Tools to help non coders build apps for Windows 8 and Windows Phone

Looking for tools to help you build a Windows Phone or Windows 8 app? Here’s a few suggestions

As Windows 8 and Windows Phone have matured, a number of tools have appeared to help app developers build apps. There are two types of tools generally used to help app builders. Tools that help you target multiple app platforms (cross platform tools) and also tools that will generate apps for a specific platform (app generation tools). This post focuses on app generation tools for Windows Store and Windows Phone. Hopefully over the coming weeks I’ll have a chance to provide more information on each individual tool

In this post I will introduce the following app generation tools, if you know of any other tools I should mention, let me know and I will add them to the list!

  • Windows Phone App Studio
  • Web Application Template
  • ZipApp
  • Project Siena
  • IdeaPress

Don’t forget! Canadian Developers can get rewards through their apps through the Developer Movement! With tools like these, even non-coders can explore the world of apps and get cool stuff! Earn points by registering, building an app, or even watching a video to learn more about coding! Register today.

Windows Phone App Studio

Creates apps for: Windows Phone

Required by developer: A browser

Description: This tool provides you with pre-built templates that you can customize to build beautiful looking apps for Windows Phone. You provide the pictures, the text, and the information, the templates do the formatting and navigation to provide a really nice user experience. Recipes, tourist information, sports teams, lots of templates to choose from!

windows phone app studio

Web Application Template

Creates apps for: Windows Store

Required by developer:

  • Windows 8.1 – If you have Windows 8, you can find the Windows 8.1 upgrade in the Windows Store on your start screen. If you don’t have Windows 8 yet, students in technical programs can access Windows 8 through DreamSpark Premium if their faculty has subscribed. Otherwise you can download and purchase Windows 8.1.
  • Visual Studio 2013 - Students can get Visual Studio 2013 from DreamSpark, BizSpark and MSDN subscribers can get Visual Studio 2013 through MSDN. Anyone can get Visual Studio 2013 from the Visual Studio download center

Description: This tool is designed to convert websites into Windows 8 apps. A great tool for anyone who has built a website and wants to explore building a Windows store app. You can use all your existing website functionality and integrate it into Windows. At its simplest you would literally just have an app that shows your website, but if you spend a little time modifying the json file used to customize the template you can quickly integrate features like search, share, and tiles. With a little extra work you can add push notifications and offline content. The perfect first entry to the Windows Store for web developers. Good documentation provided as well! When you install the tool you get a new application template in Visual Studio. Create a new project based on the Web Application Template, then modify the json file to customize your application.

web application template


Creates apps for: Windows Store

Required by developer: A browser

Description: This tool is design to help you build apps that collect information from different social media sources including Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and RSS feeds. Choose from a variety of templates for different look and feel. You also have the option of including additional content by creating HTML pages. This is a very easy tool to use. It even generates a package you can submit straight to the store without using Visual Studio.

Note: You may occasionally get an error or two in the package, so it helps if you can open it up in Visual Studio to make corrections. I’ve helped a few developers who got stuck with ZipApp solutions, but many developers have used this tool with no issues whatsoever and published some very popular apps.


Project Siena

Creates apps for: Windows Store

Required by developer: Windows 8

Description: Project Siena is a Windows store app that creates Windows 8.1 apps! It is designed to help you create an app to present data. Step one: Identify a data source to make available through the app. You could have data stored in an Excel Spreadsheet, through a REST API (which means there are open data sources you can use), RSS feeds, or SharePoint lists (useful for line of business apps). Step two: Add the data source to your project. Step three: add controls to present the data to the user. There is no coding required. Anyone who is comfortable in Excel and PowerPoint can use Project Siena. There are video tutorials on the website to help you as well.

Note: When this post was written, the RSS feed was not a live feed, so when you add it as a data source it does not continuously feed new data. The project is still in beta right now and the plan is to add the live data feed in a future update.

project siena


Creates apps for: Windows Phone, Android, and iPhone

Required by developer: Browser and a WordPress site

Description: IdeaPress allows you to take your WordPress site and make it available as a Windows Phone, Android, or iPhone app. You add a plugin to your WordPress site. Create a new project on the IdeaPress site and provide the URL to your WordPress site, design the look and feel of your app, then either download the code and package it for the store, or have the Ideapress team help you publish.


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