uwp

Xamarin Forms, the MVVMLight Toolkit and I: Dependecy Injection

Xamarin Forms is not always able to call platform specific code without some additional work to do. Thanks to the MVVM pattern, we are already familiar with the solution for this problem: Dependency Injection (DI).

Recap

Let’s just do a small recap what Dependency Injection means. The DI pattern’s main goal is to decouple objects and their dependencies. To separate concerns, we are using this structure nearly every time:

  • interface which defines the provided functionality
  • service class which provides the functionality defined in the interface
  • container that allows client classes/objects to use the functionality defined in the interface

The interface, our helpful dictator

DI always involves an interface, which dictates the functionality of the implementation. In Xamarin Forms, the interface rests inside the PCL/common project:

public interface IOsVersionService
{
    string GetOsVersion { get; } 
}

This interface gets the current installed version of the operating system. The next step ist to create the platform implementation, which is commonly defined as a service class.

Platform Implementation (service class)

We need to implement the service class for each platform. The setup is pretty easy, just add a new class and implement the interface for each platform:

implement-interface-vs2017

Tip: I am using a separate folder for platform implementations and set it to be a namespace provider. This makes it easier to maintain and I keep the same structure in all platform projects.

Let’s have a look into the specific implementations:

Android

public string GetOsVersion
{
    get
    {
        var versionNb = Build.VERSION.Release;
        var codename = Build.VERSION.Codename;
 
        return $"Android {versionNb} ({codename})";
    }
}

iOS

public string GetOsVersion
{
    get
    {
        try
        {
            return $"iOS {UIDevice.CurrentDevice.SystemVersion} ({UIDevice.CurrentDevice.UserInterfaceIdiom})";
 
        }
        catch
        {
            return "This demo supports iOS only for the moment";
        }
    }
}

Windows

public string GetOsVersion
{
    get
    {
        var currentOS = AnalyticsInfo.VersionInfo.DeviceFamily;
 
        var v = ulong.Parse(AnalyticsInfo.VersionInfo.DeviceFamilyVersion);
        var v1 = (v & 0xFFFF000000000000L) >> 48;
        var v2 = (v & 0x0000FFFF00000000L) >> 32;
        var v3 = (v & 0x00000000FFFF0000L) >> 16;
        var v4 = v & 0x000000000000FFFFL;
        var versionNb = $"{v1}.{v2}.{v3}.{v4}";
 
        return $"{currentOS} {versionNb} ({AnalyticsInfo.DeviceForm})";
    }
}

Now that we are able to fetch the OS Version, we need to make the implemation visible outside of the platform assemblies. On Android and iOS, this one is pretty straigt forward by adding this Attribute on top of the class:

[assembly: Xamarin.Forms.Dependency(typeof(OsVersionService))]

Because Universal Windows projects compile differently, we need to go a different route on Windows. To make the implementation visible, we need to explicit declare the class as an assembly to remain included first (otherwise the .NET Toolchain is likely to strip it away):

protected override void OnLaunched(LaunchActivatedEventArgs e)
{
    //other code for initialization, removed for readabilty
 
    //modified for .NET Compile
    List<Assembly> assembliesToInclude = new List<Assembly>();
    assembliesToInclude.Add(typeof(OsVersionService).GetTypeInfo().Assembly);

    Xamarin.Forms.Forms.Init(e, assembliesToInclude); 
}

Now that we have our platform implementations in place, we can go ahead and use the interface to get the OS versions.

Xamarin Forms DependencyService

With the static DependencyService class, Xamarin Forms provides a static container that is able to resolve interfaces to their native platform implementations. Using it is, once again, pretty straight forward:

private string _osVersionViaDs;
public string OsVersionViaDs
{
    get { return _osVersionViaDs; }
    set { Set(ref _osVersionViaDs, value); }
}
 
private RelayCommand _getOSVersionViaDsCommand;
 
public RelayCommand GetOsVersionViaDsCommand => _getOSVersionViaDsCommand ?? (_getOSVersionViaDsCommand = new RelayCommand(() =>
{
    OsVersionViaDs = DependencyService.Get().GetOsVersion; 
}));

In my sample application, I am using a button that fetches the OS version via Xamarin Forms DependencyService and display it into a label in my view.

Special case UWP, once again

To make this acutally work in an UWP application, we need to register the Service manually. Xamarin recommends to do so in the OnLaunched event, after Xamarin Forms is initialized:

//in OnLaunched event (App.xaml.cs)
//manually register for DependencyService 
//AFTER Forms is initialized but BEFORE VMLocator is initialized:
Xamarin.Forms.DependencyService.Register<OsVersionService>();

Only with that extra line of code, it will actually work like it should. If you want to know more on the fact that UWP needs a separate solution, take a look here into the Xamarin docs.

Why use the MVVMLight Toolkit’s Ioc?

There are several reasons. First is of course, purely personal: because I am used to write code for it. But there are also technical reasons:

  • support for cunstroctor injection
  • interface implementations can have parametered constructors
  • MVVMLight supports additional features like named instances and immediate creation on registration
  • in MVVM(Light) applications, you are very likely using DI on Xamarin Forms level, anyway (like in a NavigationService)

You see, there are some (in my opinion) good reasons to use the built in Ioc of the MVVMLight Toolkit.

How to use SimpleIoc and DependencyService together

If you are not relying on the DI-System of Xamarin Forms, you will have to write a lot of code yourself to get the platform implementations. That is not necessary, though. As our ViewModelLocator normally is already part of the Xamarin Forms PCL project, it has access  to the DependencyService and can be used to get the right implementation:

//this one gets the correct service implementation from platform implementation
var osService = DependencyService.Get();
 
// which can be used to register the service class with MVVMLight's Ioc
SimpleIoc.Default.Register<IOsVersionService>(() => osService);

This works pretty well for most implementations and provides us the possibility to use all the features MVVMLight provides. The usage then matches to what we are already familiar with:

private string _osVersionViaSimpleIoc;
public string OsVersionViaSimpleIoc
{
    get { return _osVersionViaSimpleIoc; }
    set { Set(ref _osVersionViaSimpleIoc, value); }
} 
 
private RelayCommand _getOSVersionViaSimpleIocCommand;
 
public RelayCommand GetOsVersionViaSimpleIocCommand => _getOSVersionViaSimpleIocCommand ?? (_getOSVersionViaSimpleIocCommand = new RelayCommand(() =>
{
    OsVersionViaSimpleIoc = SimpleIoc.Default.GetInstance().GetOsVersion; 
}));

If you do not want (or it is not possible due to complexity) register the platform implementation directly in the ViewModelLocator, you  can go down another route. You could create a new interface in the Xamarin Forms PCL which references the interface with the platform implentation as a member. Your implementation of this new interface (in Xamarin Forms) will be responsible for the getting the instance of the platform implementation via the built in DepenencyService.

I already used both ways in my recent Xamarin projects, but I prefer the first way that I described above.

Conclusion

Due to the fact that we know the DI pattern already as we (of course) follow the MVVM pattern in our applications, there is no big mystery about using the built in DependencyService of Xamarin Forms. We can easily integrate it into the MVVMLight Toolkit and combine the best of both worlds this way.

Nonetheless, I know that also some beginners are following my posts, so I tried to describe everything a bit more extended. As always, I hope this post is helpful for some of you. In my next post, I will show you how I solved the Navigation “problem” in my Xamarin Forms applications. In the meantime, you can already have a look at the sample code on Github.

Happy coding, everyone!

Posted by msicc in Android, Dev Stories, iOS, UWP, Xamarin, 3 comments

Xamarin Forms, the MVVMLight Toolkit and I (new series)

Like some of you may have already registered, I have been doing the next step and went cross platform with my personal projects. I am primarily using Xamarin Forms, because I eventually like XAML a little too much. I took a break from round about 2 years on my Xamarin usage, and I am happy to see that it has improved a lot in the meantime. While Xamarin Forms still has room for improvementes, one can do already real and serious projects with it. As I like the lightweight MVVMLight toolkit as much as I like XAML, it was a no-brainer for me to start also my recent Xamarin projects with it.

There is quite some setup stuff to do if you want get everything working from the Xamarin Forms PCL, and this post will be the first in a series to explain the way I am currently using. Some of the things I do may be against good practice for Xamarin Forms, but sometimes one has to break out of them to write code more efficiently and also maintain it easier.

Installing MVVM Light into a Xamarin Forms PCL project

Of course, we will start with a new Xamarin Forms project. After selecting the type Cross Platform App in the New Project Dialog in Visual Studio, you’ll be presented with this screen, which was introduced in the Cycle 9 Release of Xamarin:

Select Xamarin Forms as UI Technology and PCL as Code Sharing Strategy to start the solution creation. As it creates several projects, this may take some time, so you may be able to refill your coffee cup in the meantime. Once the project is created, you’ll see 4 projects:

Before we are going to write some code, we will update and add the additional packages from within the NuGet Package Manager. If your are not targeting the Android versions 7.x , Xamarin Forms is not able to use the latest Android Support libraries, so you’ll have to stick with version 23.3.0 of them (see release notes of Xamarin Forms). Since it makes sense for a new app to target the newest Android version, we’ll be updating the Android Support packages for our sample app as well.

If the NuGet Package manager demands you to restart, you’ll better follow its advise. To verify everything is ok with the updated NuGet packages, set the Android project as Startup project and let Visual Studio compile it.

If all goes well, let’s make sure we are using the right UWP compiler version for Visual Studio 2015. The .NETCORE package for the UWP needs to be of Version 5.2.x, as 5.3 is only compatible with Visual Studio 2017.

Once the packages are up to date, we’ll finally download and install MVVMLight. As we will host all of our ViewModel Logic in Xamarin Forms, together with their Views, we just need to install it into the Portable library and into the UWP project:

There will be no changes to the project except adding the reference. We need to set up the structure ourselves. First, create two new folders, View and ViewModel:

Move the MainPage into the View Folder and adjust the Namespace accordingly. The next step is to setup a ViewModelLocator class, which takes a central part of our MVVM structure. Here is what you need for the base structure:

    public class ViewModelLocator
    {
        private static ViewModelLocator _instance;
        public static ViewModelLocator Instance => _instance ?? (_instance = new ViewModelLocator());

        public void Initialize()
        {
            ServiceLocator.SetLocatorProvider(() => SimpleIoc.Default);
            RegisterServices();        

        }

        private static void RegisterServices()
        {
            //topic of another blog post
        }

        #region ViewModels  
        #endregion

        #region PageKeys
        #endregion
    }

You may notice some things. First, I am using the singleton pattern for the ViewModelLocator to make sure I have just one instance. I had some problems with multiple instances on Android, and using a singleton class helped to fix them. The second part of the fix is to move everything that is normally in the constructor into the Initialize() method. Now let’s go ahead, add a MainViewModel to the project and to the ViewModelLocator:

 

        public void Initialize()
        {
            ServiceLocator.SetLocatorProvider(() => SimpleIoc.Default);
            RegisterServices();
            SimpleIoc.Default.Register<MainViewModel>();
        }

        #region ViewModels
        public MainViewModel MainVm => ServiceLocator.Current.GetInstance<MainViewModel>();
        #endregion

Let’s give the MainViewModel just one property which is not subject to change (at least for now):

public string HelloWorldString { get; private set; } = "Hello from Xamarin Forms with MVVM Light";

The next step is to get the App.xaml file code right, it should look like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<Application xmlns="http://xamarin.com/schemas/2014/forms" 
             xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2009/xaml" 
             x:Class="XfMvvmLight.App" 
             xmlns:d="http://schemas.microsoft.com/expression/blend/2008" 
             d1p1:Ignorable="d" 
             xmlns:d1p1="http://schemas.openxmlformats.org/markup-compatibility/2006"
             xmlns:forms="http://xamarin.com/schemas/2014/forms" 
             xmlns:vm="clr-namespace:XfMvvmLight.ViewModel" >
  <Application.Resources>
    <!-- Application resource dictionary -->
    <forms:ResourceDictionary xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation">
      <vm:ViewModelLocator x:Key="Locator" d:IsDataSource="True" />
    </forms:ResourceDictionary>
  </Application.Resources>
</Application>

Now that we have set up the baisc MVVM structure, we are going to connect our MainViewModel to our MainPage. There are two ways to do so.

In Xaml:

<ContentPage.BindingContext>
    <Binding Path="MainVm" Source="{StaticResource Locator}" />
</ContentPage.BindingContext>

in Code:

        public MainPage()
        {
            InitializeComponent();

            this.BindingContext = ViewModelLocator.Instance.MainVm;
        }

After that, just use the HelloWorldString property of the MainViewModel as Text in the already existing Label:

    <Label Text="{Binding HelloWorldString}"
           VerticalOptions="Center"
           HorizontalOptions="Center" />

Before we are able to test our code, we need to make sure our ViewModelLocator is initialized properly:

Android:

    public class MainActivity : global::Xamarin.Forms.Platform.Android.FormsAppCompatActivity
    {
        protected override void OnCreate(Bundle bundle)
        {
            //TabLayoutResource = Resource.Layout.Tabbar;
            //ToolbarResource = Resource.Layout.Toolbar;

            base.OnCreate(bundle);

            global::Xamarin.Forms.Forms.Init(this, bundle);

            ViewModelLocator.Instance.Initialize();

            LoadApplication(new App());
        }
    }

iOS:

    [Register("AppDelegate")]
    public partial class AppDelegate : global::Xamarin.Forms.Platform.iOS.FormsApplicationDelegate
    {
        //
        // This method is invoked when the application has loaded and is ready to run. In this 
        // method you should instantiate the window, load the UI into it and then make the window
        // visible.
        //
        // You have 17 seconds to return from this method, or iOS will terminate your application.
        //
        public override bool FinishedLaunching(UIApplication app, NSDictionary options)
        {
            global::Xamarin.Forms.Forms.Init();

            ViewModelLocator.Instance.Initialize();

            LoadApplication(new App());

            return base.FinishedLaunching(app, options);
        }
    }

UWP:

//in App.xaml.cs:
        protected override void OnLaunched(LaunchActivatedEventArgs e)
        {

#if DEBUG
            if (System.Diagnostics.Debugger.IsAttached)
            {
                this.DebugSettings.EnableFrameRateCounter = true;
            }
#endif

            Frame rootFrame = Window.Current.Content as Frame;

            // Do not repeat app initialization when the Window already has content,
            // just ensure that the window is active
            if (rootFrame == null)
            {
                // Create a Frame to act as the navigation context and navigate to the first page
                rootFrame = new Frame();

                rootFrame.NavigationFailed += OnNavigationFailed;

                Xamarin.Forms.Forms.Init(e);

                ViewModelLocator.Instance.Initialize();

                if (e.PreviousExecutionState == ApplicationExecutionState.Terminated)
                {
                    //TODO: Load state from previously suspended application
                }

                // Place the frame in the current Window
                Window.Current.Content = rootFrame;
            }

            if (rootFrame.Content == null)
            {
                // When the navigation stack isn't restored navigate to the first page,
                // configuring the new page by passing required information as a navigation
                // parameter
                rootFrame.Navigate(typeof(MainPage), e.Arguments);
            }
            // Ensure the current window is active
            Window.Current.Activate();
        }

Let’s test our app on all platforms by building and deploying them:

Android

 

iOS Screenshot – post will be updated 

 

UWP

If you get the same screens, you are all set up to use Xamarin Forms with MVVMLight.

Conclusion

I know there are several specialized MVVM frameworks/toolkits floating around, which are commonly used for Xamarin Forms. As I am quite used to the MVVMLight toolkit, I prefer it over them. It is a lightweight solution, and I have more control over the code that is running than with the other options. I know I have to handle a lot of things in this case on my own (Navigation for example), but these will get their own blog posts. Starting with one of the future posts in this series, I will provide a sample app on my Github account.

If you have feedback or questions, feel free to get in contact with me via comments or on my social accounts. Otherwise, I hope this post and the following ones are helpful for some of you.

Happy coding, everyone!

Posted by msicc in Android, Dev Stories, iOS, Xamarin, 2 comments

Editorial: Why the app gap on Windows Phone/10 Mobile is a bigger problem than I thought

Note: as this is an editorial, this blog post reflects my own experience and thoughts. You will agree with some points, but disagree with others. Feel free to leave a comment to start a discussion below.

Recently, I received a Nexus 5x as development device for a project I am about to start. As tech enthusiast, I could not resist to start using it as my daily driver.

As you might guess, I started with an install orgy of all the apps I am using on my Lumia 950 XL and set them up. It may be surprising, but I immediately recognized huge differences between the platform versions.

Take the Facebook app for example. Animations are smooth like butter, almost all settings are in app instead of leading to a mobile page, even loading content and scrolling is a whole lot better than on Windows 10 Mobile.

Another example is the Path app. Never been updated since its launch on Windows Phone, I was truly surprised when I opened It on Android. It is an app that really is fun to use on Android. I bet they would have a lot more users on Windows if they align the app… sadly, they abanonded the platform completely a few month ago.

The last example is the WordPress app. It exists on Windows (Phone) for existing users, but the experience on Android is galaxies away from the one the one in Windows (Phone) has/had. I am even writting this post with it, because it feels just right to do this (I only did that once on Windows Phone).

These were only three examples, but they show pretty much how different official apps can be between platforms (and how they are supported). And they all show, that Windows really has no priority anywhere (sadly).
The quality of apps that are available on Windows is not all, though. Of course, I downloaded also some apps that aren’t available for my Lumia 950 XL as well. And it does make a difference.

On my Lumia, I often use the mobile page for things to do/achieve. On Android, I have a whole lot more apps to choose from, so I never had to open the browser for:

  • my mobile carrier
  • my landline & tv carrier
  • the communal page of Winterthur (where I live)
  • swiss auction page of ricardo.ch
  • swiss page tutti.ch
  • Amazon (Bonus: the apps are connected, needed to log in only on one and all others had my account)
  • eat.ch, a swiss food order service
  • Imgur
  • Giphy
  • and more…

Some say a good mobile page is as good as an app. That’s wrong for most cases. A good written app is always handier than a website. On any platform (at least in my experience).

Android app quality has improved a lot in the last two and a half years (that’s how long it took me to deeply test the OS and the ecosystem again). They are equal to the high level on iOS (which I saw also recently, as my son broke out of the Windows world I created at home).

On Windows, we have a lot of third party apps that are trying to fill the gap. I respect those developers (at least those that use legal, public APIs), but it is just not the same. And even on Android (or iOS), there is room for third party apps besides the official ones.

The Android OS itself feels also grown up, and it is difficult to say if iOS or Android are better. It is more a question of who you prefer – Google or Apple.

Microsoft’s Windows (Phone/10 Mobile) is on a good way to get on par. Lots of the functionality is also there. But… as long as the provider of a service, no matter which kind, do not use them (for whatever reason), Windows will never grow up. The Universal App approach is a good idea, and it may pay off one day – or it may be too late already. The recent switch to focus on enterprise users does not really help. Because also enterprise users tend to have only one device. And also enterprise users tend to use apps on their mobile device.

As a WinPhan, writting this honest post deeply hurts. Even more, as I really am thinking about switching platforms for mobile things. Not as a developer, but as a user (at least until Windows has grown up).

Posted by msicc in Editorials, 3 comments

[Updated] How to create a pure icon button for your UWP app

[Updated: the first version of this blog post was using a UserControl. Thanks to a discussion on Twitter, I realized that wrapping it into a UserControl is overblown (yes, sometimes I tend to write more code than necessary). This is the updated version using only a Style for the button.]

When writing apps, you often come along a point where you want to style controls differently than the original style. Today, I‘ll show you a pure icon button that does not show the surrounding shape and borders. Instead, it highlights the icon of the button when hovering over it, while it changes the color to the user’s accent color when it gets pressed. Here is a little animation of what I am talking about:cromeless button demo

It all begins with the default style of the Button control, which you can see here. We are going to modify this Style until it matches the above animation. The first thing we change is the BackgroundBrush – set it to ‘Transparent’ to get rid of the grey shape that the button control comes with when hovering over it or pressing it:

<Setter Property="Background" Value="Transparent"/>

As we want an icon button, we need to choose a common source for the icons as well. I am using a Path Shape as the icon source, as it allows modifications to be done in XAML. So the next step is to add a Path shape to the Style:

                            <Path x:Name="PathIcon"
                                  Data="{TemplateBinding Content}"
                                  Stretch="Uniform"
                                  Fill="{TemplateBinding Foreground}"
                                  Stroke="Transparent"
                                  StrokeThickness="1"
                                  Margin="4"
                                  RenderTransformOrigin="0.5,0.5">
                                <Path.RenderTransform>
                                    <TransformGroup>
                                        <TransformGroup.Children>
                                            <RotateTransform Angle="0" />
                                            <ScaleTransform ScaleX="1" ScaleY="1" />
                                        </TransformGroup.Children>
                                    </TransformGroup>
                                </Path.RenderTransform>
                            </Path>

In this case, as we just want to use the icon within our button, we can safely remove the ‘ContentPresenter’ part in the Style. We have made quite some progress already, but that all does not make the control behaving like in the animation yet.

Now it is the time to modify the CommonStates of the Button’s style. Our Button uses only an icon, so we need to add the color states for the Path’s ‘Fill (=Foreground)’ to the states. Here are the modifications:

‘PointerOver’ state:

                                            <ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames Storyboard.TargetProperty="Fill" Storyboard.TargetName="PathIcon">
                                                <DiscreteObjectKeyFrame KeyTime="0" Value="{ThemeResource SystemControlHighlightBaseHighBrush}"/>
                                            </ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames>

‘Pressed’ state:

                                            <ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames Storyboard.TargetProperty="Fill" Storyboard.TargetName="PathIcon">
                                                <DiscreteObjectKeyFrame KeyTime="0" Value="{ThemeResource SystemControlForegroundAccentBrush}"/>
                                            </ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames>

‘Disabled’ state:

                                            <ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames Storyboard.TargetProperty="Fill" Storyboard.TargetName="PathIcon">
                                                <DiscreteObjectKeyFrame KeyTime="0" Value="{ThemeResource SystemControlDisabledBaseMediumLowBrush}"/>
                                            </ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames>

To get the icon’s outline highlighting, we are going to use the Path’s ‘Stroke (=Border)’ property. Add these modifications to the Style in XAML:

‘PointerOver’ state:

                                            <ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames Storyboard.TargetProperty="Stroke" Storyboard.TargetName="PathIcon">
                                                <DiscreteObjectKeyFrame KeyTime="0" Value="{ThemeResource SystemControlHighlightAccentBrush}"/>
                                            </ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames>

‘Pressed’ state:

                                            <ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames Storyboard.TargetProperty="Stroke" Storyboard.TargetName="PathIcon">
                                                <DiscreteObjectKeyFrame KeyTime="0" Value="Transparent"/>
                                            </ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames>

‘Disabled’ state:

                                            <ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames Storyboard.TargetProperty="Stroke" Storyboard.TargetName="PathIcon">
                                                <DiscreteObjectKeyFrame KeyTime="0" Value="Transparent"/>
                                            </ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames>

All that is left is to use the Style on any desired button:

    <Button x:Name="BaseButton" Style="{StaticResource TransparentButtonStyle}"></Button>

If you now use this one in an application, you will get the same result as in the initial animation.

For easier use, here is the complete code:

        <Style x:Key="TransparentPathIconButtonStyle" TargetType="Button">
            <Setter Property="Background" Value="Transparent"/>
            <Setter Property="Foreground" Value="{ThemeResource SystemControlForegroundBaseHighBrush}"/>
            <Setter Property="BorderBrush" Value="{ThemeResource SystemControlForegroundTransparentBrush}"/>
            <Setter Property="BorderThickness" Value="{ThemeResource ButtonBorderThemeThickness}"/>
            <Setter Property="Padding" Value="8,4,8,4"/>
            <Setter Property="HorizontalAlignment" Value="Stretch"/>
            <Setter Property="VerticalAlignment" Value="Stretch"/>
            <Setter Property="FontFamily" Value="{ThemeResource ContentControlThemeFontFamily}"/>
            <Setter Property="FontWeight" Value="Normal"/>
            <Setter Property="FontSize" Value="{ThemeResource ControlContentThemeFontSize}"/>
            <Setter Property="UseSystemFocusVisuals" Value="True"/>

            <Setter Property="Template">
                <Setter.Value>
                    <ControlTemplate TargetType="Button">
                        <Grid x:Name="RootGrid" Background="{TemplateBinding Background}">
                            <VisualStateManager.VisualStateGroups>
                                <VisualStateGroup x:Name="CommonStates">
                                    <VisualState x:Name="Normal">
                                        <Storyboard>
                                            <PointerUpThemeAnimation Storyboard.TargetName="RootGrid"/>
                                        </Storyboard>
                                    </VisualState>
                                    <VisualState x:Name="PointerOver">
                                        <Storyboard>
                                            <ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames Storyboard.TargetProperty="Stroke" Storyboard.TargetName="PathIcon">
                                                <DiscreteObjectKeyFrame KeyTime="0" Value="{ThemeResource SystemControlHighlightAccentBrush}"/>
                                            </ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames>
                                            <ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames Storyboard.TargetProperty="Fill" Storyboard.TargetName="PathIcon">
                                                <DiscreteObjectKeyFrame KeyTime="0" Value="{ThemeResource SystemControlHighlightBaseHighBrush}"/>
                                            </ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames>
                                            <PointerUpThemeAnimation Storyboard.TargetName="RootGrid"/>
                                        </Storyboard>
                                    </VisualState>
                                    <VisualState x:Name="Pressed">
                                        <Storyboard>
                                            <ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames Storyboard.TargetProperty="Fill" Storyboard.TargetName="PathIcon">
                                                <DiscreteObjectKeyFrame KeyTime="0" Value="{ThemeResource SystemControlForegroundAccentBrush}"/>
                                            </ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames>
                                            <ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames Storyboard.TargetProperty="Stroke" Storyboard.TargetName="PathIcon">
                                                <DiscreteObjectKeyFrame KeyTime="0" Value="Transparent"/>
                                            </ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames>
                                            <PointerDownThemeAnimation Storyboard.TargetName="RootGrid"/>
                                        </Storyboard>
                                    </VisualState>
                                    <VisualState x:Name="Disabled">
                                        <Storyboard>
                                            <ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames Storyboard.TargetProperty="Fill" Storyboard.TargetName="PathIcon">
                                                <DiscreteObjectKeyFrame KeyTime="0" Value="{ThemeResource SystemControlDisabledBaseMediumLowBrush}"/>
                                            </ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames>
                                            <ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames Storyboard.TargetProperty="Stroke" Storyboard.TargetName="PathIcon">
                                                <DiscreteObjectKeyFrame KeyTime="0" Value="Transparent"/>
                                            </ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames>
                                        </Storyboard>
                                    </VisualState>
                                </VisualStateGroup>
                            </VisualStateManager.VisualStateGroups>

                            <Path x:Name="PathIcon"
                                  Data="{TemplateBinding Content}"
                                  Stretch="Uniform"
                                  Fill="{TemplateBinding Foreground}"
                                  Stroke="Transparent"
                                  StrokeThickness="1"
                                  Margin="4"
                                  RenderTransformOrigin="0.5,0.5">
                                <Path.RenderTransform>
                                    <TransformGroup>
                                        <TransformGroup.Children>
                                            <RotateTransform Angle="0" />
                                            <ScaleTransform ScaleX="1" ScaleY="1" />
                                        </TransformGroup.Children>
                                    </TransformGroup>
                                </Path.RenderTransform>
                            </Path>
                        </Grid>
                    </ControlTemplate>
                </Setter.Value>
            </Setter>
        </Style>

As always, I hope this post is helpful for some of you. If you have questions/ideas for improvements or just want to talk about the control, feel free to leave a comment below.

Happy Coding, everyone!

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, UWP, 3 comments

[Updated] How to create a multi architecture NuGet Package from a UWP class library

Like I already announced in my last blog post about UWP AppServices, I am going to show you how to create a NuGet package for UWP class libraries. I am going to go through the whole process, and provide you the steps I found as easiest (it may be the case that there are other ways for the single steps, too). I am continuing with my AppServices sample to show you all the steps I did.

Preparations

The first step is to download the latest NuGet.exe. This command line application will do all the work that is needed to create the package. Once downloaded, let’s do some modifications to our project.

It is good practice to put all the NuGet stuff into a folder in your project. That’s what we’re doing now, adding a folder named NuGet and put the NuGet.exe file in it (create the folder and copy and paste it in file explorer). The next step we would do now is to open the Package Manager Console in Visual Studio and call the nuget.exe with the parameter ‘spec’ to create a .nuspec file. The.xml formatted .nuspec file describes the structure of the NuGet package.

Because we need a multi architecture package for our Universal class library, I prefer another approach. I created a sample .nuspec file that already describes part of the structure that we need.  After pasting the file in, change the file name to match “[projectname].nuspec”. To add the file to your project in Visual Studio, click on the ‘ Show All Files’ button on top of the Solution Explorer Window. Now you will see the previously added NuGet folder and the .nuspec file. Right click on the renamed .nuspec file and select  ‘Include in Project’:

image

Inside the .nuspec file

Let’s have a look into the .nuspec file. The first part is the ‘metadata’ part, which describes the file’s properties:

    <metadata>
        <id>$title$</id>
        <version>$version$</version>
        <title>Simple Leet AppService Handler</title>
        <authors>$author$</authors>
        <owners>$owner$</owners>
        <requireLicenseAcceptance>false</requireLicenseAcceptance>
        <description>$description$</description>
        <copyright>Copyright ©  2016</copyright>
      
        <dependencies>
        </dependencies>
    </metadata>

Just replace the the $-enclosed variables with your data. The more interesting part in this case is the dependencies part. With the Universal app platform, Microsoft introduced the .NETCore package that provides all the APIs. It is very hard to maintain the dependencies manually. Luckily, there is already a Nuget package that helps us to automate this process: NuSpec Dependency Generator.

Just add the package to your project and compile it. That’s it, you have all the dependencies in your .nuspec file:

    <dependencies>
      <group targetFramework="uap10.0">
        <dependency id="System.Diagnostics.Debug" version="4.0.10" />
        <dependency id="System.Runtime" version="4.0.20" />
        <dependency id="System.Runtime.WindowsRuntime" version="4.0.10" />
        <dependency id="System.Threading.Tasks" version="4.0.10" />
      </group>
    </dependencies>

Now that we have the dependencies in place, we’re ready for the next step: creating the package file structure. As we want a multi architecture package, we need to compile the project for every cpu architecture. This is done pretty simple, just select Release mode and build the project for all architectures:

Screenshot (97)

To check if we have all files in place, just open the corresponding architectures’ folder in the bin folder of your project:

Screenshot (98)

The next part is to add these folders to the .nuspec file within the ‘files’ tag:

  <files>
    <file src="..\bin\ARM\Release\SampleAppServiceConnector.dll" target="runtimes\win10-arm\lib\uap10.0" />
    <file src="..\bin\ARM\Release\SampleAppServiceConnector.pdb" target="runtimes\win10-arm\lib\uap10.0" />
    <file src="..\bin\x64\Release\SampleAppServiceConnector.dll" target="runtimes\win10-x64\lib\uap10.0" />
    <file src="..\bin\x64\Release\SampleAppServiceConnector.pdb" target="runtimes\win10-x64\lib\uap10.0" />
    <file src="..\bin\x86\Release\SampleAppServiceConnector.dll" target="runtimes\win10-x86\lib\uap10.0" />
    <file src="..\bin\x86\Release\SampleAppServiceConnector.pdb" target="runtimes\win10-x86\lib\uap10.0" />
  </files>

Noticed that we use the ‘runtimes’ folder with the corresponding architecture structure folders? This is how we need to set it up for multi architectural packages. Including the .pdb files is always a good practice, even with the missing symbolication in UWP applications (at least for now. I was told from inside Microsoft that they are working on this, but it seems to be a very complicated process for .NET native compiled applications).

Very important: the entry reference

This alone does not work, though. We need a reference that we can use as entry point for our package. To do this, we need to add an additional folder entry to our .nuspec file:

    <file src="..\bin\Release\SampleAppServiceConnector.dll" target="ref\uap10.0" />
    <file src="..\bin\Release\SampleAppServiceConnector.pri" target="ref\uap10.0" />

[Update:] Now that we have added this folder structure to the .nuspec file, the only thing we need to do is add an AnyCPU compiled .dll. Regarding some feedback I received on Twitter, it should work if you compile the library as AnyCPU like a lot of devs are used to. I you do not have success with that like me, you can also convert the x86 .dll into an AnyCPU .dll by removing the 32Bit-flag.  Here is how to do it:

  1. Copy the x86-.dll file  into the Release folder under the bin folder of your project
  2. Copy the x86-.dll and .pri file into the Release folder
  3. open the Visual Studio Developer Command Prompt (type ‘dev’ into the start menu, it will appear there)
  4. type:  corflags.exe /32bitreq- [path to Release folder]\[dll-Name].dll
  5. the result should look like this:Screenshot (101)

If you have additional files like xaml files, you would need to add a new folder in the uap10.0 folder (with the same name that your project has). I’ll update this post and the sample once I have a matching sample at hand.

Creating and testing the package!

Now we are finally able to pack the NuGet package. As we have the Developer Command Prompt already open, lets change the running directory to match the NuGet folder in our project. All we then need to do is to run the pack command of the nuget.exe that we already placed in there:

image

And that’s it. We have our NuGet Package in place. Now let’s test our package, before we are going to upload it to nuget.org. All you need to do is to have a folder for your NuGet packages on your machine. I made a folder called ‘TestNuget’ on mine, and copied the package into it (which is the same as the Nuget push command we’ll see later).

To add this folder as package source, open the ‘Options’ menu in Visual Studio and select ‘Package Sources’ in the NuGet Package Manager entry. Hit the add symbol on top and add your folder:

Screenshot (104)

Now if you open the Package Manager and select your local folder as source, you will be able to install and test your package:

image

Publishing the package to nuget.org (or your NuGet server)

The final step is to publish the newly generated package to nuget.org or your own NuGet server. As we still have the Developer CMD opened, we simply use the following command:

nuget push [path to your package.dll] [nuget.org API Key]

Another alternative would be to use the nuget.org website to upload the package: https://www.nuget.org/packages/upload (the page is self explanatory).

That’s it, your NuGet package is available for all you consider to use it. I also updated the sample of my last blog post on GitHub to include these changes, if you want to play around.

Some of you may go a different route for some steps. I have found this a good way that is also kind of memorable (for me). I would love to hear feedback on this and to discuss this, so feel free to leave me a comment.

Like always, I hope this post is helpful for some of you. Happy coding, everyone!

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, UWP, wpdev, 3 comments

How to add and consume an AppService to your UWP app (complete walkthrough)

One of the very cool and helpful new features Microsoft added for UWP apps are AppServices. AppServices allow your application to provide functionality to other applications without even being launched. This post shows how to add and consume an AppService.

Creating the AppService

An AppService is a background task that is hosted by your application. To add an AppService to your existing application, right click on the solution name in the Solution Explorer and select ‘add new  project’. Under category Windows\Universal, select ‘Windows Runtime Component’, give it a name and click on ‘OK’:

image

This adds a new project to your solution. Rename or Replace Class1.cs to something that matches your need (in my sample, I just use ‘Handler’). The next step is to implement the IBackgroundTask interface:

image

This will add the ‘Run(IBackgroundTaskInstance taskInstance)’ method to the class. Before we continue with to integrate our AppService further into the system, we need to declare two members in the Handler class:

        private BackgroundTaskDeferral _backgroundTaskDeferral;
        private AppServiceConnection _appServiceConnection;

Now that we have those two in place, let’s have a look inside the Run method:

       public void Run(IBackgroundTaskInstance taskInstance)
        {
            //get the task instance deferral
            this._backgroundTaskDeferral = taskInstance.GetDeferral();

            //hooking up to the Canceled event to close app connection
            taskInstance.Canceled += OnTaskCanceled;

            //getting the AppServiceTriggerDetails and hooking up to the RequestReceived event
            var details = (AppServiceTriggerDetails)taskInstance.TriggerDetails;
            _appServiceConnection = details.AppServiceConnection;
            _appServiceConnection.RequestReceived += OnRequestReceived;
        }

The first step is to get a background task deferral. This allows the service to run asynchronous code against the background Task without crashing. The next step is to handle the background task’s Canceled event. Even if the Task get’s cancelled, we must complete the process and tell the OS that we have finished. If we won’t do this, the AppService will stop working on the first cancel operation. To do so, add this code to your Canceled event handling method:

            this._backgroundTaskDeferral?.Complete();

Last but not least, we need to handle the request that the AppService received. To do so, we need to get the AppServiceTriggerDetails from our BackgroundTask. This allows us to get  a reference to the AppServiceConnection, which provides the event ‘RequestReceived’ that we want to handle.

Within our RequestReceived event handling method, the effective work is done. As this is also an asynchronous action, we first need to get again a reference to the event’s Deferral:

var msgDeferral = args.GetDeferral();

The next step is to get the data from the event’s AppServiceRequestReceivedEventArgs:

            var input = args.Request.Message;

This gives us a ValueSet (which works like a Dictionary), which we need to parse to get the input data we need:

var response = (string) input["question"];

The ValueSet entries you are setting up here are the parameters your consumer has to provide. In my sample, I have only a single parameter called ‘question’, but it works also well with more parameters. After we pulled the parameters out of the ValueSet, we can do the work our AppService is supposed to do.

It is a good practice to separate the function you want to provide in the AppService in a separate project. You need to write the code only once, but can use it in your main application as well as in the AppService. In my Sample, this is done in the AppServiceResponder project. It may look like an overkill in this case, but if you have more complex logic than the sample it will absolutely make sense.

I am wrapping the work into a try/finally block as we need to complete the async operation in any case to keep our AppService running. This way, even if the work is not completed successfully, at least we come out clean of the AppService Task. Within the try part of the try/finally block, we are doing the work that the service is supposed to do. The result needs to be passed as a ValueSet again. To effectively send the result to the requesting app, we use this line of code:

await args.Request.SendResponseAsync(result);

Here is the full method for reference:

        private async void OnRequestReceived(AppServiceConnection sender, AppServiceRequestReceivedEventArgs args)
        {
            //async operation needs a deferral
            var msgDeferral = args.GetDeferral();


            //picking up the data ValueSet
            var input = args.Request.Message;
            var result = new ValueSet();

            //parsing the ValueSet
            var response = (string) input["question"];

            try
            {
                //as long as the app service connection is established we are using the same instance even if data changes.
                //to avoid crashes, clear the result before getting the new one
                result.Clear();

                if (!string.IsNullOrEmpty(response))
                {
                    var responderResponse = AppServiceResponder.Responder.Instance.GetResponse(response);

                    result.Add("Status", "OK");
                    result.Add("response", responderResponse);
                }

                await args.Request.SendResponseAsync(result);
            }
            //using finally because we need to tell the OS we have finished, no matter of the result
            finally
            {
                msgDeferral?.Complete();
            }
        }

Declaring the App Service in the host app

The final step we need to apply is to declare the AppService in our Package.appxmanifest. Declaring the AppService is pretty simple. Just select ‘App Service’ in the dropdown and hit ‘Add’. Give it a name (Microsoft recommends ‘reverse domain name style ‘,  so I used it. The last step is to declare the Entry point, which is AppServiceNamespace.ClassName (replace with yours).

The result should look like this:

image

Now build the solution. If all is set up correct, you have made an application implementing an AppService.

Creating the AppService Connector

Like I recommend to extract functionality that runs inside the AppService, I do so for the code that connects the app into a separate project. This allows you to reuse the project in multiple apps. An additional advantage is that you can create a Nuget package for this separate project to provide this functionality to other developers (I will write a separate post about this to keep this one focused on the AppService).

After adding a new project to the Solution, rename/replace also here Class1. I named my handler class just Connector. To make it a no brainer to use the connector, I implemented the class as singleton:

        private static Connector _instance;
        public static Connector Instance => _instance ?? (_instance = new Connector());

After that, I added an asynchronous Task that returns the AppService’s response. Let’s have a look inside the task. Inside the using statement for the AppServiceconnection, the first thing we need to do is to call the AppService with these three lines of code:

                //declaring the service and the package family name
                SampleAppServiceConnection.AppServiceName = "com.msiccdev.sampleappservice";

                //this one can be found in the Package.appxmanifest file
                SampleAppServiceConnection.PackageFamilyName = "acc75b1a-8b90-4f18-a2c4-08b0d700f1c6_62er76fr5b6k0";

                //trying to connect to he AppService
                AppServiceConnectionStatus status = await SampleAppServiceConnection.OpenAsync();

We’ll get a AppServiceConnectionStatus back, which helps us to deside how to go on in the task. If we do not have success in getting a connection to the AppService, I am returning an error description. For this, I created a simple helper method:

        private string GetStatusDetail(AppServiceConnectionStatus status)
        {
            var result = "";
            switch (status)
            {
                case AppServiceConnectionStatus.Success:
                    result = "connected";
                    break;
                case AppServiceConnectionStatus.AppNotInstalled:
                    result = "AppServiceSample seems to be not installed";
                    break;
                case AppServiceConnectionStatus.AppUnavailable:
                    result =
                        "App is currently not available (could be running an update or the drive it was installed to is not available)";
                    break;
                case AppServiceConnectionStatus.AppServiceUnavailable:
                    result = "App is installed, but the Service does not respond";
                    break;
                case AppServiceConnectionStatus.Unknown:
                    result = "Unknown error with the AppService";
                    break;
            }

            return result;
        }

For the case we are successful with our connection attempt , I am sending the needed ValueSet with these lines:

                    var input = new ValueSet() {{"question", question}};
                    AppServiceResponse response = await SampleAppServiceConnection.SendMessageAsync(input);

I am using a simple ValueSet with just one value here, but I have already done it with a more complex structure and this works as well. I haven’t reached any limits by now, but I think that they are the same as for all Background Tasks (don’t throw stones at me if it is different). The only thing I then need to do is to handle the response according to its status with this switch statement:

                    switch (response.Status)
                    {
                        case AppServiceResponseStatus.Success:
                            result = (string) response.Message["response"];
                            break;
                        case AppServiceResponseStatus.Failure:
                            result = "app service called failed, most likely due to wrong parameters sent to it";
                            break;
                        case AppServiceResponseStatus.ResourceLimitsExceeded:
                            result = "app service exceeded the resources allocated to it and had to be terminated";
                            break;
                        case AppServiceResponseStatus.Unknown:
                            result = "unknown error while sending the request";
                            break;
                    }

As we already know by know, we receive a ValueSet as response message. In my sample, I am returning only the response string. That’s it, we are already able to run use the AppService via the Connector. For demo purposes, I added also a simple AppService consumer app. Once the user puts in a question and hits the answer button, the result from the AppService gets displayed. All we need is just one line of code:

            AnswerTextBlock.Text = await SampleAppServiceConnector.Connector.Instance.GetResponse(QuestionTextBox.Text);

Pretty easy to use, right? Here is a screen shot from the consumer app:

image

That’s all we need for our AppService. Bonus of the project structure I used: You can provide a Nuget Package for other devs to consume your AppService. How? I will write about this in my next blog post.

Even if this is not a MVVM structured app, it absolutely works in there, too. If you want to have a look on a live in the Store app that uses MVVM and an AppService, click here. For using the AppService within your app, just download this Nuget Package into your app. Otherwise, I created a complete working sample and pushed it on my Github account right here. Feel free to play around with it to explore AppServices a bit more. As always, I hope this post is helpful for some of you.

Happy coding, everyone!

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, UWP, win8dev, wpdev, 3 comments