Microsoft has released a first preview of its Visual Studio 2015 tools for building Windows 10 apps.
“Windows 10 will be an exciting release for developers, with support for Windows universal apps that run across all Windows 10 devices and improved tooling for every Windows application type,” said S. “Soma” Somasegar, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Developer Division, in a blog post about the new tooling.
“With Windows 10, it is now possible to have a single universal app project that when deployed can run on all Windows 10 devices like PC, Phone, Tablet, or Xbox,” Somasegar said. “However, just as on Windows 8.1, you still have the option to have multiple projects in your solution that you can tailor for functionality and form-factor exhibited by various devices running Windows 10 and can maximize code sharing across those projects using Shared projects.”
To deploy apps built with this new preview version of the tools, users need to have the latest PC flight of Windows 10 installed. Yet, deploying the application to a phone running Windows 10 is not yet supported and will come in the future with a flight of a future release on Windows Phone. However, developers can experiment by deploying their app to the Windows 10 Phone emulator that is installed as a part of these tools. Also, support for other Windows 10 devices such as Xbox is not yet available in this preview.
“Our goal with this release is to give you the opportunity to experiment with the cool new platform capabilities while we continue working to finish Windows 10,” said Cliff Simpkins, a product manager for the Windows developer platform, on the Microsoft Windows Blog.
Simpkins also pointed out four key features in the preview release of the tools: Adaptive UX, user controls, API contracts and the Visual Studio tooling improvements Somasegar described.
Regarding user experience (UX), Windows 10 provides the ability to use a single UI that can adapt from small to large screens. Developers with an existing Windows 8.1 app “can quickly try this one out by (a) removing one of your UI projects (and going from three Visual Studio projects to one!) and (b) add the improved ViewStateManager to control how your UI adapts at runtime,” Simpkins said.
He also said a number of Microsoft’s Windows 10 UI controls will determine, at runtime, how the customer is interacting with a developer’s app and render the appropriate user experience.
Also, with Windows 10, developers can directly verify if a Windows feature is available rather than inferring based on the operating system version. This enables developers to begin checking, at runtime, if a Windows feature is available on the device before they call a related API. Simpkins said a good API contract for developers to try out in their code to see this in action is HardwareButtons, which is present on phones—via the Mobile Extensions SDK, and thus available on the phone and mobile emulator but not available on the desktop.
Microsoft Launches Windows 10 Developer Tools Preview
“We believe that API contracts and the extension SDKs will allow you to adapt your code at runtime to deliver user experiences that feel right on the device it’s being run on,” Simpkins said.
“With Windows 10 universal apps, you can choose to tailor your app to light up additional device-specific capabilities using adaptive code patterns,” Somasegar said, describing the same process. “You can reference an Extension SDK that supplies either Windows or Windows Mobile specific APIs and write code that checks for the presence of the API when running on any device before code execution.”
Moreover, all the capabilities Microsoft introduced in previous previews of Visual Studio 2015 are also available for Windows universal apps, including the new diagnostic tools, XAML UI debugging and all of the profiling tools. These tools make debugging and diagnosing Windows apps easier for developers.
Meanwhile, Somasegar said that with Windows 10, all .NET apps will be compiled with .NET Native by the Windows Store before being delivered to devices. Apps compiled with .NET Native will have a faster startup time and smaller memory footprint. This preview allows you to compile and run your .NET apps with the .NET Native tool chain on Window 10 PCs and Phones, he said.
In addition, all Windows Desktop applications—WPF, Windows Forms and Win32—continue to work on Windows 10 without any changes. With the Visual Studio 2015 tool for Windows 10, developers can now use the new Windows 10 APIs in their Win32 applications. Windows 10 also comes preinstalled with .NET Framework 4.6, which includes many new features including improvements in WPF and Windows Forms.
And to provide insights on usage patterns of apps, this release of Visual Studio integrates Application Insights with Windows 10 applications to provide developers with telemetry data for their applications via the Microsoft Azure portal. Application Insights offers deep visualizations and insights into the usage patterns of applications.
For his part, Simpkins noted that the Windows 10 developer documentation is online on the Windows Dev Center and new documentation code samples will be published on GitHub. Microsoft published an initial couple dozen samples, with many more planned for the Build 2015 conference timeframe. Build runs April 29 through May 1.