Windows App Studio now lets you build Windows 10 apps

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Microsoft today updated Windows App Studio, its free web-based tool designed to let anyone build an app, with Windows 10 Insider Preview support. The company also redesigned the Windows App Studio beta site to make it consistent with the Windows 10 look and added a slew of new features.

The new beta can generate apps for Windows 10, as well as Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1. In December, the tool dropped support for Windows Phone 8.0.

Here’s how it works. After you’ve finished designing your app, when you generate the package, Windows App Studio prompts you to select the Windows version(s) you want:

Once the app is generated, you can then download the app packages (to upload to your devices for testing purposes) and the Visual Studio project that gives you access to your source code. Today’s beta lets you sideload and test packages on Windows 10 for PC, but doesn’t yet let you sideload those packages on Windows 10 for Phones (which will be available in a future release).

Generated package names are now also based on application name and version number, a big request from Windows App Studio users. So each package now has a consistent naming scheme based on the name you choose for your app.

As part of Windows 10 support, Windows App Studio gained new SplitView and VisualStateTrigger controls, as well as menu navigation provided by a hamburger button in the top left. These elements are essential to Microsoft’s latest design approach for its new Universal Windows Platform; applications use these commands to layout and reflow content.

AppStudio1

The image above shows an example app called FridayBand. On the left the application is in a small window while on the right it is displayed with more content after the user has maximized the window.

When it comes to new features in this release, Microsoft has been hard at work over the past five months. The following can be used in apps that target Windows 10 Insider Preview, and they will also work immediately for apps that target Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1:

  • Live Tile Update: The feature has been reimplemented using a platform feature called Tile Update, which removes the background agent, improving reliability and reducing battery consumption.
  • Xbox Music data source: Apps can now query the Xbox Music catalog to find artists, retrieve album metadata including album covers, to link to pages like any other collection data source. The Xbox Music data source also lets you launch the Music app to listen to albums.
  • Bing Maps: Developers can now embed maps into their Windows App Studio apps.
  • Application Insights: This new analytics service helps developers monitor application usage and performance. Usage data lets them track how many users launch apps and how they interact with them, while performance monitoring offers diagnostic reports on crashes and their impact.

The last point is probably the most exciting. The Application Insights instrumentation key can be configured from the settings page in Windows App Studio. Once you’ve done that, you get results and reports on a dashboard:

AppStudio2

Windows 10 will be launched this summer in 190 countries. The Windows 10 Store will therefore start accepting app submissions very soon, so it’s no surprise that Microsoft wants to upgrade Windows App Studio.

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