conquered the obstacles together and came out stronger. Windows and I have even started to consider producing beautiful little App offspring that we could tame together.

I decided it was time to think about the future, and take our relationship to the next level. With shaky feet and butterflies in my tummy, I did it. I started a Blank App Project.

Empty of code, pure, free spirited, and ready for my exploration and experimentation, the Blank App has filled Windows and my romance with joyful challenges, making it possible to produce fully functional apps that we made ourselves. And while I will always have a special place in my heart for the preset projects in Visual Studio, Windows 8 and I are spending more and more time with the Blank App Project, expecting a beautiful future together.

What are we going to do today, Blank App?” asks my Windows 8 when we wake up in the morning after a sleepless night of code. “What we do every day this Summer,” answers the Blank, and the three of us join hands and formulate plans on how to take over the world.

Ahh. Programming romance.

Spawned Apps

So, as I’ve said, Winnie and I produced some App offspring, and I am glad to say more of those are expected! It may take me a bit longer than before (internship underway, updates on that soon) but we are definitely ready to expand our family unit to include multiple apps and projects.

For now, feel free to check out my current apps in the Windows 8 App store! Let me know what you think, how they make you feel, and how awesome you find them. Or not. That’s fine too, I’d love to get real input from real users, especially since there’s no real way for me to do any user testing before releasing apps to the store. Win8 insists that outright-offending her precious spawn-apps may result in a tantrum, but don’t worry, I got pretty good at taming her temper. We’re safe.

NYCWiFi Hotspots


Check out wifi hotspots in New York City, both free and paid. Since the app uses Bing Maps, you need to have an internet connection to see the hostpots, so check those out before you leave home.

Go to the app in the Windows 8 store.

Convert That!

Convert That!

Convert That! A rather cheeky unit converter for your conversion needs. It can convert most known units, along with some cutesy ones like length in “Empire State Buildings” and volume in “Wembley Stadiums”. It also tells you what it thinks of itself, which is quite a lot. But you can turn it off in the settings if that bugs you.

Go to the app in the Windows 8 store.

Cooking Companion

Cooking Companion

An app for your kitchen and cooking needs! It’s a smaller version of the converter in “Convert That” including only the units that are relevant for recipes and cooking, and it also features a “Substitution” option, in case you miss one of those recipe ingredients. I have some plans for this app for the future, so stay tuned on that one!

(As of the time of writing this post, the app is in certification, and should be available in the store in the next few days. I’ll update with the link when it will be available.)

Physics Ref


PhysicsRef is a quick reference for Physics and Mathematics equations. It is meant for students, tutors and general science enthusiasts, and can be used as a study aid for exams. I wish I had that when I was tutoring!

Current categories include Mathematics and Calculus, Constants, Newtonian Mechanics, Electricity and Magnetism, Atomic Physics, Thermodynamics and Quantum Mechanics. The job of inserting physics equations is never-ending, so expects updates with more and more resources.

(As of the time of writing this post, the app is in certification, and should be available in the store in the next few days. I’ll update with the link when it will be available.)

More to Come!

Stay tuned for more as I delve deeper into the exploratory relationship with Windows 8 App development, WinJS and Visual Studio, for the benefit of the world (and possible world domination).


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