Windows Dev Center: Create a flexible app UI in Windows 8.1

Kristi Rasmussen here from the Windows Developer Content team. If you’re building Windows Store apps, you want great flexibility when designing your UI. You want tiles in varying sizes and resizable windows that give your users more control over your app. Windows 8.1 gives you more power to build the app you want.

In an earlier post, I talked about new HTML and XAML controls in Windows 8.1. Here, we look at new and updated features that help you create a richer, more consistent experience in your app that your users will love.

  • Resizable windows: When developing apps using Windows 8.1, you have more flexibility with window size and position than you’ve had before. Without fixed-width view states, users of your app can resize apps or show multiple windows on the screen of the same app. Because apps no longer have snapped and fill view states, developers can create apps to work and look great at almost any size. Check out the Application views and UI contrast and settings samples and this video for a glimpse of how this works:

    • Speech synthesis: In Windows 8.1, you can use the Windows.Media.SpeechSynthesis API to prompt an app user for input, highlight app notifications and messages, give instructions, and read content, like an email message or RSS feed. This API supports speech synthesis, or text-to-speech (TTS), in Windows Store apps. Using speech synthesis, you can set the speaking voice to specific gender, voice, and language. You can also customize voice characteristics, like pronunciation, speed, and volume, among others. Check out the speech synthesis sample!
    • Tile updates: We’ve added two tiles sizes to Windows 8.1, for a total of four: small, medium, wide, and large. If you’re looking on the Start screen, four small tiles fits within one medium tile; four medium tiles fit within one large tile.


    Small tiles don’t support live tile notifications, but they do support badges. All other tile sizes support both. For developers and users, the new tile sizes provided greater flexibility and creativity when working with apps and their corresponding tiles.

    • Search and share updates: Windows 8.1 provides a new search-box control that helps developers give search results to app users. Using Windows.UI.Xaml.Controls.SearchBox for XAML and WinJS.UI.SearchBox JavaScript, you can include a search box within your apps. You can use the Share contract to offer multiple ways to navigate to shared content. Additionally, apps that use the Share contract can improve responsiveness by dismissing the share pane programmatically. For detailed samples, see Sharing content source and Sharing content target.
    • Charm updates: In Windows 8, when there were multiple apps on the screen and the user invoked charms, the system displayed charms for whichever app occupied the most screen space. In Windows 8.1, the system displays charms for the last app that the user interacted with, regardless of how many apps are on the screen or whether there are multiple screens. This makes the workflow for using charms more intuitive to how you’d actually use them.
    • Integrating apps with people and events: With Windows 8.1, you can integrate communication experiences like messaging, email, call, and video-call right into your app. Users of your app can then engage with people directly from your app. You can also provide a way for users to quickly view their calendar and add events to it from within your app. Check out the Contact manager API, Appointments API, and Handling Contact Actions samples to see how it’s done.
    • Better background task management: New capabilities in Windows 8.1 help your system manage resources, like background tasks, more efficiently. With the new quiet hours feature, users can decide when to turn off notifications so they won’t be disturbed. During this time, background tasks are held and queued up for when quiet hours are over. Additionally, if a background task is idle or hung, the system sends the task a cancel notification so that it can stop work and close.

    Building a creative and consistent UI can make or break a great app. The changes we’ve made in Windows 8.1 are designed help you build compelling and intuitive apps that keep users interested and wanting more. If you’re a developer, or if you’re interested in learning how to develop cool apps for Windows 8.1, check out the Windows Dev Center for lots more great stuff!

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