WinPhanDev

How to create a time based & cancelable BackgroundWorker for Windows Phone (and others)

backgroundworkerTimebased

While working on my current project, I needed a solution for a running code with a time offset. Well, you might say, no problem after all, and it is true.

The challenge at this point was to find a way to keep it cancelable at any time. And so the fun started.

After digging a bit deeper into the MSDN documentation, the BackgroundWorker class already have a bunch of methods and properties that are very helpful for this case.

As it is always the case when you work with multiple threads, it can cause some headache. But I got around it and thought it might be helpful for some of you.

Here is how I solved the scenario:

First, declare a static BackgroundWorker so you need to set it up only once on the page you want to use it. In the Loaded or OnNavigatedTo event, we are instantiating our BackgroundWorker.

worker = new BackgroundWorker();
worker.WorkerSupportsCancellation = true;
worker.WorkerReportsProgress = true;

Now, let’s add two very important properties: WorkerSupportsCancellation and WorkerReportsProgress. Both need to be set to true, otherwise you will get one InvalidOperationException after the other when running the code.

In my case, I created a separate method to start the BackgroundWorker and hook up to all important events:

        private void RunBackgroundWorker()
        {
            worker.RunWorkerCompleted += worker_RunBackgroundWorkerCompleted;

            //delegating the DoWork event
            worker.DoWork += ((s, args) =>
            {
                //generating a loop
                for (int i = 0; i < 100; i++)
                {

                    if (worker.CancellationPending == true)
                    {
                        //set cancel to true to finish the cancellation on the next run in the loop
                        args.Cancel = true;
                    }
                    else
                    {
                        //calculate your time: seconds * 1000 / 100
                        Thread.Sleep(50);
                        worker.ReportProgress(i);
                    }
                }
            });

            //can be used to fill a progress bar/show percentage
            worker.ProgressChanged += worker_ProgressChanged;

            //start the BackgroundWorker
            worker.RunWorkerAsync();
        }

You might notice that I created a loop that runs up to 100. This is necessary for my solution, as this is the key to make the BackgroundWorker cancelable in my solution. Every 50 milliseconds, the CancellationPending property gets checked as I am looping through until the count reaches 100.  I am setting an offset of 50 milliseconds, as I want to have a total offset of 5 seconds.

Next, let us set up a button that cancels the background task (can be used in other events/methods, too):

public void CancelButton_Click(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)
{
    //check this always to avoid InvalidOperationExceptions
   if (worker.WorkerSupportsCancellation == true)
   {
         //request cancellation of the BackgroundWorker
         //this sets the CancellationPending property to true
        worker.CancelAsync();
    }
 }

Important: Always check if the Cancellation is supported by your BackgroundWorker to avoid those ugly InvalidOperationExceptions. Then, simply call the CancelAsync() method of your BackgroundWorker to set the CancellationPending property to true.

When the BackgroundWorker has completed (or cancelled), the value of the CancellationPending property is passed to the RunBackgroundWorkerCompletedEvent, where you can simply use the e.Cancelled property to continue your code (which will then be back on your main application thread):

private void worker_RunBackgroundWorkerCompleted(object sender, RunWorkerCompletedEventArgs e)
{
    if (e.Cancelled == true)
    {
       //your code in case the BackgroundWorker was cancelled
    }
    else
    {
       //your code in case the BackgroundWorker was running until the end
    }
}

The last event I want to mention is the ProgressChanged event. It can be used to display a percentage or similar things, I just use it to see when the cancellation gets active:

private void worker_ProgressChanged(object sender, ProgressChangedEventArgs e)
{
     //your code here, for example display percentage or fill a progress bar

     //use the line below to check the percentage and if CancellationPending property gets changed
     //Debug.WriteLine(e.ProgressPercentage + "  " + worker.CancellationPending);
}

With this few methods we can create a time based  offset on a BackgroundWorker while keeping it cancelable at any time. The code above  should work in similar form also on other platforms like Windows 8 or Xamarin.

As always, I hope this will be helpful for some of you.

Happy coding!

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, windev, 1 comment

AppAdditives PromotionalCodes, Telerik trial reminder and how to let users unlock the full app on Windows Phone

I love it when I am discovering new awesome stuff to provide a unique User Experience in my apps. AppAdditives by ExGrip LLC are the newest tools I felt in love with.

AppAdditives allow you to create promo images, social cards and widgets for your blog very easy. On top of that, they provide you an easy to use promotional code system. According to their developers, they are planning even more awesome stuff for Windows Phone and Windows 8 in future to help especially small and indie developers/publishers.

Let’s have a look on how easy it is to generate a list of promo codes after you registered for their free service.

Screenshot (332)

To generate a new list of promo codes, click on Promotional Codes. Then choose which way you provide – one time codes (every code gets invalid after being redeemed) or multi-user codes (one code for up to 2 million users). I am using the one time codes for my app.

Screenshot (330)

After you selected the proper time zone, you will get the following settings menu:

settingsforpromocodes

 

Enter all your settings, and click on start to generate your list of promo codes. It will look like this:

Screenshot (331)

That’s all we need to do here. Let’s fire up Visual Studio. Open NuGet, and install the package ‘ExGrip.PromotionalCodes’ in your preferred way.

First, add your API Key and API Secret to your app (you will find them on the Promotional Codes page). Then, add the following code to your button/function that will redeem the code for your users:

            if (PromoCodeTextBox.Text != string.Empty)
            {
                PromotionCodeManager promoCodeMan = new PromotionCodeManager(AppAdditivesAPIKey, AppAdditivesAPISecret);

                bool validateCode = await promoCodeMan.ValidatePromoCode(this.PromoCodeTextBox.Text);

                if (validateCode == true)
                {
                    progress.Text = "redeeming promo code...";

                    bool redeemCode = await promoCodeMan.RedeemPromoCode(this.PromoCodeTextBox.Text);

                    if (redeemCode == true)
                    {
                        App.isPromoCodeActivated = true;

                        RedeemPromoCodeWindow.IsOpen = false;
                        redeemPromoCode.IsEnabled = false;

                        await RadMessageBox.ShowAsync("You unlocked the full version.", "Success", MessageBoxButtons.OK);

                    }
                    else
                    {
                        await RadMessageBox.ShowAsync("The code you entered cannot be redeemed. Please try again or contact our support.", "unable to redeem your code", MessageBoxButtons.OK);
                    }
                }
                else
                {
                    await RadMessageBox.ShowAsync("The code you entered is not valid. Please try again.", "invalid promo code", MessageBoxButtons.OK);
                }
            }
        }

As you can see, I am using an chain to first validate the promo code, and only if it is valid, I allow to redeem the code.

But that’s not all. I am using Telerik’s RadTrialApplicationReminder to manage the trial state of my app. Windows Phone does not allow to redeem a code for a full version via the Store, so we need to be creative here.

As I am not limiting features but use a time based trial, I can use three already existing properties of RadTrialApplicationReminder. If my Boolean is true after the app start, I am setting all periods to 9999 days and skip all further reminders:

                if (isPromoCodeActivated == true)
                {
                    trialReminder.FreePeriod = TimeSpan.FromDays(9999);
                    trialReminder.OccurrencePeriod = TimeSpan.FromDays(9999);
                    trialReminder.AllowedTrialPeriod = TimeSpan.FromDays(9999);
                    trialReminder.AreFurtherRemindersSkipped = true;
                }

This way, I can easily provide this clearly missing features by using Promotional Codes from AppAdditives. The only thing I need to do is to tell users to only download the trial version of my app and give them a promo code.

Additional hint: If you have users that switch devices, they are not able to redeem the code again. Just tell that to your users, they will be either asking you for another code – or buy your app, anyways.

As always, I hope this post is helpful for some of you.

Happy coding, everyone!

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, windev, 6 comments

How to build a custom Application Bar for your Windows Phone app (the easy way)

customappbarexpanded

In one of my recent projects, I was forced to use icons for the ApplicationBarButtons that didn’t fit into the circled template of the standard Windows Phone application bar.

The icons have special circles themselves, and I am not allowed to change anything on that icons (you’re right, it is for the corporate app I am working on). That’s why I needed to find another solution – and I started to write my own “ApplicationBar”.

As I am using Telerik’s Windows Phone Controls, I knew that the RadImageButton have exactly the same behavior than the buttons in the standard ApplicationBar. That point was already save, the only thing I needed to change was the ButtonShape of the RadImageButton from Rectangle to Ellipse – done.

This is the UserControl I created to achieve my goal:

<Border x:Name="customAppBarBorder"  Height="72" VerticalAlignment="Bottom">
    <Grid >
        <Grid.ColumnDefinitions>
            <ColumnDefinition Width="80"/>
            <ColumnDefinition Width="80"/>
            <ColumnDefinition Width="80"/>
            <ColumnDefinition Width="80"/>
            <ColumnDefinition Width="80"/>
            <ColumnDefinition Width="*"/>
        </Grid.ColumnDefinitions>
        <Grid.RowDefinitions>
            <RowDefinition Height="Auto"></RowDefinition>
            <RowDefinition Height="Auto"></RowDefinition>
        </Grid.RowDefinitions>

        <telerikPrimitives:RadImageButton x:Name="CustomAppBarRadImageButton1" Grid.Row="0" Grid.Column="1" HorizontalAlignment="Center" ButtonShape="Ellipse" RestStateImageSource="null" ></telerikPrimitives:RadImageButton>
        <telerikPrimitives:RadImageButton x:Name="CustomAppBarRadImageButton2" Grid.Row="0" Grid.Column="2" HorizontalAlignment="Center" RestStateImageSource="null" ButtonShape="Ellipse" ></telerikPrimitives:RadImageButton>
        <telerikPrimitives:RadImageButton x:Name="CustomAppBarRadImageButton3" Grid.Row="0" Grid.Column="3" HorizontalAlignment="Center" ButtonShape="Ellipse" RestStateImageSource="null"></telerikPrimitives:RadImageButton>
        <telerikPrimitives:RadImageButton x:Name="CustomAppBarRadImageButton4" Grid.Row="0" Grid.Column="4" HorizontalAlignment="Center" ButtonShape="Ellipse" RestStateImageSource="null"></telerikPrimitives:RadImageButton>

        <Image x:Name="overflowDots" Grid.Row="0" Grid.Column="5" Width="72" Source="/Assets/AppBar/overflowdots.png" VerticalAlignment="Top" HorizontalAlignment="Right" Tap="overflowDots_Tap"></Image>

        <TextBlock x:Name="CustomAppBarButtonItem1Text" Grid.Row="1" Grid.Column="1" Width="72" FontSize="14" VerticalAlignment="Center" HorizontalAlignment="Center" TextAlignment="Center" Margin="0,-4,0,0" />
        <TextBlock x:Name="CustomAppBarButtonItem2Text" Grid.Row="1" Grid.Column="2" Width="72" FontSize="14" VerticalAlignment="Center" HorizontalAlignment="Center" TextAlignment="Center" Margin="0,-4,0,0" />
        <TextBlock x:Name="CustomAppBarButtonItem3Text" Grid.Row="1" Grid.Column="3" Width="72" FontSize="14" VerticalAlignment="Center" HorizontalAlignment="Center" TextAlignment="Center" Margin="0,-4,0,0" />
        <TextBlock x:Name="CustomAppBarButtonItem4Text" Grid.Row="1" Grid.Column="4" Width="72" FontSize="14" VerticalAlignment="Center" HorizontalAlignment="Center" TextAlignment="Center" Margin="0,-4,0,0" />
    </Grid>
</Border>

It was a bit tricky to get all the size to get a similar appearance, but it does look like the original one.

The RadImageButton Control has also a Text that we can enter, but the text was to small or to close to the button, no matter what I did. That’s why there is another row in my Grid with the corresponding text.

You may have recognized the image with the Source “overflowdots.png” above. These are located in the Windows Phone icon folder (in Microsoft SDKs under program files). We need this icon to generate the transition the standard ApplicationBar has. It is done with two simple StoryBoards:

<UserControl.Resources>
    <Storyboard x:Name="FadeCustomAppBarButtonTextIn">
        <DoubleAnimation Storyboard.TargetName="customAppBarBorder"
                         Storyboard.TargetProperty="Height"
                         From="72" To="102" Duration="0:0:0.2"/>
    </Storyboard>

    <Storyboard x:Name="FadeCustomAppBarButtonTextOut">
        <DoubleAnimation Storyboard.TargetName="customAppBarBorder"
                         Storyboard.TargetProperty="Height"
                         From="102" To="72" Duration="0:0:0.2"/>
    </Storyboard>
</UserControl.Resources>

All we need now is a proper EventHandler – the TapEvent of the image inside the control is perfect for that:

private void overflowDots_Tap(object sender, System.Windows.Input.GestureEventArgs e)
{
    if (customAppBarBorder.ActualHeight == 72)
    {
        FadeCustomAppBarButtonTextIn.Begin();
    }
    else if (customAppBarBorder.ActualHeight == 102)
    {
        FadeCustomAppBarButtonTextOut.Begin();
    }
}

I am using a Border for the animation because with a Grid it was not as fluent as I wanted. That’s the whole code of the control I created. Let’s have a look at the implementation:

First thing is an additional row in our LayoutRoot Grid,  where we can add our custom app bar control to (set the Height to “Auto”). Add this code to add the app bar:

//declare the control:

public CustomAppBarWP8 customappbar;

//add your data to the app bar:

customappbar = new CustomAppBarWP8();

            customappbar.CustomAppBarBackground = new SolidColorBrush(Colors.Green);

            customappbar.CustomAppBarButtonItem1Text.Text = "test 1";
            customappbar.CustomAppBarButtonItem2Text.Text = "test 2";
            customappbar.CustomAppBarButtonItem3Text.Text = "test 3";
            customappbar.CustomAppBarButtonItem4Text.Text = "test 4";

            customappbar.CustomAppBarRadImageButton1.RestStateImageSource = new BitmapImage(new Uri("Assets/AppBar/microphone.png", UriKind.RelativeOrAbsolute));
            customappbar.CustomAppBarRadImageButton2.RestStateImageSource = new BitmapImage(new Uri("Assets/AppBar/save.png", UriKind.RelativeOrAbsolute));
            customappbar.CustomAppBarRadImageButton3.RestStateImageSource = new BitmapImage(new Uri("Assets/AppBar/delete.png", UriKind.RelativeOrAbsolute));
            customappbar.CustomAppBarRadImageButton4.RestStateImageSource = new BitmapImage(new Uri("Assets/AppBar/questionmark.png", UriKind.RelativeOrAbsolute));

//registering the tap events:

            customappbar.CustomAppBarRadImageButton1.Tap += CustomAppBarRadImageButton1_Tap;
            customappbar.CustomAppBarRadImageButton2.Tap += CustomAppBarRadImageButton2_Tap;
            customappbar.CustomAppBarRadImageButton3.Tap += CustomAppBarRadImageButton3_Tap;
            customappbar.CustomAppBarRadImageButton4.Tap += CustomAppBarRadImageButton4_Tap;

//adding the app bar to the dedicated Grid:
            AppBarGrid.Children.Add(customappbar);

The standard Application Bar does fading out the text on a button tap, so we need to add this line in every tap event. Otherwise, it would remain open all the time.

if (customappbar.ActualHeight == 102)
{
    customappbar.FadeCustomAppBarButtonTextOut.Begin();
}

To get the same result on tapping outside our custom app bar, add the same code to your main Grid’s MouseLeftButtonDown event. This way, you have the same behavior like in the original control.

Additional note: I needed to find a quick way to achieve this, that’s why I may have not been using best practices. I also used the RadImageButton Control to speed things up. I will refine this control when I have more time available for it, as well as add a version without Telerik controls and adding the menu items.

If you have any idea on how to improve this, feel free to left a comment below.

Anyways, you can download the source of the code above here: https://github.com/MSiccDev/CustomAppBar_WP8

As always, I hope this will be helpful for some of you.

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, windev, 0 comments

How to integrate tickets from uservoice into your Windows Phone app

This time, we will have look on how to integrate tickets from uservoice into your Windows Phone app.

Users love to see a history of their tickets they submitted to a customer service. They can review them again, and maybe help also other users by showing or telling them about it.

However, if you want to get a list of all tickets from a specific user, we need to slightly change our request. We need to login as owner of the account to be allowed to search all tickets.

Let’s have a look on how to log in as owner:

        private void LoginAsOwner()
        {
            string loginAsOwnerPath = "/api/v1/users/login_as_owner";
            var client = new RestClient(BaseUrl)
            {
                Authenticator = OAuth1Authenticator.ForRequestToken(ConsumerKey, ConsumerSecret, oAuthCallBackUri)
            };

            //works only with POST!
            var request = new RestRequest(loginAsOwnerPath, Method.POST);
            request.AddHeader("Accept", "application/json");

            var response = client.ExecuteAsync(request, HandleLoginAsOwnerResponse);
        }

        private void HandleLoginAsOwnerResponse(IRestResponse restResponse)
        {
            var response = restResponse;
            var ownerTokens = JsonConvert.DeserializeObject<UserViaMailClass.Token>(response.Content);

            OwnerAccesToken = ownerTokens.oauth_token;
            OwnerAccesTokenSecret = ownerTokens.oauth_token_secret;

        }

The authorization request is pretty similar to the user’s authentication request. However, if we log in as owner, we are getting another AccessToken and another AccessTokenSecret. That’s why we are using the ‘ForRequestToken’-method with our RestClient.

Important to know is that the request itself works only with the HTTP-method ‘POST’, otherwise the login would be denied.

We are getting back the JSON string of our owner account, which can be deserialized with JSON.net to get our AccessToken and AccessTokenSecret. I attached my ‘UserViaMailClass‘ for easy deserialization (yes, it looks similar to the user class from my authentication post, but has some differences in there).

Now that we have our OwnerAccesToken and OwnerAccessTokenSecret, we are able to search for all tickets from a specific user:

        public void GetAllTicketsFromUser()
        {
            string mailaddress = "<usersmailaddress>";
            string getSearchTicketsPath = "/api/v1/tickets/search.json";
            var client = new RestClient(BaseUrl)
            {
                Authenticator = OAuth1Authenticator.ForProtectedResource(ConsumerKey, ConsumerSecret, OwnerAccesToken, OwnerAccesTokenSecret)
            };

            var request = new RestRequest(getSearchTicketsPath, Method.GET);

            request.AddParameter("query", mailaddress);

            var response = client.ExecuteAsync(request, HandleGetAllTicketsFromUserResponse);
        }

        private void HandleGetAllTicketsFromUserResponse(IRestResponse restResponse)
        {
            var response = restResponse;

            var tickets = JsonConvert.DeserializeObject<TicketDataClass.TicketData>(response.Content);
        }

This request is again pretty similar to what we did to get a list of all suggestions. Please find attached my ‘TicketDataClass‘ for easy deserialization.

Of course, users want to be able to submit new tickets/support requests from our app, too. I will show you how to do that:

        public void CreateNewTicketAsUser()
        {
            string ticketsPath = "/api/v1/tickets.json";
            var client = new RestClient(BaseUrl)
            {
                Authenticator = OAuth1Authenticator.ForProtectedResource(ConsumerKey, ConsumerSecret, AccessToken, AccessTokenSecret)
            };

            var request = new RestRequest(ticketsPath, Method.POST);
            request.AddParameter("ticket[subject]", "testing the uservoice API");
            request.AddParameter("ticket[message]", "hi there, \n\nwe are just testing the creation of a new uservoice ticket.");

            var response = client.ExecuteAsync(request, HandleCreateNewTicketAsUserResponse);
        }

        private void HandleCreateNewTicketAsUserResponse(IRestResponse restResponse)
        {
            var response = restResponse;
        }

To submit a new ticket, we are using the user’s AccessToken and AccessTokenSecret. This way, the ticket gets automatically assigned to the ticket. We then need to pass the ‘ticket[subject]’ and ‘ticket[message]’ parameters to the request to make it being accepted by the uservoice API.

The response is a json string that contains the ticket id, which can be used to fetch the submitted ticket data. The Alternative is to call again the search method we created before to get the updated list.

Answering to already existing tickets as user seems to be not possible with the current API. Normally, if a user responds to the response mail we answer their support ticket with, it will get assigned to the existing ticket. If we create a new ticket with the same subject, it will be a new ticket that creates a new thread. I already reached out to uservoice if there is a way to do the same from the API. As soon as I have a response that enables me to do so, I will update this post.

Now that we have all important functions for our new support system, I am starting to make a small helper library for your Windows Phone 8 apps. I hope to have it finished by this weekend, and will of course blog about here.

As always, I hope this blog post is helpful for some of you. Until the next post,

Happy coding everyone!

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, windev, 4 comments

How to integrate the feedback forum of uservoice into your Windows Phone app

As I described in my first blog post about uservoice, uservoice has a feedback forum where users are able to submit and vote for ideas.

This post is about how to get those ideas into your app. On the API side, the ideas are called suggestions. Now that we know how to authenticate our users for the API, we are able to get a list of suggestions into our app:

        public void GetSuggestions()
        {

            string suggestionsPath = "api/v1/forums//suggestions.json";
            var client = new RestClient(BaseUrl)
            {
                Authenticator = OAuth1Authenticator.ForProtectedResource(ConsumerKey, ConsumerSecret, AccessToken, AccessTokenSecret)
            };

            var request = new RestRequest(suggestionsPath, Method.GET);
            var response = client.ExecuteAsync(request, HandleGetSuggestionResponse);
        }

This is pretty straight forward. We are using the oAuth1Authenticator with our saved tokens as parameter to call the suggestions endpoint of the uservoice API. The result is a JSON string that holds all suggestions as a list.

In our response handler, we are able to deserialize our List of suggestions (best with JSON.net):

private void HandleGetSuggestionResponse(IRestResponse restResponse)
        {
            var response = restResponse;

            var suggestionslist = JsonConvert.DeserializeObject<SuggestionsDataClass.SuggestionsData>(response.Content);
            suggestionsListBox.ItemsSource = suggestionslist.suggestions;
        }

To get the SuggestionsDataClass items, just go to json2csharp.com and pass in the json string we received with response.Content or download it from here: SuggestionsDataClass.

Now let’s have a look on how to submit a new idea on behalf of our user. To submit an idea, we are using the POST method after we authenticated our user again with the uservoice API:

public void PostSuggestion()
        {
            string suggestionsPath = "api/v1/forums//suggestions.json";
            var client = new RestClient(BaseUrl)
            {
                Authenticator = OAuth1Authenticator.ForProtectedResource(ConsumerKey, ConsumerSecret, AccessToken, AccessTokenSecret)
            };

            var request = new RestRequest(suggestionsPath, Method.POST);
            request.AddHeader("Accept", "application/json");
            request.Parameters.Clear();
            request.RequestFormat = DataFormat.Json;

            var newSuggestion = new SuggestionsDataClass.Suggestion();
            newSuggestion.title = "test suggestion number 2 from app development";
            newSuggestion.text = "please ignore this suggestion as we are testing integration of ideas into our apps";
            newSuggestion.vote_count = 3;

            request.AddParameter("suggestion[title]", newSuggestion.title);
            request.AddParameter("suggestion[text]", newSuggestion.text);
            request.AddParameter("suggestion[votes]", newSuggestion.vote_count);
            request.AddParameter("suggestion[referrer]", "uservoice test app");            

            var response = client.ExecuteAsync(request, HandlePostSuggestionResponse);

        }

This call is a bit different from the previous one. We need to pass the idea data to as parameters to our request. The parameter “suggestion[title]” is the main one and always required. As you can see, “suggestion[text]” and “suggestion[votes]” are additional parameters that make the idea complete. All other date is generated by the uservoice server (like posted at, connect to the user who posted that, etc..). The parameter “suggestion[referrer]” is only visible in our admin console and can help you to track from where the suggestion was submitted.

In our response handler, we are receiving a complete set of suggestion data as a JSON string that we can use display to our users and enable sharing of this idea for example:

        private void HandlePostSuggestionResponse(IRestResponse restResponse)
        {
            var response = restResponse;

            //tbd: do something with the result (e.g. checking response.StatusCode)
        }

 

Screenshot (305)

The last important point I want to show you is how to let a user vote for an idea.

        public void VoteOnSuggestion()
        {
            string postUserVotesPath = "/api/v1/forums//suggestions/{0}/votes.json";
            string suggestionId = "";
            var client = new RestClient(BaseUrl)
            {
                Authenticator = OAuth1Authenticator.ForProtectedResource(ConsumerKey, ConsumerSecret, AccessToken, AccessTokenSecret)
            };

            var request = new RestRequest(string.Format(postUserVotesPath, suggestionId), Method.POST);
            request.AddHeader("Accept", "application/json");
            request.Parameters.Clear();
            request.RequestFormat = DataFormat.Json;

            request.AddParameter("to", 3);

            var response = client.ExecuteAsync(request, HandleVotingResponse);

        }

Of course we need to authenticate our user again. We need to pass the suggestion id to the request path (which is part of the Suggestion class). This call accepts only one parameter (“to”). The value can be between 1 and 3 (tip: only offer this three options from your code already to avoid erroneous responses).

The response handler returns the suggestion’s JSON string the user voted on again:

        private void HandleVotingResponse(IRestResponse restResponse)
        {
            var response = restResponse;

            //tbd: do something with the result (e.g. checking response.StatusCode)
        }

This was all about how to integrate the feedback forum of your uservoice account into your app. As always, I hope this will be useful for some of you.

If you want to explore which additional endpoints uservoice has, you are just a click away: https://developer.uservoice.com/docs/api/reference/

Happy coding, everyone!

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, windev, 0 comments

How to authenticate users with the uservoice API on Windows Phone

I am really enjoying playing around with the uservoice API. It enables me to integrate a lot of cool new features that take the user experience to a new level, while helping me to improve my apps.

Today, I am going to write about how to authenticate a user with the uservoice API.

uservoice uses the oAuth authentication in version 1.0a. Therefore, we need a consumer key and a consumer secret for our app. Log into <yourname>.uservoice.com, and go to ‘Settings/Integration’, where you create a new API client for your app.

I recommend to set it up as a trusted client, as you will have more rights with a trusted client. After your set up your app, you should have an entry like this under integrations:

uservoice_api_client

Now we have everything set up on the uservoice part. Let’s go to our app. I am using the RestSharp library that makes it a little easier to authenticate users. You should do the same if you want to follow along this post. In Visual Studio, right click the project name and select ‘Manage NuGet packages’, and search for RestSharp in the ‘Online’ section.

After we have integrated the RestSharp library in our app, we are going to set up some objects for authentication:

 const string ConsumerKey = "<yourkey>";
 const string ConsumerSecret = "<yoursecret>";
 static string oAuthToken = "";
 static string oAuthTokenSecret = "";
 static string oAuthVerifier = "";
 static string AccessToken = "";
 static string AccessTokenSecret = "";
 const string BaseUrl = "http://<yourname>.uservoice.com";
 const string oAuthCallBackUri = "<yourcallbackUrl>";
 const string requestTokenPath = "oauth/request_token";
 const string authorizePath = "/oauth/authorize?";
 const string accessTokenPath = "oauth/access_token";

Setting up these static and constant string object are needed for our authentication flow.

Next, add a WebBrowser control in XAML. We need this to let the user authorize our app to communicate with the uservoice servers:

<Grid x:Name="authBrowserGrid" Visibility="Collapsed">
 <phone:WebBrowser x:Name="authBrowser" Height="800" Width="460"></phone:WebBrowser>
 </Grid>

You might have noticed that I set the Visibility property  to collapsed.  With oAuth, we are typically authenticating users by referring them to the web site, that handles the login process for us. After the user has authorized our app, the website transfers the user to our callback url that we define with our API client.

As I told you already above, RestSharp helps us a lot when it comes to authentication.

There are several ways to use the RestSharp API, but for the moment, I am using it directly to authenticate my users.

This is the start method:

public void GetUserAuthenticated()
 {

            authBrowserGrid.Visibility = Visibility.Visible;

            var client = new RestClient(BaseUrl)
 {
 Authenticator = OAuth1Authenticator.ForRequestToken(ConsumerKey, ConsumerSecret, oAuthCallBackUri)
 };

            var request = new RestRequest(requestTokenPath, Method.GET);
 var response = client.ExecuteAsync(request, HandleRequestTokenResponse);
 }

We are creating a new RestClient that calls our BaseUrl which we defined before. In the same call, we are telling our client that we want to use oAuth 1.0(a), passing the parameters ConsumerKey, ConsumerSecret and our callback url with the client. As we want to receive a RequestToken, we are generating a new RestRequest, passing the requestTokenPath and the ‘GET’ method as parameters.

Finally, we want to continue with the response, that should contain our RequestToken. Windows Phone  only supports the ExecuteAsync method, which needs a specific response handler to be executed. That was the first lesson I had to learn with using RestSharp on Windows Phone. To handle the response, we are creating a new handler method that implements ‘IRestResponse’: 

private void HandleRequestTokenResponse(IRestResponse restResponse)
 {
    var response = restResponse;

          //tbd: write an extraction helper for all tokens, verifier, secrets
 oAuthToken = response.Content.Substring((response.Content.IndexOf("oauth_token=") + 12), (response.Content.IndexOf("&oauth_token_secret=") - 12));
 var tempStringForGettingoAuthTokenSecret = response.Content.Substring(response.Content.IndexOf("&oauth_token_secret=") + 20);
 oAuthTokenSecret = tempStringForGettingoAuthTokenSecret.Substring(0,  tempStringForGettingoAuthTokenSecret.IndexOf("&oauth_callback_confirmed"));

var authorizeUrl = string.Format("{0}{1}{2}",BaseUrl, authorizePath, response.Content);

           authBrowser.Navigate(new Uri(authorizeUrl));
 authBrowser.IsScriptEnabled = true;
 authBrowser.Navigating += authBrowser_Navigating;

}

We now have an object that we are able to work with (the variable response). We need to extract the oauth_token and the oauth_token_secret and save them for later use.

After that, we can build our authorization url, that we pass to the WebBrowser control we created earlier. Important: you should set the ‘IsScriptEnabled’ property to true, as authentication websites often use scripts to verify the entered data. Last but not least, we are subscribing to the Navigating event of the browser control. In this event, we are handling the response to the authorization:

void authBrowser_Navigating(object sender, NavigatingEventArgs e)
 {
      if (e.Uri.AbsolutePath == "<yourAbsolutePath>")
      {
           oAuthVerifier = e.Uri.Query.Substring(e.Uri.Query.IndexOf("&oauth_verifier=") + 16);

           GetAccessToken();
      }
 }

We only need the verification string for out next request we have to send, so we are extracting the parameter “oauth_verifier” and going over to get our AccessToken for all further requests:

private void GetAccessToken()
 {
 var client = new RestClient(BaseUrl)
 {
 Authenticator = OAuth1Authenticator.ForAccessToken(ConsumerKey, ConsumerSecret, oAuthToken, oAuthTokenSecret, oAuthVerifier)
 };

            var request = new RestRequest(accessTokenPath, Method.GET);
 var response = client.ExecuteAsync(request, HandleAccessTokenResponse);

        }

This time, we are telling our RestClient that we want to get the AccessToken, and we need also the oAuthToken and the oAuthTokenSecret we saved before we navigated our users to the uservoice authentication site. Of course, we also need a handler for the response to this request:

private void HandleAccessTokenResponse(IRestResponse restResponse)
 {
 var response = restResponse;

            AccessToken = response.Content.Substring(12, response.Content.IndexOf("&oauth_token_secret=") -12);
 AccessTokenSecret = response.Content.Substring(response.Content.IndexOf("&oauth_token_secret=") + 20);

            authBrowserGrid.Visibility = Visibility.Collapsed;

            //continue with your code (new method call etc.)
 }

The only thing we now need to do is to extract the AccessToken and the AccessTokenSecret and save them permanently in our app (as long as the user is authenticated). We need them for a lot of calls to the uservoice API.

Let’s call the uservoice API to get more information about the user that has now authorized our app:

public void GetUser()
 {
 var client = new RestClient(BaseUrl)
 {
 Authenticator = OAuth1Authenticator.ForProtectedResource(ConsumerKey, ConsumerSecret, AccessToken, AccessTokenSecret)
 };

           var request = new RestRequest(getUserPath, Method.GET);
 var response = client.ExecuteAsync(request, HandleGetUserResponse);
 }

As you can see, we are now only using the AccessToken and the AccessTokenSecret to call the uservoice API, no additional login is required. To complete this sample, here is again the handler for the response:

        private void HandleGetUserResponse(IRestResponse restResponse)
       {
              var response = restResponse;

            //tbd: do something with the result (e.g. checking response.StatusCode)

       }

We have now received a JSON string that tells us a lot of information about our user and the date we have on uservoice:

Screenshot (304)

 

As you can see, it is relatively easy to get our users authenticated and calling the uservoice API. In my next blog post, I will write about suggestions (that’s the idea forum). I will go into details on getting a list of all suggestions, how to let a user post a new idea and letting a user vote for ideas – all from within  your app!

In the meantime, I hope this post is helpful for some of you.

Happy coding, everyone!

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, windev, 2 comments

How to fetch articles from your uservoice knowledgebase into a Windows Phone app

As some of you might know, I recently switched to uservoice.com for feedback, support and also FAQ hosting (read more here). Of course I want to integrate all those features into my app(s) to make the user experience as native as possible.

First, you need to generate a new app in uservoice.com. Log into your account, click on ‘Admin Console’, ‘Settings’ and finally ‘Integrations’. Then add your API client, you will have something like this:

uservoice_api_client

Today, we are starting with getting our knowledge base articles into our app.

This is the easiest part besides assigning the support mail address to a button.

Here is how we are doing it:

First, we need to declare some constants:

//consumer key and secret are needed to authorize our requests (oAuth)
 //KB articles only need the ConsumerKey
 const string ConsumerKey = "<youKey>";
 const string ConsumerSecret = "<yourSecret>";
 //all KB articles:
 const string KnowledgebaseString = "http://<yoursubdomain>.uservoice.com/api/v1/articles.json?client={0}";
 //KB topic articles:
 //using sort=oldest ensures that you will get the right order of your articles
 const string KnowledgebaseTopicString = "http://<yousubdomain>.uservoice.com/api/v1/topics/{0}/articles.json?client={1}&sort=oldest";

static string articleJsonString;

As you can see, we have two options to fetch our knowledgebase articles – all articles (if you have only one app, you’re fine with that) or topic based.

To get the needed topic id, just open the topic in your browser. The topic id is part of the url:

uservoice_topic_id

For getting authorized to receive the JSON string of our knowledge base, we need to pass the consumer key as parameter “client” to the base url of our request. To get our list sorted, I am using the sort parameter as well.

To receive the JSON string, we are creating an async Task<string> that fetches our article. To make the result reloadable, add the IfModifiedSince Header (otherwise Windows Phone caches the result during the app’s current lifecycle).

//receiving the JSON string for our KB does not need any advanced requests: 
//a basic HttpClient handles everything for us, as we don't need any authentication here
public async Task<string> GetKBJsonString()
{
      string getKBJSonStringFromUserVoice = string.Empty;

     HttpClient getKBJsonClient = new HttpClient();
     getKBJsonClient.DefaultRequestHeaders.IfModifiedSince = DateTime.Now;

     getKBJSonStringFromUserVoice = await getKBJsonClient.GetStringAsync(new Uri(string.Format(KnowledgebaseTopicString, "47463", ConsumerKey), UriKind.RelativeOrAbsolute));

      return getKBJSonStringFromUserVoice;
 }

Of course we want to have a list shown to our users – to display our JSON string in a ListBox, we need to deserialize it. To be able to deserialize it, we need a data class. You can use json2sharp.com to generate the base class or use this one (download Link). It fits for both all articles or topic based articles.

First, create a ListBox with the corresponding DataTemplate (I am only using question and answer text for this demo).

            <ListBox x:Name="FAQListBox">
                <ListBox.ItemTemplate>
                    <DataTemplate>
                        <Grid>
                            <Grid.RowDefinitions>
                                <RowDefinition Height="Auto"></RowDefinition>
                                <RowDefinition Height="Auto"></RowDefinition>
                            </Grid.RowDefinitions>
                            <TextBlock Grid.Row="0" x:Name="questionTB" Style="{StaticResource PhoneTextTitle2Style}" Text="{Binding question}" TextWrapping="Wrap"></TextBlock>
                            <TextBlock Grid.Row="1" x:Name="answerTB" Style="{StaticResource PhoneTextSubtleStyle}" Text="{Binding text}" TextWrapping="Wrap"></TextBlock>
                        </Grid>
                    </DataTemplate>
                </ListBox.ItemTemplate>
            </ListBox>

I am using JSON.net for everything around JSON strings. Here is how to deserialize the JSON string and set the ItemsSource of our Listbox:

            articleJsonString = await GetKBJsonString();

            var articlesList = JsonConvert.DeserializeObject<KBArticleDataClass.KBArticleData>(articleJsonString);

            FAQListBox.ItemsSource = articlesList.articles;

You are now already able to run the project. Here is the result of my test app, displaying the FAQ of my NFC Toolkit app:

uservoice_listbox_testapp_screenshot

As you can see, it takes only about ten minutes to get the knowledge base into your app. Using a remote source has a lot of advantages, the most important one is you don’t need to update your app when you add new answered questions.

I am now starting to work on integrating the feedback forum. It requires an oAuth authentication, and will be a bit more complicated than this one. Of course I will share it with you all here on my blog – stay tuned.

Until then – happy coding!

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, windev, 3 comments

[Updated] NFC Toolkit uri schemes

app2app_nfctoolkit

If you are following me, you might have noticed that uri schemes actually are playing a big role in my Windows Phone apps. (read more)

NFC Toolkit, one of my main projects, offers now also the possibility to interact with your apps.

One of the unique features of NFC Toolkit is profiles. Profiles are designed to open up to 5 settings pages in a row (as directly setting them is not possible because of OS restrictions). At the end of a profile, an extra from within the app or another app can be launched.

In Phase I, NFC Toolkit enables other developers to add their custom uri association/scheme to the list of launchable apps in profiles.

Here is how the uri needs to be formatted to work:

"nfctoolkit:addmyapp?appname=<yourappnamehere>&urischeme=<yoururischemehere>"

I will add more uri associations with the next updates and update this post with them.

[Update 2]

Starting with version 0.9.8.1 of NFC Toolkit, I added new uri schemes to enable you to write data on NFC tags. Here is the list of possible writing records:

  • website record:
"nfctoolkit:writetag?type=smartposter&url=<url>&title=<title of the website>&languagecode=<two letter lang code (standard: en)>"
  •   text record:
"nfctoolkit:writetag?type=text&content=<your text here>&languagecode=<two letter lang code (standard: en)>"
  • send mail record:
"nfctoolkit:writetag?type=mail&mailaddress=<mailaddress>&mailsubject=<mailsubject>&mailbody=<mailbody>"
  •  settings page:
//supported pages: flight mode, cellular, WiFi, Bluetooth, location, lock screen
"nfctoolkit:writetag?type=settings&page=<settings page name as listed above>"
  •  launch system app:
//supported pages: 
//"Alarm", "background tasks", "brightness settings", "Bing Vision", "Calculator", "Calendar", "call history", 
//"Camera", "Data Sense", "date + time settings", "ease of access", "find my phone", "Games", "Help+Tips", 
//"Internet Explorer", "internet sharing", "keyboard settings", "kid's corner settings", "language + region settings", 
//"Maps",  "Messaging", "Music+Videos", "Office", "OneNote", "People", "Phone", "phone information", "Photos", 
//"Rooms", "SIM Applications", "Start", "Store", "theme settings", "Wallet"
"nfctoolkit:writetag?type=sysapp&name=<system app name as listed above>"
  •  launch any app by name or publisher name:
//launches the store page search in NFC Toolkit and searches for the app/publisher
"nfctoolkit:writetag?type=launchapp&appname=<app name or publisher name>"

On top of that, I added an uri scheme that allows a plain launch of NFC Toolkit:

"nfctoolkit:home"

I updated my custom uri scheme test app as well for you. Download it here: CustomUriSchemeTestApp

Happy coding everyone!

 

 

 

Posted by msicc in Archive, 5 comments

Experiment: using uservoice.com for Support, Feedback and FAQ

On my daily job, I am working as a Mobile Hardware Support Agent of a German  carrier. Because of that, I know how important a good support for customers (=users) is – and also, a little knowledge base where users can find most probably an answer for their  questions.

I want my customers to be satisfied. As an indie developer, I have a little problem: I don’t have a support team that catches all the support questions for me. I need to do this by myself. Until now, I am doing this by using a send-me-a-mail button in my apps. However, due to the fact that I have a 9to5 job and a family besides developing apps, time is a bit limited for me. I searched for some solutions to improve the way I am doing my customer service, and uservoice seems like a good tool to improve my customer service a lot.

As you can see at the feature comparison list of uservoice, the free account already allows you to do a lot of things: https://www.uservoice.com/plans/?ref=top_pricing. It is free for one support agent – perfect for an indie developer like me.

What can you do with uservoice?

uservoice has a lot of features:

  • support ticket system
  • knowledge base
  • feedback system/forum
  • and many more, if you are going for a paid plan

Let’s have a look at the first three features:

Support ticket system

Adding the ticketing system is very easy. You just need a EMailComposeTask pointing to your ticket system. Your standard mail address for that will be: “tickets@<yourname>.uservoice.com”. This is how a received ticket looks like:

Screenshot (289)

Answering to a user is as easy as writing an email – plus you have a ticket history at a glance.

On top of that, you are able to insert a so called ‘canned response’ based on your knowledge base:

Screenshot (290)

Knowledge base

You can build up a knowledge base for your apps.

Screenshot (286)

In the left menu at the bottom at your admin console, you will find the ‘ARTICLES’ section. This is where all the knowledge base articles are collected.

You can create also topics within that KB. I did so for all of my apps:

Screenshot (286)

This way, you can use your free account to support all of your apps with FAQ/KB articles – pretty easy.

Here is how to set up a new article: after clicking on ‘All articles’, there is a ‘New Article’ button on the right side of your screen. Click on that, you will see this on the right hand side:

Screenshot (287)

You can set up the article name, the text and the topic as well as the position you want to show it up in your knowledge base.

You can take a look at my knowledge base here: https://msiccdev.uservoice.com/knowledgebase

How can you use this in your apps? I plan to create an API wrapper for their C# SDK, which is not compatible with Windows Phone at the moment. I will write another blog post for that. Luckily, uservoice as a very nice mobile interface, so you can start off with a simple WebBrowserTask to open your knowledge base:

wp_ss_20140106_0001

Technically, it would be possible to use a WebBrowser control, too. But you would need to code more to get a proper browsing handling.

Feedback system/forum

Some of you might be already familiar with the feedback or idea forum of uservoice (even Microsoft uses this). This time, we look at the other side of the forum, from our admin console:

Screenshot (292)

You have a similar view to what users see, but there are some more parts to control your forum. As a free user, you have only one forum, so it might be useful if you add the app name in front of the title of an idea. You can respond, take notes, and change the status of the ideas:

Screenshot (293)

To integrate the feedback function in your app, you can again use a WebBrowserTask to open the mobile page of your idea forum:

wp_ss_20140106_0002

These are the first simple steps to create your own customer support system with uservoice. Like I said before, I will write a Windows Phone wrapper to get this into an app as native, and will share it here with you all.

Until the next post, happy coding!

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, windev, 0 comments

A simple approach to remove QueryStrings from NavigationContext on Windows Phone

QuerystringsRemove

Like most of you know, I am currently adding a lot of new features to my NFC Toolkit for Windows Phone.

Today, my coding session is all about uri schemes again. I successfully added some new uri schemes that you will be able to use soon.

However, if you start an app via an uri scheme, you will have  QueryStrings in your NavigationContext on the desired ApplicationPage. If a user continues to use your app, navigates away from the launched page and back to it, the code based on your QueryStrings will be called again.

As I am a daily Windows Phone user by myself, I know this is somewhat annoying. So I searched for a solution. I first thought about removing entries in the BackStack, but that would need a lot of code if you are running an application that has more than two pages – you’ll need to add methods to check if you are coming from an uri scheme, clear the BackStack, pass the parameters to the next page, get back to your MainPage, check the parameters again. Totally unusable in my opinion.

The NavigationContext.QueryString property has a Remove() method as I found out while researching a bit more – that’s what I am using now to get the result I want – make the app running like it was launched normally without uri scheme after the action has taken place.

I found some examples that are using the method in the  OnNavigatedTo() event. I don’t think that’s the right way, as I often happen to have some more code in this event, and it will probably break other functionality. I am using the OnNavigatedFrom() event.

Add this lines of code for every QueryString you want to remove (depending on your method structure, it is ok to remove only the QueryString you rely on in your further code, additional parameters can be still there ):

protected override void OnNavigatedFrom(NavigationEventArgs e)
{
   if (NavigationContext.QueryString.ContainsKey("key1"))
   {
      NavigationContext.QueryString.Remove("key1");                                
   }
   if (NavigationContext.QueryString.ContainsKey("key2"))
   {
       NavigationContext.QueryString.Remove("key2");
   }            
   base.OnNavigatedFrom(e);
}

This way, if you are navigating to another page in your app or even if the user uses the Windows Button, the corresponding QueryString will be removed – and your users are able to use the app as they would have launch it without an uri scheme.

However, that’s not all. When your app get’s Tombstoned, the UriMapper will map the uri scheme again on Activation – not what you might want. To get around this, I use a simple Boolean, set it to true when I am coming back from Tombstoning:

private void Application_Activated(object sender, ActivatedEventArgs e)
{
    if (!e.IsApplicationInstancePreserved)
    {
        wasTombstoned = true;  
    }
}

Now the only thing you will need to to is to add

&& App.wasTombstoned == false

as second argument to your QueryString clause – that’s it!

I am not sure if this is a good approach or not, but it works. It allows you to launch your uri scheme, and enables the user to use your app after that as it would have been launched normally. If you have other ways to get the same result, feel free to leave a comment below.

Otherwise, I hope this post is helpful for some of you.

Happy coding!

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, windev, 5 comments