Having had a successful outing in April, once again my team at UI Centric partnered with Windows Apps London to host a day long hackathon event for the Indie Windows developer community in and around London. These guys are some of the most enthusiastic and dedicated developers you will meet, it is always an absolute pleasure hosting these events and seeing everyone get something out of the day.
For those who submitted an app we had 6 prizes to give away (at random), including 3 phones, 2 tablets, and one copy of the brand new Halo 5 for Xbox One.
The community developing apps for the Windows and Windows Phone platforms is one of the more friendly, helpful and welcoming that I have had the pleasure of being involved with. So on Saturday 18th April here at UI Centric we partnered with Windows Apps London to host a hackathon event for indie developers aimed at encouraging those who attended to finish projects with help and collaboration from other attendees, as well as professional app developers and designers.
Live tiles have long been a key differentiator for the modern Windows platform. Since their introduction in Windows Phone 7 Microsoft sold live tiles as “dynamically updated… breaking the mould of static icons” (source). The hope from many developers was to be able to create customised panels of information that would draw users into the app or present them with a simple overview of the information that mattered. The reality is that using Microsoft’s standard tools presents a very simple experience whereby some text, a number of images, and possibly a count can be displayed on a live tile at any one point.
Even with the expansion of live tiles in to the Windows 8 platform the standard templates available to developers often lead to a start screen of similar tiles that do not differ visually from one another. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that similarity, but there are a lot of situations the normal tile templates do not account for. For instance showing a graph of information, or a customised layout to avoid having white text over a light background image cannot be done in with the normal templates.
In Windows Phone 7 and 8 apps, based on the Silverlight framework, developers could use an image rendering method to transform XAML into a locally stored image, then update the tile in a background task. In Windows Runtime apps (or universal apps if you prefer) this is no longer supported. So how can we create customised live tiles to match a user’s expectations?
This post will explore the 3 methods of updating tiles with custom images, through foreground C# code, through background native C++ tasks, and by using remotely store tiles in an Azure component.