Microsoft today updated Windows App Studio, its free web-based tool designed to let anyone create an app, with support for the Windows 10 Insider Preview. The company also redesigned the Windows App Studio beta site to make it consistent with the Windows 10 look, and added a slew of new features.
The new beta can generate apps for Windows 10, as well as for Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1. In December, the tool dropped support for Windows Phone 8.0.
Here is how it works. After you’ve finished designing your app, when you generate the package, Windows App Studio will prompt you to select the desired Windows version(s):
Once the app is generated, you can then download the app packages (to sideload to your devices for testing) and the Visual Studio project that lets you access your source code. Today’s beta lets you sideload and test packages on Windows 10 for PCs, but does not yet allow those packages to be sideloaded onto Windows 10 for phones (that’s coming in a future release).
Generated package names are now also based on the app name and version number, a big request from Windows App Studio users. Every package thus now has a consistent naming scheme based on the name you choose for your app.
As part of the Windows 10 support, Windows App Studio has gained new SplitView and VisualStateTrigger controls, along with menu navigation provided by a hamburger button in the upper left. These elements are key to Microsoft’s latest design approach for its new Windows Universal Platform; apps use these controls to lay out and reflow content.
The image above shows a sample app called FridayBand. On the left the app is in a small window while on the right it is shown with more content after the user expanded the window.
As for new features in this release, Microsoft has been hard at work for the past five months. The following can be used in apps that target Windows 10 Insider Preview, and they will also work immediately for apps that target Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1:
- Live Tile Update: The feature has been reimplemented using a platform feature called Tile Update, which removes the background agent, resulting in greater reliability and reduced battery consumption.
- Xbox Music Data Source: Apps can now query the Xbox Music catalog to search for artists, fetching album metadata, including album covers, to bind to pages like any other collection data source. Xbox Music Data Source also allows for launching the Music app to listen to albums.
- Bing Maps: Developers can now finally bring maps into their Windows App Studio apps.
- Application Insights: This new analytics service helps developers monitor app usage and performance. Usage data lets them track how many users are launching the apps and how they are interacting with it while performance monitoring offers diagnostic reports of crashes and their impact.
The last point is probably the most exciting. Application Insights Instrumentation Key can be configured from the settings page in Windows App Studio. Once you do that, you get results and reports on a dashboard:
Windows 10 is launching this summer in 190 countries. The Windows 10 Store will thus start taking app submissions very soon, so it’s no surprise Microsoft wants to get Windows App Studio up to speed.