Thursday, 6 September 2012

Understanding and debugging design time data in Expression Blend

One of my favorite features in Expression Blend is the ability to attach a Visual Studio debugger to Blend. First let’s start by answering the question: why exactly do you want to do that?

Note: If you are familiar with the creation and usage of design time data, feel free to scroll down to the paragraph titled “When design time data fails”.

Creating design time data for your app
When a designer works on an app, he needs to see something to design. For “static” UI such as buttons, backgrounds, etc, the user interface elements are going to show up in Blend just fine. If however the data is fetched dynamically from a service (web, database, etc) or created dynamically, most probably Blend is going to show just an empty element.

The classical way to design at that stage is to run the application, navigate to the screen that is under construction (which can involve delays, need to log in, etc…), to measure what is on the screen (colors, margins, width and height, etc) using various tools, going back to Blend, editing the properties of the elements, running again, etc. Obviously this is not ideal.

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Azure Mobile Services: For Those Who Just Want to Code

If you follow Azure news on the web you might have noticed a new Azure service being offered in preview form called Mobile Services.

In this blog post we’ll be doing a high level overview of what Azure Mobile Services is and what it gives you. In subsequent posts we’ll dive deeper into how to get your hands dirty and actually use the thing.

With this initial preview the Windows 8 app development scenario has been enabled. We’re likely to see other platforms such as iOS and Windows Phone (my personal favorite) come on board as the Azure mobile team develops the new service.

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Running a Storyboard as a Task in C#/XAML Windows 8 Metro App

Sometimes you have some code that needs to run after a storyboard has completed. In my case I'm working on a little board game, and after each move (which I animate using a Storyboard), I need to figure out the next move, and either start a new play-animation or pass the turn to the other player.

Therefore I run in a loop until the turn is over. You can detect when a storyboard has finished when the "Completed" event triggers, but that makes for some recursive spaghetti code. It's much easier if I could just "await" the storyboard using a task. So I created the little extension method below that makes this possible.

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Using WinJS & WinRT to build a fun HTML5 Camera Application for Windows 8 (1/4)

Using WinJS & WinRT to build a fun HTML5 Camera Application for Windows 8 (1/4)
Using HTML5, JavaScript & CSS3, we’re going to build a fun HTML5 camera application for Windows 8 and its Modern UI. You will learn how to use WinRT to access to the camera and the file system to take some pictures & videos. We will then work a bit on the layout with CSS3 grid & flexbox and provide some visual feedback to the user via CSS3 animations. I will also show you how to use WinJS and its FlipView control via a templating rendering JS function to embed the whole experience. At last, we will see how to manipulate the images taken with the camera to apply some filters effects via the canvas element or directly thanks to a C++ WinRT component.

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