Randy Guthrie, PhD – Microsoft Technology Evangelist
Microsoft’s Windows Phone Group just released an online tool called “Windows Phone App Studio” that creates basic but complete Windows Phone Apps in the cloud using just a web browser. Until now, if you wanted to build a phone app, you needed to have a computer running the Windows operating system and Visual Studio with the phone SDK installed. But with the Windows Phone App Studio any browser will work; IE, Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc., and on any platform including iOS (MacBooks and iPads, etc.).
The online tool features thirteen starter templates such as a cookbook, company info hub, sports team, book report etc. The basic functionally supported in each one includes a picture gallery, video feeds, blog feeds, and text details pages. You can also create apps “from scratch” and add pages and functions as you like. Four data source types are provided: collections, html, RSS, and YouTube. You can have either static or dynamic content, and there are app bar options as well.
The tool provides a simple emulator so you can test each page in the browser.
The Windows App Studio tool has options for exporting either the “xap” file that you can submit to the Windows Phone store, or a zipped version of the entire project “solution” file that can be opened in Visual Studio and modified beyond what the tool supports.
The site is in beta, and currently does not support direct submission of your phone app directly to the store. To submit an app to the store you have to export your project’s “xap” file, and then go to the phone developer portal and upload it along with other images for tiles that the online tool doesn’t generate for you. You must also have a developer account. There is a toggle switch that appears to support sharing of your project file for others to use, although I haven’t found any links to where anyone has shared a project beyond the thirteen stock templates so far.
I think this is a great tool for learning the basics. It reminds me of a similar type of tool (with more programming required) called Touch Develop that was developed by Microsoft Research. I’ve made a very simple app just to see what I could do and it works pretty well within the limits of it’s designed functionality. I exported my completed app to Visual Studio and now I am adding an ad control and will finish the submission to the store. I’ll let you know how it goes.