For Windows 8, we completely reimagined not just the platform, but also how we share app development info with you. Launched 9 months ago, the Windows Dev Center is the one place where you can find all the info and resources you need to get going. Whether you’re new to development, seeking inspiration for the next great app, or you’re simply stuck and need help, you can find it here.
We talked to many developers, and heard a lot about how difficult it could be to find the right info in the MSDN Library. The goal we set for Windows 8 developer content was to try to provide exactly the right content when you needed it, and not have too much info get in your way. To that end we focused on how to do things, instead of on why we built a given feature the way we did. You told us that when you start learning about a new scenario or feature, you want to try it out quickly and learn the details later. We also heard loud and clear that you want to get going quickly and not read a lot of docs. With the new Windows 8 Dev Center, you don’t have to track down docs, tools, samples, and other assets in various locations; it’s all in one place. We also improved search, so you can find what you need easier.
And, you don’t have to be a dev to find a lot of interesting info in the Dev Center. If you’re a creative professional or a design expert and don’t want to see anything other than design, we have “a center within a center” for you that contains just the design content. Just go directly to design.windows.com. We could have called it the Windows Design and Dev Center, but that’s just too long!
The structure and navigation
The Windows Dev Center is broken into 4 sections: Metro style apps, Internet Explorer, Desktop, and Hardware. You can access them all from dev.windows.com.
All these sections are structured similarly, with a nod toward the important Metro style design principle of content over chrome. In this post, we focus on the Metro style apps section only, because that’s what most readers of this blog are interested in. Here’s what it looks like:
You can easily navigate the center by using the links at the top of the page.
- Home orients you to the site, and gives you a general idea of what content we have for you.
- When the Store becomes available (soon!), you’ll use the Dashboard to sign up and become a Windows Store developer. After you sign up, you’ll also use this tab to upload your apps, access telemetry, and see how your apps are doing in different markets around the world.
- Docs is your gateway to platform documentation, including general info, Quickstarts (hands-on content that gets you familiar with basics of a feature quickly), tutorials, and reference. Using the navigation pane on the left, you can jump to the appropriate topic immediately. If you want more info before you jump, the main pane contains more detail. We improved navigation both within an article, and from one topic to another. We added the “In this article” sidebar where you can see all the sections of the article and can jump directly to the section that interests you. In some articles we also list relevant APIs if appropriate.
- Use Samples to find Metro style samples to play with. There are already over 550 samples (and growing!) available in multiple programming languages, and we invite you to upload your own samples to share with the community.
- Downloads is where you find the tools like Visual Studio 2012 Express RC for Windows 8 and the SDK. Visual Studio 2012 Express now also includes Blend for Visual Studio to help you quickly create visually attractive, fun apps.
- You can use Support to get technical help with your account, or request 1:1 help with your dashboard. We provide this dashboard help for free to anyone with a Microsoft developer account. For really complex problems that go beyond the free help, you can also buy help with your apps from our experts.
- Finally, Community resources can link you with other developers. You can ask questions, help others with their technical issues, or read the latest news about Windows 8 Metro style app development.
Get the resources
Your fingers might be itching to start developing your app, but first you need the right tools. Go to the Dev Center to download the tools. Make sure you download Microsoft Visual Studio 11 Express for Windows 8, which includes Windows 8 SDK, Blend for Visual Studio, and project templates.
If you need help designing appealing Metro style apps, download our design assets. These are .psd files for controls, layouts, components, and project templates to help you lay out your UI.
You will find lots of other resources too, including the Multilingual App Toolkit for Visual Studio 11 Beta, which can help you create apps for the world markets. The best part is, all these downloads are free.
We are always asked for samples, and with a good reason. A sample can show you how someone else already solved the problem you are trying to solve, or you can start with a sample as a foundation for your own app. We now have over 550 official Microsoft samples, plus additional community samples, and the number is growing. Each tells you how to compile and run it, plus we give you any special instructions you need. Check them out in the samples gallery or download the sample app pack if you want all of them at once. Over a quarter million devs already have!
If you want to showcase your great ideas, post your own samples! You can also rate or comment on samples, give feedback, or ask questions.
Can’t find a sample you need? You can request one, or vote for samples that others requested so that we create the ones that people really want. Then check out the “Completed” tab to see the samples we created as a result of community demand.
From app conception to the Store
Now that you have all the tools, and have seen some samples, it’s time to start thinking about your apps. But what makes a Metro style app great? Info on the Dev Center can help you decide what kind of app to build, what kind of info it should include to appeal to the broadest possible audience, and how to present your app’s content in a compelling way. This info is laid out in the order we think you’ll need it.
Start with an idea
Not sure how to turn your idea into an app? Start with Planning Metro style apps and follow our step-by-step planning process. There’s a lot to think about, including not just what the app will do, but how to present it to the best advantage, how to make it appeal to a global audience, and how you can make money from your app.
Designing UX for apps
A hallmark of great apps is an outstanding user experience (UX). But making your app compelling and interesting can be intimidating. In Designing UX for apps, we provide design patterns for navigation, commanding, and touch interaction. We provide specific help for popular Windows Store categories, including games, entertainment, news, and productivity. You can also download design assets for Metro style apps so you don’t have to start from scratch. We also help you assess usability of your app, so you can be sure your customers find it intuitive and easy to use.
If you already have an app on a different platform and are wondering how to redesign it to follow Metro style app design, we provide case studies that show you how to convert a Website to a Metro style app, and how to convert an iPad app to a Metro style one. And to improve the visual appeal of your app, take a look at our animations design videos.
When you want info about a specific feature, you can start with a Quickstart that introduces the feature by walking you through common use cases. These articles include a lot of code to help you get started quickly, thus the name Quickstart. We also provide roadmaps for each of the major development models to help you decide where might want to go next. In many cases we also include guidelines and checklists for using a feature, to help ensure your apps pass certification and you can submit it to the Windows Store. Finally, we have in-depth documentation for key features if you need more detail.
Many articles contain code snippets. We use them as illustrations to jumpstart your own development. But you can also easily run them in Visual Studio. Simply click Copy in the upper right corner of the snippet, and the code will be pasted onto your Clipboard. You can then paste it into your own code. (You can get the sample code this way too.) Always be careful to include appropriate error handling and data validation when copying/pasting code from an article in the Dev Center.
While building your app, you might also need access to complete reference material for the platform. For detailed API info, see API reference for Metro style apps.
Before you can submit your app to Windows Store, you must package it. The easiest way to do so is to use Visual Studio. See Packaging your app using Visual Studio for more detail.
To make sure your app runs great and is ready for the Store, you must debug and test it. We give you all the info about Debugging and testing Windows Metro style apps to get this done quickly.
Selling and managing your apps
After you develop your app, it’s time to share it with the world. We provide you with a great platform for sharing apps – the Windows Store. In the Dev Center, we guide you through the process of submitting your app for certification, and listing it in the Windows Store. If you aren’t sure how to advertise your app in the catalog, we provide you with tips on how to write descriptions that will tempt users to try your app. When you’re ready to submit your app to the Store, Selling apps takes you through the process. It also explains the different licensing models available and provides suggestions for when to use each. Finally, you’ll want to know how to price your app so that it’s competitive, and how to add in-app offers to sell additional features. Making money with your app explains all of this in detail.
You can sell your apps in multiple languages in markets around the world. Windows Store markets explains the details.
If you want to get deeper technical info
The content we looked at so far will help you get started developing a great app. But sometimes you need more detail. In Concepts and architecture, we explain technical details behind the Metro style app development platform and share advanced techniques for building apps. For a complete survey of how to build apps from end-to-end, you can find guidance in the End-to-end apps and games section.
Another good source of deep technical info is White papers for Metro style apps.
What to do when you’re stuck
If you get stuck and can’t find a solution to your problem, there are other devs in the community who may be able to help. Community resources includes forums and blogs. The forums are a great place to ask questions, bounce ideas off other developers, or provide support for others who need help. Many of the forum participants are members of our tech support team, so you can get accurate answers to your questions quickly.
The blogs, such as this one, are a great place to learn the latest news about Windows 8 development and to give us feedback. In addition to the Windows 8 app developer blog (this blog), we have the Windows Store developer blog where members of the Windows Web Services team talk about the business of the Store, and the Building Windows 8 blog, where you can find the inside scoop from Windows President Steven Sinofsky and the Windows engineering team.
You can also sign up here for a Windows Dev Camp, and attend at any of the locations around the world.
We speak your language
We realize that many people around the world are interested in Windows, and many of them don’t read English. We now support the content and the Store in 12 languages, and we plan to add the most important content in additional 12. We support the tools and the forums in 10 languages, and the blogs in 8.
As you can see, for Windows 8 we completely revamped the way we share info with you. We focused more on how you actually use the content, and reorganized the Dev Center to reflect this.
The Dev Center isn’t static, it’s a constantly evolving site. Our dedicated team of programmer writers and editors, have worked hard to craft reference docs and feature overviews you expect, but there’s far more to the site. The team is now focused on creating scenario oriented guidance that helps you better understand how various features work together to complete more complex tasks. We’re still working on this guidance, and we update the Dev Center frequently, so stay tuned for more.
We hope you find our content easier to use. We look forward to your feedback.
-- Marzena Makuta, Senior Editor, Windows
Thanks to Keith Boyd for his contribution.