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.NET: Book Review

Book Review: Building Windows 8 Apps with C# and XAML

Microsoft Windows Development Series

This book is the perfect size and the perfect depth for getting up to speed quickly with building Windows 8 Store Applications.

The book starts by introducing WinRT. This introduction includes a really nice history of how Microsoft got to where they are now. It starts with a look back at MS-DOS, MS-DOS Executive, the Win32 API, COM, and.NET. The introduction leads us up to NUI (Natural User Interface) and the Windows Store Application Design Principles.

The first chapter ends with a look at the Windows 8 tool that are available to developers and designers. They include, Blend for Visual Studio, C++ and XAML, HTML5 and JavaScript, and VB/C# and XAML.

I have listed all the chapters below.

1. The New Windows Runtime
2. Getting Started
3. Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML)
4. Windows 8 Applications
5. Application Lifecycle
6. Data
7. Tiles and Toasts
8. Giving Your Application Charm
9. MVVM and Testing
10. Packaging and Deploying

The Getting Started chapter covers setting up your environment, which includes Windows 8, Visual Studio 2012, and expression blend for Visual Studio. It also covers the details of all the available project templates that come in the Windows Store category of Visual Studio's project templates.

The book then continues on with a nice overview of XAML. The author does a good job of covering a lot of topics as well as going in-depth enough to give you a thorough understanding of the topics that he chose to cover. XAML is a big topic, but the author did a great job of covering the essentials needed to get started.

Chapter 4, Windows 8 Applications, starts out with a nice overview of the Windows 8 simulator that comes with the development environment. The chapter continues on covering the application view states, semantic zoom, how to handle user input, mouse support, keyboard support, sensors, the application bar, and much more.

The one thing that the book really brought to light was a big flaw with the Windows Store Applications design. Not so much by explicitly pointing it, but rather by having nothing to say about it. That flaw being, a complete lack of capability for the applications to be run off-line with any sizable local data store. There really is no large data storage available to the Windows Store Applications beyond application state persistence. That raised a big red flag.

In searching the web, I found a lot of people having big issues with that. It looks like SQLite has come up with a solution they say will make it through the Windows Store approval process.

The chapter Giving Your Application Charm covers contracts and Windows 8 Extensions which allow for application information sharing handled at an operating system level. This is one of the coolest features built into Windows 8.

The book ends with a short chapter on MVVM and unit testing, and a short chapter on packaging and deploying.

The author has all the examples used in the book available for download. They're very well organized and usable. All of the examples ran without needing any modification.

Overall I found this book an enjoyable read. I thought the author's writing style made the book very easy to read from cover to cover. I will also be keeping it by on my side to use as a reference.

If you are planning on building Windows 8 Applications with C# and XAML, I recommend you start with this book. It will give you a great foundation on which to build your experience.


Building Windows 8 Apps with C# and XAML

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Tad Anderson has been doing Software Architecture for 18 years and Enterprise Architecture for the past few.

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