When we wrote some topics on using the Windows 8 App Bar (such as the blockbuster hit Titlebars, toolbars and app bars) we wanted to make sure you could write an app that worked there and then, and would continue to work on any forthcoming Windows releases. However, now that Windows 8.1 is available - and a must-have install it is too - we can talk about the improvements that have been made to the App Bar. These improvements are designed to make your life, as a developer of awesome Windows Store Apps, that little bit easier.
First a refresher in case you haven't realized what App Bars actually do. When running a Windows Store App, swiping upwards (or pressing Windows key and Z) often brings up a strip of buttons. This is the App Bar. I like to think of the App Bar as where you place buttons and options of secondary importance: if they were the most important things you needed to do, they'd be right there on the screen all the time (or when you needed them). As they are effectively hidden until you go looking, they must be slightly less important and displaying them constantly would just clutter up the place.
Which is not to say there aren't strongly worded recommendations about what you should put into an App Bar, and where. The Windows UX guidelines recommend the more important actions go on the right, and everything else on the left. Which to me is something that I'll worry about towards the end of the production cycle (i.e. if I've a few minutes left before heading down to the pub).
Now, this example of my attention to detail and love of guidelines is probably why I'm not a full-time developer. However, I might not be alone in this, because the new features in Windows 8.1 are specifically about making this task easier. Writing my app under Windows 8.1 means that I would have time to sort out the controls and still get down to the pub, and no UX Guidelines Writer would want to self-harm in the process.
At this point, I was going to work through some example code explaining what you should do rather than messing around with StandardStyles.xaml files. Well, to be honest, what I was actually going to do was copy-and-paste all that I could get away with from this excellent topic What's new for the App Bar in Windows 8.1. However, due to some travel to and fro the UK, today I am completely jet-lagged and so I don't even have the energy to rip-off another person's excellent article. So I strongly suggest you go read it, while I go have a little lie down. Until next time..