Tag: Windows Phone

Theme Manager for Windows Phone

One of Windows Phones features is the ability for a user to switch between light and dark themes. However as a developer creating a good experience in your apps that looks good in both themes can be a challenge. What's worse is it sometimes leads to apps that look great in one theme but not the other.

Unfortunately there is also no official easy way to tell the phone you want your app to run with a particular theme. Instead it's a manual process of either setting the colour of every object, or manually loading a theme in the apps start-up.

Thankfully there is a better way and it comes in the form of a NuGet package. By simply installing the wp-thememanager package you can call ThemeManager.ToLightTheme() in your apps contructor to make the theme light, or ThemeManager.ToDarkTheme() to make it dark.

/// <summary>
/// Constructor for the Application object.
/// </summary>
public App()
{
  // Global handler for uncaught exceptions.
  UnhandledException += Application_UnhandledException;

  // Standard Silverlight initialization
  InitializeComponent();

  // Phone-specific initialization
  InitializePhoneApplication();

  ThemeManager.ToLightTheme();

  // Other code that might be here already...
}

Links to resources

WP Theme Manager on GitHub
Jeff Wilcox blog post on the project
NuGet Package for WP Theme Manager

Integrating with the Windows Phone 8 Media Hub

One of my favourite features of Windows Phone is the ability for apps to integrate with the different hubs on the phone. The Music and Video hub lets developers do this not only by having their app listed in the apps section, but also by feeding data to the new and history lists plus the currently playing tile.

To add a track to the history list have a look at the following code:

MediaHistoryItem mediaHistoryItem = new MediaHistoryItem();
mediaHistoryItem.ImageStream = image;
mediaHistoryItem.Source = "";
mediaHistoryItem.Title = "Track Title";
mediaHistoryItem.PlayerContext["playSong"] = "Track Identifier";
MediaHistory mediaHistory = MediaHistory.Instance;

mediaHistory.WriteRecentPlay(mediaHistoryItem);

To add a track to the new list is relatively similar:

MediaHistoryItem mediaHistoryItem = new MediaHistoryItem();
mediaHistoryItem.ImageStream = image;
mediaHistoryItem.Source = "";
mediaHistoryItem.Title = "Track Title";
mediaHistoryItem.PlayerContext["playSong"] = "Track Identifier";
MediaHistory mediaHistory = MediaHistory.Instance;

mediaHistory.WriteAcquiredItem(mediaHistoryItem);

Some things to note though; Your image must be 173 x 173px, a title must be given that describes what is playing (not just the name of your app) and the keyString property should be populated with an identifier that you can use to identify the track.
When a user presses the tile in either of the new or history lists it will trigger your app to be opened. In the OnNavigatedTo even you can query the QueryString from the NavigationContext to find the identifier for the song selected by the user.

bool _historyItemLaunch = false;            // Indicates whether the app was launched from a MediaHistoryItem.
const String _playSongKey = "playSong";    // Key for MediaHistoryItem key-value pair.
Song _playingSong = null;                   // The song to play.

protected override void OnNavigatedTo(System.Windows.Navigation.NavigationEventArgs e)
{
  MediaLibrary library = new MediaLibrary();

  if (NavigationContext.QueryString.ContainsKey(_playSongKey))
  {
      // We were launched from a history item.
      // Change _playingSong even if something was already playing
      // because the user directly chose a song history item.

      // Use the navigation context to find the song by name.
      String songToPlay = NavigationContext.QueryString[_playSongKey];

      foreach (Song song in library.Songs)
      {
          if (0 == String.Compare(songToPlay, song.Name))
          {
              _playingSong = song;
              break;
          }
      }

      // Set a flag to indicate that we were started from a
      // history item and that we should immediately start
      // playing the song after the UI has finished loading.
      _historyItemLaunch = true;
  }
}

private void PhoneApplicationPage_Loaded(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)
{
  if (_historyItemLaunch)
  {
      // We were launched from a history item, start playing the song.
      if (_playingSong != null)
      {
          MediaPlayer.Play(_playingSong);
      }
  }
}

There is also an option to write to the now playing section of the hub, however if you are playing your track using BackgroundAudioPlaer this is not needed as it is automatically handled for you from the track information.

Creating Training Buddy's Live Tile

Live tiles are probably the best known feature about Windows Phone. Unlike iOS's plain grid of app icons Microsoft designed their phones home screen to provide users with data without having to open the app. With Windows Phone 8 the feature was updated so that 3rd party apps like Training Buddy could offer full width tiles along with new layout templates.

Adding a live tile to your app is a great idea as it is one of the features users often look for when their choosing an app. The app store also handily points out if an app uses a live tile or not.

The Design

There are 3 tile templates to choose from when you add a live tile to your app. These are Flip, Iconic and Cycle.

Flip gives the illusion that the tile has a front and a back and will flip over after a few seconds.

Iconic has space for an image and a large number, a bit like the icon for messages and emails. When in its largest size there is also wide content zones that can contain text.

Cycle lets you choose 9 images that the app will Cycle through.

For Training Buddy I have used the Iconic template. You will probably find like myself that the type of app you are creating will more than likely determine what template you are going to use. As Training Buddy's live tile was ultimately going to show details of the users last activity, Iconic was the obvious choice. The smaller sizes don't really have enough space to give any activity stats and the large version gives you an additional space for a smaller image that was perfect for the activity type image (running, cycling, walking).

Another alternative is to make a completely custom design and write something in your app to render it as an image. You can then display the image using either the flip or cycle template.

The Code

The second reason you everyone should add live tiles to their app is because the code is so simple (this is the actual code from Training Buddy).

// Application Tile is always the first Tile, even if it is not pinned to Start.
          ShellTile TileToFind = ShellTile.ActiveTiles.First();

          // Application should always be found
          if (TileToFind != null)
          {
              string WideContent1 = "";
              string WideContent2 = "";
              string WideContent3 = "";
              string activityLogo = "";
              if (App.settings.LiveTile)
              {
                  var lastActivity = (from a in AllActivities
                                      orderby a.StartDateTime descending
                                      select a).Take(1);

                  if (lastActivity.Count() > 0)
                  {
                      if (App.settings.DistanceMeasurement == "Miles")
                      {
                          WideContent3 = "Distance: " + lastActivity.First().Distance.ToString("0.##") + " miles";
                      }
                      else
                      {
                          WideContent3 = "Distance: " + (lastActivity.First().Distance * 1.609344).ToString("0.##") + " km";
                      }
                      WideContent2 = "Date: " + lastActivity.First().StartDateTime.ToShortDateString();
                      switch (lastActivity.First().ActivityType.ToLower())
                      {
                          case "running":
                              WideContent1 = "Last Run";
                              break;
                          case "walking":
                              WideContent1 = "Last Walk";
                              break;
                          case "cycling":
                              WideContent1 = "Last Cycle";
                              break;
                          case "swimming":
                              WideContent1 = "Last Swim";
                              break;
                      }

                      activityLogo = "/Assets/" + lastActivity.First().ActivityType + "Black-70.png";

                      if (lastActivity.First().CaloriesBurned > 0)
                      {
                          WideContent3 += " Calories: " + lastActivity.First().CaloriesBurned.ToString("0.#");
                      }

                  }

              }

              IconicTileData tileDate = new IconicTileData
              {
                  Title = "Training Buddy",
                  WideContent1 = WideContent1,
                  WideContent2 = WideContent2,
                  WideContent3 = WideContent3,
                  IconImage = new Uri("/Assets/RunningBlack-150.png", UriKind.Relative),
                  SmallIconImage = new Uri(activityLogo, UriKind.Relative)
              };

              // Update the Application Tile
              TileToFind.Update(tileDate);
          }

First I'm finding the application tile. It is possible to create additional tiles for your app which is another great feature, but if you want to just update the main tile it will be the first one returned.

Next I'm checking to see if the user has turned on the live tile or not. If they haven't then I'm just setting the tile back to its default state.

The following lines are then getting the content to display on the tile and building up the strings on local variables.

Lastly and most importantly I'm creating a new instance of IconicTileData and setting each of its properties with the data to show. Then it's just a case of calling Update on the tile instance and providing it with the new IconicTileData object.

The Tile

And here's the result

Live tiles are really easy to create so if your developing an app you should definitely take the time to add one.