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Quick Look at What’s New in VS 2013 Update 2 RC

Thursday, April 3, 2014 11:08 AM

One of the major announcements at BUILD 2014 was the topic of universal apps. What are universal apps?

u·ni·ver·sal apps [yoo-nuh-vur-suhl aps] - an app that is developed using a common Windows runtime which can run on multiple platforms (ie. phones, tablets, and PCs)

Check out the post, Extending Platform Commonality Through Universal Windows Apps on the Windows Blog to learn more about it.

To enable developers to build universal apps, Microsoft released an update to Visual Studio 2013 which also installs the latest SDKs so that you can get started on developing apps which target Windows 8.1, Windows Phone 8.1 or both (ie. universal)! You can download the update from the Microsoft Download Center.

I installed the update last night to have a quick peek at what has changed.

Universal App Templates

The first noticeable difference is the grouping of templates for Windows Store and Windows Phone apps.  Everything is now grouped under the label “Store apps”, from which you can choose to create Universal, Windows Store, or Windows Phone apps.

Drilling down to the Universal Apps, you can see there are a handful of templates available: Blank App, Hub App, Class Library, Windows Runtime Component.

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In creating a new Universal App using either the Blank App or Hub App template, you will notice that it creates a Windows 8.1, Windows Phone 8.1 and a Shared project by default. This allows you to create code that will be shared among both platforms in one location, similar to the concept of Portable Class Libraries, with one major difference…. the ability include your views in the Shared project! This concept was demonstrated at BUILD yesterday. If your views are designed properly (one example is to ensure you are not using fixed widths in your UI elements, folks), then your views will adapt to the resolution of the device that it is running on.

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Also, you will notice now that your projects will list the platform that it is targeting to the right of the project name.

I plan on experimenting with the latest SDKs and writing more posts on my experiences in developing Universal apps. But those are posts for another day. In the meantime, check out Laurent Buignon wrote a post on building a Universal App using MVVM Light, which is a great starting point.

Windows App Templates

The Windows Apps templates are pretty much the same as what was offered before, except the Portable Class Library template is no longer available here. Portable Class Libraries are available under the Universal Apps umbrella.

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Windows Phone Templates

The number of available Windows Phone templates has grown considerably in this update. The new Windows Phone 8.1 templates are labeled as “Windows Phone”. The original templates are still available, but are now labeled as “Windows Phone Silverlight”. This means that along with developing new WP8.1 apps, you can continue to develop new, and maintain any existing, WP8 apps.

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The WP8.1 templates will create projects that incorporate the Windows Runtime. So although there are a handful that are named the same as the original Windows Phone Silverlight templates (ie. Blank App, Hub App, Pivot App), the projects that are created reference a different set of libraries than the WP8 templates:

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You will also notice that there is a WebView template. For those of you that have developed apps for Windows 8, you will be familiar with the WebView control, which allows you to embed HTML content into your app. This replaces the WebBrowser control, which is no longer available when creating new WP8.1 apps. However, the WebBrowser control is available in WP8 apps, and in WP8 apps that have been retargeted to WP8.1.

Also, you can see that Coded UI Test Projects are now available for Windows Phone!

Summary

This was just a quick look at the new templates available in the latest VS2013 update, as well as the ability to create universal Windows apps. We have only scratched the surface of what’s new in VS2013 Update 2 RC. More posts will follow on my experiences with the latest update. But for now, you should download the update for yourself, and dive right in!