One of the features I really like in Visual Studio while I am developing is the Edit and Continue feature. Just add a breakpoint in the code, edit the code and maybe even reposition the run pointer and you can try new features, set some properties or add new code and run, without having to restart the program.

This is really a timesaver, I’ve used it a lot of time and it has saved me hours of development. But, when I was doing some WPF or UWP development, the UI development was slowed down, because every time I needed to make some change to the design, I had to stop the program, make a change and re-run again.

Things were worse because the designer was less than optimal and, for complex designs, with lots of resources, animations and so on, I couldn’t see what was happening at design time. When the live visual tree was introduced, this was made better: I could see the visual tree and interact with it, setting some properties at runtime. The pitfall in this is that I needed to make the notes of what was changed, because the changes would be lost when the program stopped.

Then came XAML Edit and Continue. What a difference! The name of the feature is misleading, because it’s not Edit and Continue (I would suggest XAML Runtime Edititng). You don’t need to stop the program and set a breakpoint anywhere – just edit the code while it’s running and see the changes happen!

This is a great feature, you can start from a blank page and start adding data to it. If you have a ViewModel attached to the View, you can also use data binding to show the ViewModel data. One thing should be noted, here: if you are using x:Bind to make the binding to the data, it won’t work at runtime, because this binding is resolved at compile time and it won’t be available at runtime.

I use this feature when I want to try something in my UI – that can be something new or something that can be improved in my code. For example, if I have this CommandBar in my code (code courtesy of https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/uwp/api/windows.ui.xaml.controls.commandbar), I can try to tweak its options directly in the code and see what happens.

<Page.TopAppBar>
    <CommandBar>
        <AppBarToggleButton Icon="Shuffle" Label="Shuffle" Click="AppBarButton_Click"/>
        <AppBarToggleButton Icon="RepeatAll" Label="Repeat" Click="AppBarButton_Click"/>
        <AppBarSeparator/>
        <AppBarButton Icon="Back" Label="Back" Click="AppBarButton_Click"/>
        <AppBarButton Icon="Stop" Label="Stop" Click="AppBarButton_Click"/>
        <AppBarButton Icon="Play" Label="Play" Click="AppBarButton_Click"/>
        <AppBarButton Icon="Forward" Label="Forward" Click="AppBarButton_Click"/>

        <CommandBar.SecondaryCommands>
            <AppBarButton Icon="Like" Label="Like" Click="AppBarButton_Click"/>
            <AppBarButton Icon="Dislike" Label="Dislike" Click="AppBarButton_Click"/>
        </CommandBar.SecondaryCommands>

        <CommandBar.Content>
            <TextBlock Text="Now playing..." Margin="12,14"/>
        </CommandBar.Content>
    </CommandBar>
</Page.TopAppBar>

For example, I want to know what happens when the IsCompact  property of an AppBarButton is set to False. I can just add it to the code and see what happens:

Then I removed the tag from the code. Instead of seeing the UI be restored to the default, the IsCompact property remained to False. You should be aware that once you set a property and remove it from the code, the property will still be set to the value until you reset it explicitely or rerun the program. Be aware of that or you will have some hard time to see why things aren’t the way you expect :-).

If you are using a resource dictionary, you can also change the styles there and the UI will change accordingly. For example, I have a Resource Dictionary like this:

<ResourceDictionary xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation"
                    xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml">
    <Style TargetType="CommandBar">
        <Setter Property="Foreground" Value="White"/>
        <Setter Property="Background" Value="Gray"/>
    </Style>
</ResourceDictionary>

I add it to the app resources with something like this:

<Application
    x:Class="App1.App"
    xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation"
    xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml">
    <Application.Resources>
        <ResourceDictionary Source="ResourceDict.xaml"/>
    </Application.Resources>
</Application>

When I take a look at the UI, I see something like this:

As you can see, the content is white, while the buttons are black, and surely that’s not what I want. I can add a new style like this:

<ResourceDictionary xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation"
                    xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml">
    <Style TargetType="CommandBar">
        <Setter Property="Foreground" Value="White"/>
        <Setter Property="Background" Value="Gray"/>
    </Style>
   <Style TargetType="SymbolIcon">
       <Setter Property="Foreground" Value="White"/>
   </Style>
</ResourceDictionary>

And the UI reflects the new style for the icons:

One other area that you can tweak is when you are designing a responsive view. You will have something like this:

 <VisualStateManager.VisualStateGroups>
            <VisualStateGroup>
                <VisualState>
                    <!-- VisualState to be triggered when window width is >=720 effective pixels -->
                    <VisualState.StateTriggers>
                        <AdaptiveTrigger MinWindowWidth="720" />
                    </VisualState.StateTriggers>
                    <VisualState.Setters>
                        <!-- Widest possible layout moves some elements around to optimize for more available width 
                        and keeps SplitView pane always showing inline -->
                        <Setter Target="MySplitView.DisplayMode" Value="Inline" />
                        <Setter Target="MySplitView.IsPaneOpen" Value="True" />
                        <Setter Target="BackgroundCombo.(RelativePanel.RightOf)" Value="BackgroundImage" />
                        <Setter Target="BackgroundCombo.(RelativePanel.AlignTopWith)" Value="BackgroundImage" />
                        <Setter Target="BackgroundCombo.(RelativePanel.AlignLeftWith)" Value="FitCombo" />
                        <Setter Target="PictureLabel.(RelativePanel.Below)" Value="BackgroundImage" />
                        <Setter Target="FitCombo.(RelativePanel.RightOf)" Value="PicturesPanel" />
                        <Setter Target="FitCombo.(RelativePanel.AlignTopWith)" Value="PictureLabel" />
                    </VisualState.Setters>
                </VisualState>
                <VisualState>
                    <!-- VisualState to be triggered when window width is >=548 and <720 effective pixels -->
                    <VisualState.StateTriggers>
                        <AdaptiveTrigger MinWindowWidth="548" />
                    </VisualState.StateTriggers>
                    <VisualState.Setters>
                        <!-- For intermediate window widths as well as most phones on landscape orientation, 
                        this state keeps primary layout narrow while showing the splitview pane to take advantage of more available width than narrow layout -->
                        <Setter Target="MySplitView.DisplayMode" Value="Inline" />
                        <Setter Target="MySplitView.IsPaneOpen" Value="True" />
                        <Setter Target="BackgroundCombo.(RelativePanel.Below)" Value="BackgroundImage" />
                        <Setter Target="PictureLabel.(RelativePanel.Below)" Value="BackgroundCombo" />
                        <Setter Target="FitCombo.(RelativePanel.Below)" Value="BrowseButton" />
                    </VisualState.Setters>
                </VisualState>
                <VisualState>
                    <!-- VisualState to be triggered when window width is >=0 and <548 effective pixels -->
                    <VisualState.StateTriggers>
                        <AdaptiveTrigger MinWindowWidth="0" />
                    </VisualState.StateTriggers>
                    <VisualState.Setters>
                        <!-- For the most narrow windows and phones in portrait orientation, this state collapses the SplitView pane into overlay mode
                        and adds dynamic RelativePanel constraints that puts all elements stacked below each other -->
                        <Setter Target="MySplitView.DisplayMode" Value="Overlay" />
                        <Setter Target="MySplitView.IsPaneOpen" Value="False" />
                        <Setter Target="BackgroundCombo.(RelativePanel.Below)" Value="BackgroundImage" />
                        <Setter Target="PictureLabel.(RelativePanel.Below)" Value="BackgroundCombo" />
                        <Setter Target="FitCombo.(RelativePanel.Below)" Value="BrowseButton" />
                    </VisualState.Setters>
                </VisualState>
            </VisualStateGroup>
        </VisualStateManager.VisualStateGroups>

You can change the triggers for the states, changing the windows sizes or the display for the many states. That is something that will save you a lot of time when developing responsive designs!

One thing in which this feature really shines is in testing animations – if you are using Visual Studio to create XAML animations, you are out of luck to test them, there is no way to test them in design time – you must use Blend for that. With this feature, you can create, tweak and test your animations without having to restart your program. For example, if you have this UI:

<Page.Resources>
    <Storyboard x:Name="myStoryboard">
        <DoubleAnimation
            Storyboard.TargetName="MyAnimatedRectangle"
            Storyboard.TargetProperty="Opacity"
            From="1.0" To="0.0" Duration="0:0:2"
            AutoReverse="True" />
    </Storyboard>
</Page.Resources>
<Grid>
    <Rectangle x:Name="MyAnimatedRectangle" 
               Width="300" Height="200" Fill="Blue"/>
</Grid>

And your animation is started by a button click like this one:

private void AppBarButton_Click(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)
{
    myStoryboard.Begin();
}

You can run your program and change the animation parameters at runtime. Every time you click the button, the new animation will be run and you will be able to see its effects. Nice, no?

Conclusions

This feature is one of the nicest ones when it comes to XAML development. If you are a beginner learning XAML, you can use it to learn and see what happens when you change things, thus speeding up your learning curve, and if you are an experienced XAML designer, you can design your views interactively, using all the features you want. You just need to create a blank app and start designing!

The source code for this article is at https://github.com/bsonnino/XamlEditAndContinue

One thing that went unnoticed in the last post is that the console app is multi-instance: if you click in the live tile or in the start menu, instead of bringing the same app to the front, you are opening a new window and running a new instance of it. This is something new for UWP apps: until now, you could only have one instance of the app running in your machine. While this works for many apps, when you are developing an LOB app, for example, you may need to open more than one instance and that can be limiting. The SDK released in the Aril 2018 update allow you to create multi instanced apps.

Single instance apps

The default UWP apps have a single instance. When you activate it for the first time, it opens the main window and runs the app. After the second call, the same app is activated and you can handle the activation in the OnLaunched method, like this:

private int _activationNo;
/// <summary>
/// Invoked when the application is launched normally by the end user.  Other entry points
/// will be used such as when the application is launched to open a specific file.
/// </summary>
/// <param name="e">Details about the launch request and process.</param>
protected override void OnLaunched(LaunchActivatedEventArgs e)
{
    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;

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

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

    if (e.PrelaunchActivated == false)
    {
        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);
        }

        if (rootFrame.Content is MainPage page)
            page.MainText = 
                $"Activation# {++_activationNo}";
        // Ensure the current window is active
        Window.Current.Activate();
    }
}

This way, you will see the activation number in the main page for the app. The app continues to have a single page, but you can control the number of times it’s activated. One other way to handle this is to open multiple windows, one for each activation. It is done like this:

private int _activationNo;
/// <summary>
/// Invoked when the application is launched normally by the end user.  Other entry points
/// will be used such as when the application is launched to open a specific file.
/// </summary>
/// <param name="e">Details about the launch request and process.</param>
protected override void OnLaunched(LaunchActivatedEventArgs e)
{
    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;

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

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

    if (e.PrelaunchActivated == false)
    {
        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);


            if (rootFrame.Content is MainPage page)
                page.MainText =
                    $"Activation# {++_activationNo}";
            // Ensure the current window is active
            Window.Current.Activate();
        }
        else
        {
            CreateNewView();
        }
    }
}

private async void CreateNewView()
{
    CoreApplicationView newView = CoreApplication.CreateNewView();
    int newViewId = 0;
    await newView.Dispatcher.RunAsync(CoreDispatcherPriority.Normal, () =>
    {
        Frame frame = new Frame();
        frame.Navigate(typeof(MainPage), null);
        Window.Current.Content = frame;
        if (frame.Content is MainPage page)
            page.MainText =
                $"Activation# {++_activationNo}";
        // You have to activate the window in order to show it later.
        Window.Current.Activate();

        newViewId = ApplicationView.GetForCurrentView().Id;
    });
    await ApplicationViewSwitcher.TryShowAsStandaloneAsync(newViewId);
}

The process is similar to the previous ones, but there is a difference: for the first activation, it fills the main window, and if not, it creates a new window with the CreateNewView method, then fills its content in the same way it did for the main window. After the window and the view are created and activated, we call ApplicationViewSwitcher.TryShowAsStandaloneAsync to show it. This will show the new window for the app.

MultiWnd

This arrangement works fine, but there is a problem, here: all windows are in the same process and, if you have a problem in one of them, all will crash.  This may not be what you want, and it’s changed in the April 2018 update – you can have multi-instance UWP apps.

Multi-Instance apps

The main difference is the SupportsMultipleInstances attribute in the package.appxmanifest file, in the Application node:

<Application 
  Id="App"
  Executable="$targetnametoken$.exe"
  EntryPoint="MultiInstance.Program"
  desktop4:SupportsMultipleInstances="true" 
  iot2:SupportsMultipleInstances="true">

The desktop4 and iot2 namespaces are defined in the Package node:

<Package
  xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/appx/manifest/foundation/windows10"
  xmlns:mp="http://schemas.microsoft.com/appx/2014/phone/manifest"
  xmlns:uap="http://schemas.microsoft.com/appx/manifest/uap/windows10"
  xmlns:uap5="http://schemas.microsoft.com/appx/manifest/uap/windows10/5" 
  xmlns:desktop4="http://schemas.microsoft.com/appx/manifest/desktop/windows10/4" 
  xmlns:iot2="http://schemas.microsoft.com/appx/manifest/iot/windows10/2" 
  IgnorableNamespaces="uap mp uap5 iot2 desktop4">

Once you put these in your package.appxmanifest, your application will be multi-instanced:

 

MultiInstance

If you don’t want to add this data manually, you can install the Multi-Instance templates, created by Microsoft. In Visual Studio, go to Tools/Extensions and Updates and install the Multi-Instance template:

MultiInstanceTemplate

Once you do that, you will get two new UWP templates, the Multi-Instance UWP App and Multi-Instance UWP Redirection App:

NewUwpTemplates

The Multi-Instance UWP App template does what we did before: creates a blank app with the new attribute. The Multi-Instance Redirection UWP App is a bit more complex. Sometimes you want to handle how multi instancing works and call a specific instance. In this case, the template generates a Program.cs file with a Main method, where you can handle the redirection.

public static class Program
{
    // This project includes DISABLE_XAML_GENERATED_MAIN in the build properties,
    // which prevents the build system from generating the default Main method:
    //static void Main(string[] args)
    //{
    //    global::Windows.UI.Xaml.Application.Start((p) => new App());
    //}

    // This example code shows how you could implement the required Main method to
    // support multi-instance redirection. The minimum requirement is to call
    // Application.Start with a new App object. Beyond that, you may delete the
    // rest of the example code and replace it with your custom code if you wish.

    static void Main(string[] args)
    {
        // First, we'll get our activation event args, which are typically richer
        // than the incoming command-line args. We can use these in our app-defined
        // logic for generating the key for this instance.
        IActivatedEventArgs activatedArgs = AppInstance.GetActivatedEventArgs();

        // In some scenarios, the platform might indicate a recommended instance.
        // If so, we can redirect this activation to that instance instead, if we wish.
        if (AppInstance.RecommendedInstance != null)
        {
            AppInstance.RecommendedInstance.RedirectActivationTo();
        }
        else
        {
            // Define a key for this instance, based on some app-specific logic.
            // If the key is always unique, then the app will never redirect.
            // If the key is always non-unique, then the app will always redirect
            // to the first instance. In practice, the app should produce a key
            // that is sometimes unique and sometimes not, depending on its own needs.
            uint number = CryptographicBuffer.GenerateRandomNumber();
            string key = (number % 2 == 0) ? "even" : "odd";
            var instance = AppInstance.FindOrRegisterInstanceForKey(key);
            if (instance.IsCurrentInstance)
            {
                // If we successfully registered this instance, we can now just
                // go ahead and do normal XAML initialization.
                global::Windows.UI.Xaml.Application.Start((p) => new App());
            }
            else
            {
                // Some other instance has registered for this key, so we'll 
                // redirect this activation to that instance instead.
                instance.RedirectActivationTo();
            }
        }
    }
}

From the comments in the file, you can see that you can get the default behavior just by using this code in the Main method:

static void Main(string[] args)
{
    global::Windows.UI.Xaml.Application.Start((p) => new App());
}

The key will be linked to the instance you want. For example, if you generate only different keys, new instances will be opened, and if you generate only one key, the first instance will be called. You can control how many instances you want and which ones you want to activate by using the keys you generate. For example, this code will allow you to have three instances open and will call them in a round-robin scheme:

static void Main(string[] args)
{
    // First, we'll get our activation event args, which are typically richer
    // than the incoming command-line args. We can use these in our app-defined
    // logic for generating the key for this instance.
    IActivatedEventArgs activatedArgs = AppInstance.GetActivatedEventArgs();

    // In some scenarios, the platform might indicate a recommended instance.
    // If so, we can redirect this activation to that instance instead, if we wish.
    if (AppInstance.RecommendedInstance != null)
    {
        AppInstance.RecommendedInstance.RedirectActivationTo();
    }
    else
    {
        // Define a key for this instance, based on some app-specific logic.
        // If the key is always unique, then the app will never redirect.
        // If the key is always non-unique, then the app will always redirect
        // to the first instance. In practice, the app should produce a key
        // that is sometimes unique and sometimes not, depending on its own needs.
        var instanceNo = GetInstanceNo();
        string key = instanceNo.ToString();
        var instance = AppInstance.FindOrRegisterInstanceForKey(key);
        if (instance.IsCurrentInstance)
        {
            // If we successfully registered this instance, we can now just
            // go ahead and do normal XAML initialization.
            global::Windows.UI.Xaml.Application.Start(p => new App());
        }
        else
        {
            // Some other instance has registered for this key, so we'll 
            // redirect this activation to that instance instead.
            instance.RedirectActivationTo();
        }
    }
}

private static int GetInstanceNo()
{
    ApplicationDataContainer localSettings = ApplicationData.Current.LocalSettings;
    var instanceNo = 0;
    object data = localSettings.Values["instanceNo"];
    if (data != null)
    {
        instanceNo = ((int)localSettings.Values["instanceNo"] + 1) % 3;
    }

    localSettings.Values["instanceNo"] = instanceNo;
    return instanceNo;
}

In this case, we are keeping it simple, but we can make something more complex here. For example, we can activate some instance depending on the parameters passed to the application:

static void Main(string[] args)
{
    // First, we'll get our activation event args, which are typically richer
    // than the incoming command-line args. We can use these in our app-defined
    // logic for generating the key for this instance.
    IActivatedEventArgs activatedArgs = AppInstance.GetActivatedEventArgs();
    // In some scenarios, the platform might indicate a recommended instance.
    // If so, we can redirect this activation to that instance instead, if we wish.
    if (AppInstance.RecommendedInstance != null)
    {
        AppInstance.RecommendedInstance.RedirectActivationTo();
    }
    else
    {
        // Define a key for this instance, based on some app-specific logic.
        // If the key is always unique, then the app will never redirect.
        // If the key is always non-unique, then the app will always redirect
        // to the first instance. In practice, the app should produce a key
        // that is sometimes unique and sometimes not, depending on its own needs.
        string key = "MainInstance";
        if (args.Length > 0)
            key = args[0];
        var instance = AppInstance.FindOrRegisterInstanceForKey(key);
        if (instance.IsCurrentInstance)
        {
            // If we successfully registered this instance, we can now just
            // go ahead and do normal XAML initialization.
            global::Windows.UI.Xaml.Application.Start(p => new App());
        }
        else
        {
            // Some other instance has registered for this key, so we'll 
            // redirect this activation to that instance instead.
            instance.RedirectActivationTo();
        }
    }
}

The key for the instance depends on the first parameter passed to the app. If we change our package.appxmanifest to add an ExecutionAlias, we can open a console window and call the app with a parameter:

<Package
  xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/appx/manifest/foundation/windows10"
  xmlns:mp="http://schemas.microsoft.com/appx/2014/phone/manifest"
  xmlns:uap="http://schemas.microsoft.com/appx/manifest/uap/windows10"
  xmlns:uap5="http://schemas.microsoft.com/appx/manifest/uap/windows10/5"
  xmlns:desktop4="http://schemas.microsoft.com/appx/manifest/desktop/windows10/4" 
  xmlns:iot2="http://schemas.microsoft.com/appx/manifest/iot/windows10/2" 
  IgnorableNamespaces="uap mp desktop4 iot2 uap5">

    ....

   <Extensions>
     <uap5:Extension
       Category="windows.appExecutionAlias"
       Executable="MultiInstance.exe"
       EntryPoint="MultiInstance.App">
       <uap5:AppExecutionAlias>
         <uap5:ExecutionAlias Alias="MultiInstance.exe" />
       </uap5:AppExecutionAlias>
     </uap5:Extension>
   </Extensions>
 </Application>

Now, we can handle different instances of our app. If we want to process the arguments (for example, to open a different file depending on the passed parameter), we can do it in the App.xaml.cs. Please note that the OnLaunched method is not called when the app is activated from the command line. In this case, you must override the OnActivated  method and process the arguments from there:

protected override void OnActivated(IActivatedEventArgs args)
{
    var arguments = (args as CommandLineActivatedEventArgs)?.Operation.Arguments;
    Frame rootFrame = Window.Current.Content as Frame;
    if (rootFrame == null)
    {
        rootFrame = new Frame();
        Window.Current.Content = rootFrame;
    }

    if (rootFrame.Content == null)
    {
        rootFrame.Navigate(typeof(MainPage), 
            $"Activated Kind {args.Kind}\nArguments: {arguments}");
    }
    Window.Current.Activate();
}

The processing of the arguments in the main page are done in the OnNavigatedTo method in MainPage.xaml.cs:

protected override void OnNavigatedTo(NavigationEventArgs e)
{
    var param = e?.Parameter;
    MainTxt.Text = param?.ToString() ?? "";
    base.OnNavigatedTo(e);
}

Now, if we open a command line window and type something like MultiInstance “this is a test”, the program will open a new instance with the arguments:

MultiInstanceArgs

Conclusions

As you can see, this new feature brings a lot of flexibility to your app. You already had the possibility to create many windows and now you can even create new instances and redirect the app to the right instance, depending on how the app is launched.

The full source code is available in http://github.com/bsonnino/MultiInstanceUWP

One new feature introduced in the April 2018 Windows 10 update is the possibility of writing console apps using UWP. You could ask “why build an UWP console app if we have console apps that work fine now?”.

There are many advantages in using a UWP console app:

  • You can add them to the store and get all the benefits of them: easy discovery and deploy, virus verifying and monetizing possibilities
  • You have fast install and uninstall
  • You can use the new OS features with no hacks
  • You have a global access in the machine without having to add them to the path, like normal console apps

Writing the app

To start writing the app, you should have the April 2018 update and its SDK installed. Once you have that set up, you can open Visual Studio and, in Tools/Extensions and Updates install the Console Project template:

ConsoleTemplate

When the template is installed, you can create a new project and select the console app under the Universal tab:

NewConsoleApp

When you select it, you should set the minimum and target version to 1803, so it can run ok. Then, Visual Studio creates a console app similar to the ones you are used to, but with some twists:

  • There is an Assets folder with the assets for the tiles
  • There is a package.appxmanifest file, like any other UWP program

When you run it, it will open a console and write the data to it:

ConsoleApp

Until now, there’s nothing special. Things start to happen when you open the Start menu and see the icon for the app and you can add the tile to the start menu by right clicking the icon and selecting Pin to Start:

StartMenu

The other change you can see is that you can open a Command Prompt window and type ToastConsole param1 param2 (the name I have given to the app is ToastConsole) and the app will run, no matter in which folder you are. Pretty cool, no?

This app is an UWP app and it can be uninstalled like any other app. Once you uninstall it, it will be completely removed from your machine.

Adding OS features to the app

The cool feature for UWP Console apps is the possibility to add OS features to it and use them as we would do in a normal UWP app. We will add a toast notification to the app, it will take the parameters typed to the app and send a toast notification with the first parameter as the title and the second parameter as the content.

To create a toast notification, you should create the content as XML and use it to send the toast, but there are better ways to do it: you can install the Windows UWP Toolkit Notifications package and use its helper functions to create the toast content. Right click in the References node in the Solution Explorer and select Manage NuGet packages and install the Microsoft.Toolkit.Uwp.Notifications.

With it installed, you can create the ShowToast method:

static void ShowToast(string title, string content)
{
    ToastVisual visual = new ToastVisual
    {
        BindingGeneric = new ToastBindingGeneric
        {
            Children =
            {
                new AdaptiveText
                {
                    Text = title
                },

                new AdaptiveText
                {
                    Text = content
                }
            }
        }
    };
    ToastContent toastContent = new ToastContent
    {
        Visual = visual,
    };

    var toast = new ToastNotification(toastContent.GetXml());
    ToastNotificationManager.CreateToastNotifier().Show(toast);
}

You create a ToastVisual, then a ToastContent and a ToastNotification with the ToastContent as XML, then show the toast. The main program is similar to this:

static void Main(string[] args)
{
    var title = "Hello UWP Console";
    var content = "Sample toast launched from UWP Console app";
    if (args.Length >= 2)
    {
        title = args[0];
        content = args[1];
    }
    else if (args.Length == 1)
    {
        content = args[0];
    }
    ShowToast(title,content);
    Console.WriteLine("Press a key to continue: ");
    Console.ReadLine();
}

This code will take the two parameters passed to the command line and will create a new toast with them and will show the toast. Simple, no?

Toast

Until now, we’ve accessed the program with the name of the app, but we can change this. Just right click the package.appxmanifest file in the Solution Explorer and select View Code. There, you can edit the execution alias and change the Alias attribute:

<Extensions>
  <uap5:Extension 
    Category="windows.appExecutionAlias" 
    Executable="ToastConsole.exe" 
    EntryPoint="ToastConsole.Program">
    <uap5:AppExecutionAlias desktop4:Subsystem="console" iot2:Subsystem="console">
      <uap5:ExecutionAlias Alias="ToastSender.exe" />
    </uap5:AppExecutionAlias>
  </uap5:Extension>
</Extensions>

With this change, you will access the program with the ToastSender alias and ToastConsole won’t be acessible anymore.

This new resource opens a new kind of applications, now you have this option to create apps that interact with the OS with no need of an UI.

The source code for the application is in https://github.com/bsonnino/ToastConsole

Sometimes you need to enumerate the files in a folder and its subfolders and that can be a very long task, especially with large folders. This article will show a fast and easy way to enumerate all files in a folder when using UWP.

Enumerating files the traditional way

UWP runs in a sandbox and you don’t have access to all files in the system. One way to get access to a folder and its subfolders is to use the FolderPicker. You can’t access the folders directly (unless for some libraries when you ask for their use in the app manifest), and using the folder picker gives you access to other folders: you open it, the user selects a folder and you have access to it and its subfolders. That can be done with a code like this:

private static async Task<StorageFolder> SelectFolderAsync()
{
    var folderPicker = new Windows.Storage.Pickers.FolderPicker
    {
        SuggestedStartLocation = Windows.Storage.Pickers.PickerLocationId.Desktop
    };
    folderPicker.FileTypeFilter.Add("*");
    StorageFolder folder = await folderPicker.PickSingleFolderAsync();
    return folder;
}

Once you get the folder reference, you can enumerate all files using a code like this:

private List<StorageFile> _allFiles;

private async Task GetFilesInFolder(StorageFolder folder)
{
    var items = await folder.GetItemsAsync();
    foreach (var item in items)
    {
        if (item is StorageFile)
            _allFiles.Add(item as StorageFile);
        else
            await GetFilesInFolder(item as StorageFolder);
    }
}

This recursive function will get all files and folders in the folder and will add the files to the files list and will call the function for all subfolders. Notice that you must use the StorageFolder and StorageFile classes to enumerate the files. While you can use .NET Standard 2.0 FileIO classes, this will be blocked by access permissions to UWP programs (for example, you will have access denied on the Documents library if you try to enumerate any file there with these classes even if you got the folder through the FolderPicker).

Using this function, I can get all files in a folder and fill a GridView in the main page with this function:

 

private async void GetFolderSlow(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)
{
    StorageFolder folder = await SelectFolderAsync();
    if (folder != null)
    {
        DocsGrid.ItemsSource = null;
        StatusTxt.Text = "";
        var sw = new Stopwatch();
        sw.Start();
        _allFiles = new List<StorageFile>();
        await GetFilesInFolder(folder);
        DocsGrid.ItemsSource = _allFiles;
        sw.Stop();
        StatusTxt.Text = $"Ellapsed time: {sw.ElapsedMilliseconds}  {_allFiles.Count} files";
    }
}

In my machine, it takes about 2 minutes to enumerate the Documents Library (about 38,000 files). That is way more than using a .NET console program (in my machine, it took about 5 seconds to get all file names and process them to get their sizes), but there is no better way (until now – maybe there will be some kind of Full Thrust UWP app in the future :-)) to enumerate the files in UWP. Or there is?

Enumerating files the fast way

Yes, there is a faster way. You can use the Windows indexing service and query the files faster, when they are indexed. For that, you just need to create a QueryOptions instance and tell that you want to use the indexer. This code makes all the work:

 

private async void GetFolder(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)
{
    var folder = await SelectFolderAsync();
    if (folder != null)
    {
        DocsGrid.ItemsSource = null;
        StatusTxt.Text = "";
        var sw = new Stopwatch();
        sw.Start();
        var queryOptions = new QueryOptions
        {
            FolderDepth = FolderDepth.Deep,
            IndexerOption = IndexerOption.UseIndexerWhenAvailable
        };
        var query = folder.CreateFileQueryWithOptions(queryOptions);
        var allFiles = await query.GetFilesAsync();
        DocsGrid.ItemsSource = allFiles;
        sw.Stop();
        StatusTxt.Text = $"Ellapsed time: {sw.ElapsedMilliseconds}  {allFiles.Count} files";
    }
}

As you can see, there is no need to have a recursive function. Setting the FolderDepth property to FolderDepth.Deep does all the recursive work for you. An you can use the index if it’s available and query for some files (like – only pictures or files created by an author). While this is not as fast as the console enumeration, it’s still twice as fast as the previous version.

Conclusions

Enumerating files in UWP is not very fast, but when you need it, you have a faster alternative to the default, using the indexer. That can be a handy alternative, especially when you need to filter the files.

All the source code for the article is in https://github.com/bsonnino/DocumentsAccess

 

Introduction

Every journey begins with the first step. But, sometimes, the first step is the hardest to give. Once you started, things fly and everything becomes easier. Starting a new project is always difficult: you don’t have a clear view of the parts and don’t know how to add them to your project in a way they interact seamlessly.

This is worse when you are using a new technology like UWP: what do I add to my project, what are the best practices and so on. To help us on this task and give us a starting point, the Windows team has created the Windows Template Studio, a new Visual Studio template that will help us to create a full UWP project, using only the parts we want.

In this article, we will create a UWP project to manipulate customer data with a master/detail view and use the MVVM pattern with the MVVM Light Framework.

Installing the template

The installation of the template is very simple: in Visual Studio 2017, go to Tools/Extensions and Updates and search for Windows Template Studio:

image

Once you install the template, a new option appears when you select File/New Project under Windows Universal:

image

Creating the project

Once you select this option and give the project name, a new screen will open:

image

In this screen, you can select the kind of the project you want. We will check the Navigation Pane and the MVVM Light Framework and then click in the Next button. Then we select the pages and features.

Select the Master/Detail page and name it Customer. Also select the Settings page:

image

Under the Features, select the Settings Storage, the Live Tile and the Toast Notifications, then click on Create. The new project will be created.

image

As you can see, a full project has been created, separated by folders, with all the needed files for the selected options. This project also is localized, if you want to translate it, you just need to add the localized resources. If you run the project, you will have a page with a hamburger menu and two options:

image

The project has some sample data and all the code to handle navigation, settings (including setting a dark theme), toast notifications and live tiles.

Now it’s time to customize the project for our needs.

Customizing the project

The first step in customizing our app is to set its description in the settings page. If you open SettingsPage.xaml you will see it uses the x:Uid tag to localize strings.

<TextBlock
    x:Uid="Settings_AboutDescription"
    Style="{ThemeResource BodyTextBlockStyle}"/>

To modify the description we need to open the Resources.resw file under Strings\en-US and edit the description:

image

I’ve also changed some margins in the text StackPanel in the page:

<StackPanel Grid.Row="2" Margin="30,16,30,0">
    <TextBlock
        x:Uid="Settings_About"
        Style="{ThemeResource TitleTextBlockStyle}"/>
    <TextBlock
        Text="{x:Bind ViewModel.AppDescription, Mode=OneWay}"
        Style="{ThemeResource SubtitleTextBlockStyle}"
        Margin="0,10"/>
    <TextBlock Margin="0,10"
        x:Uid="Settings_AboutDescription"
        Style="{ThemeResource BodyTextBlockStyle}"/>
    <HyperlinkButton 
        x:Uid="Settings_PrivacyTermsLink"
        Margin="0,10"/>
</StackPanel>

After changing that and running the application again, you can see the new description in the settings page:

image

Now, let’s customize the app for our needs. We don’t need the main page, so let’s remove it. You can also remove MainViewModel.cs. Removing these files, you must go to ViewModelLocator.cs and remove the references to the main viewmodel:

public class ViewModelLocator
{
    NavigationServiceEx _navigationService = new NavigationServiceEx();

    public ViewModelLocator()
    {
        ServiceLocator.SetLocatorProvider(() => SimpleIoc.Default);

        SimpleIoc.Default.Register(() => _navigationService);
        SimpleIoc.Default.Register<ShellViewModel>();
        Register<CustomerViewModel, CustomerPage>();
        Register<CustomerDetailViewModel, CustomerDetailPage>();
        Register<SettingsViewModel, SettingsPage>();
    }

    public SettingsViewModel SettingsViewModel => 
        ServiceLocator.Current.GetInstance<SettingsViewModel>();

    public CustomerDetailViewModel CustomerDetailViewModel => 
        ServiceLocator.Current.GetInstance<CustomerDetailViewModel>();

    public CustomerViewModel CustomerViewModel => 
        ServiceLocator.Current.GetInstance<CustomerViewModel>();

    public ShellViewModel ShellViewModel => 
        ServiceLocator.Current.GetInstance<ShellViewModel>();

    public void Register<VM, V>() where VM : class
    {
        SimpleIoc.Default.Register<VM>();
        _navigationService.Configure(typeof(VM).FullName, typeof(V));
    }
}

If you build the project now you will get many errors due to the removal of the main page. Let’s fix them:

The first one is in App.xaml.cs, for the activation of the window:

private ActivationService CreateActivationService()
{
    return new ActivationService(this, typeof(ViewModels.MainViewModel), new Views.ShellPage());
}

We have to change the reference to CustomerViewModel:

private ActivationService CreateActivationService()
{
    return new ActivationService(this, typeof(ViewModels.CustomerViewModel), new Views.ShellPage());
}

The second one is in ShellViewModel.cs, where the items in the NavBar are populated:

private void PopulateNavItems()
{
    _primaryItems.Clear();
    _secondaryItems.Clear();

    // More on Segoe UI Symbol icons: 
    //      https://docs.microsoft.com/windows/uwp/style/segoe-ui-symbol-font
    // Edit String/en-US/Resources.resw: Add a menu item title for each page
    _primaryItems.Add(new ShellNavigationItem("Shell_Main".GetLocalized(), 
        Symbol.Document, typeof(MainViewModel).FullName));
    _primaryItems.Add(new ShellNavigationItem("Shell_Customer".GetLocalized(), 
        Symbol.Document, typeof(CustomerViewModel).FullName));
    _secondaryItems.Add(new ShellNavigationItem("Shell_Settings".GetLocalized(), 
        Symbol.Setting, typeof(SettingsViewModel).FullName));
}

We remove that reference and, while changing that, we also change the Customer’s icon (you can see the reference in the comments):

private void PopulateNavItems()
{
    _primaryItems.Clear();
    _secondaryItems.Clear();

    // More on Segoe UI Symbol icons: 
    //    https://docs.microsoft.com/windows/uwp/style/segoe-ui-symbol-font
    // Edit String/en-US/Resources.resw: Add a menu item title for each page
    _primaryItems.Add(new ShellNavigationItem("Shell_Customer".GetLocalized(), 
        Symbol.People, typeof(CustomerViewModel).FullName));
    _secondaryItems.Add(new ShellNavigationItem("Shell_Settings".GetLocalized(), 
        Symbol.Setting, typeof(SettingsViewModel).FullName));
}

Now, when we run the app, the main page is not there anymore and the customer page has a new symbol in the NavBar:

image

Adding data to the app

We need some customer data, so I added a json file with the customers (this file should be added to the project as Content and Copy if newer):

{
  "Customers": [
    {
      "Id": "ALFKI",
      "CompanyName": "Alfreds Futterkiste",
      "ContactName": "Maria Anders",
      "ContactTitle": "Sales Representative",
      "Address": "Obere Str. 57",
      "City": "Berlin",
      "PostalCode": "12209",
      "Country": "Germany",
      "Phone": "030-0074321",
      "Fax": "030-0076545"
    },
...

If you take a look at the Models folder you will see that the template has added a sample model:

public class SampleModel
{
    public string Title { get; set; }
    public string Description { get; set; }
    public Symbol Symbol { get; set; }

    public char SymbolAsChar
    {
        get { return (char)Symbol; }
    }
}

We don’t want that, so we can remove it and add our model, Customer.cs:

public class Customer
{
    public string Id { get; set; }
    public string CompanyName { get; set; }
    public string ContactName { get; set; }
    public string ContactTitle { get; set; }
    public string Address { get; set; }
    public string City { get; set; }
    public string PostalCode { get; set; }
    public string Country { get; set; }
    public string Phone { get; set; }
    public string Fax { get; set; }
}

When we do that, a lot of code will break, as it is dependent of SampleModel. The first place is in CustomerDetailViewModel, where there is an Item property:

private SampleModel _item;
public SampleModel Item
{
    get { return _item; }
    set { Set(ref _item, value); }
}

We change that to:

private Customer _item;
public Customer Item
{
    get { return _item; }
    set { Set(ref _item, value); }
}

The second place to change is in CustomerViewModel, where we change all references from SampleModel to Customer. There is also a property SampleItems that we will use the Rename refactoring (CTRL+R+R) to rename it to Customers.

In CustomerViewModel, there is a reference to SampleModelService, the service used to serve data to the ViewModel, we have to change it to read data from our json file and rename it to CustomerService (by now, we will make it a read-only service, we will change that later):

public class CustomerService
{
    public async Task<IEnumerable<Customer>> GetDataAsync()
    {
        StorageFile customerFile = await StorageFile.GetFileFromApplicationUriAsync(
            new Uri("ms-appx:///Customers.json"));
        var customerJson = await FileIO.ReadTextAsync(customerFile);
        return await Json.ToObjectAsync<List<Customer>>(customerJson);
    }
}

We are using the Json.cs helper class to read the data and return the list of customers.

The next step is to change the references in the views. Change all references of SampleModel in CustomerDetailControl.xaml.cs and CustomerDetailPage.xaml.cs. Then, we must change the views to point to the Customer properties. The first change is in the MasterViewItemTemplate in CustomerPage.xaml:

<DataTemplate x:Key="MasterListViewItemTemplate" x:DataType="model:Customer">
    <Grid Margin="12,12,12,12">
        <Grid.RowDefinitions>
            <RowDefinition Height="Auto" />
            <RowDefinition Height="Auto" />
        </Grid.RowDefinitions>
        <TextBlock 
            Text="{x:Bind CompanyName}" 
            FontSize="16" FontWeight="SemiBold" TextTrimming="CharacterEllipsis" TextWrapping="NoWrap"/>
        <TextBlock
            Grid.Row="1"
            Opacity="0.6"
            Text="{x:Bind ContactName}"
            FontSize="16" FontWeight="Normal" TextTrimming="CharacterEllipsis" TextWrapping="NoWrap"/>
    </Grid>
</DataTemplate>

Then we must replace the data in CustomDetailControl.xaml to show the customer data (there is even a comment in the file for that):

<TextBlock
    x:Name="TitlePage"
    Text="{x:Bind MasterMenuItem.CompanyName, Mode=OneWay}"
    FontSize="28" FontWeight="SemiLight" TextTrimming="CharacterEllipsis" 
    TextWrapping="NoWrap" VerticalAlignment="Center"
    Margin="0,0,12,7"/>

<ScrollViewer
    Grid.Row="1"
    ScrollViewer.HorizontalScrollBarVisibility="Disabled"
    ScrollViewer.VerticalScrollBarVisibility="Auto"
    ScrollViewer.VerticalScrollMode="Auto">

    <!--The SystemControlPageBackgroundChromeLowBrush background represents where you should place your detail content.-->
    <Grid Background="{ThemeResource SystemControlPageBackgroundChromeLowBrush}">

        <!--Replate FontIcon and TextBlock with your detail content.-->
        <Grid.RowDefinitions>
            <RowDefinition Height="40"/>
            <RowDefinition Height="40"/>
            <RowDefinition Height="40"/>
            <RowDefinition Height="40"/>
            <RowDefinition Height="40"/>
        </Grid.RowDefinitions>
        <Grid.ColumnDefinitions>
            <ColumnDefinition Width="*"/>
            <ColumnDefinition Width="*"/>
        </Grid.ColumnDefinitions>
        <TextBlock Text="Contact Name" VerticalAlignment="Center" Margin="10,0" Grid.Row="0" Grid.Column="0"/>
        <TextBlock Text="Contact Title" VerticalAlignment="Center" Margin="10,0" Grid.Row="1" Grid.Column="0"/>
        <TextBlock Text="Address" VerticalAlignment="Center" Margin="10,0" Grid.Row="2" Grid.Column="0"/>
        <TextBlock Text="City" VerticalAlignment="Center" Margin="10,0" Grid.Row="3" Grid.Column="0"/>
        <TextBlock Text="Country" VerticalAlignment="Center" Margin="10,0" Grid.Row="4" Grid.Column="0"/>
        <TextBox Text="{x:Bind MasterMenuItem.ContactName, Mode=TwoWay}" 
                 VerticalAlignment="Center" Margin="10,5" Grid.Row="0" Grid.Column="1"/>
        <TextBox Text="{x:Bind MasterMenuItem.ContactTitle, Mode=TwoWay}" 
                 VerticalAlignment="Center" Margin="10,5" Grid.Row="1" Grid.Column="1"/>
        <TextBox Text="{x:Bind MasterMenuItem.Address, Mode=TwoWay}" 
                 VerticalAlignment="Center" Margin="10,5" Grid.Row="2" Grid.Column="1"/>
        <TextBox Text="{x:Bind MasterMenuItem.City, Mode=TwoWay}" 
                 VerticalAlignment="Center" Margin="10,5" Grid.Row="3" Grid.Column="1"/>
        <TextBox Text="{x:Bind MasterMenuItem.Country, Mode=TwoWay}" 
                 VerticalAlignment="Center" Margin="10,5" Grid.Row="4" Grid.Column="1"/>
    </Grid>
</ScrollViewer>
<TextBlock
    x:Name="TitlePage"
    Text="{x:Bind MasterMenuItem.CompanyName, Mode=OneWay}"
    FontSize="28" FontWeight="SemiLight" TextTrimming="CharacterEllipsis" 
    TextWrapping="NoWrap" VerticalAlignment="Center"
    Margin="0,0,12,7"/>

<ScrollViewer
    Grid.Row="1"
    ScrollViewer.HorizontalScrollBarVisibility="Disabled"
    ScrollViewer.VerticalScrollBarVisibility="Auto"
    ScrollViewer.VerticalScrollMode="Auto">

    <!--The SystemControlPageBackgroundChromeLowBrush background represents where you should place your detail content.-->
    <Grid Background="{ThemeResource SystemControlPageBackgroundChromeLowBrush}">

        <!--Replate FontIcon and TextBlock with your detail content.-->
        <Grid.RowDefinitions>
            <RowDefinition Height="40"/>
            <RowDefinition Height="40"/>
            <RowDefinition Height="40"/>
            <RowDefinition Height="40"/>
            <RowDefinition Height="40"/>
            <RowDefinition Height="40"/>
            <RowDefinition Height="40"/>
        </Grid.RowDefinitions>
        <Grid.ColumnDefinitions>
            <ColumnDefinition Width="*"/>
            <ColumnDefinition Width="*"/>
        </Grid.ColumnDefinitions>
        <TextBlock Text="Id" VerticalAlignment="Center" Margin="10,0" Grid.Row="0" Grid.Column="0"/>
        <TextBlock Text="Company Name" VerticalAlignment="Center" Margin="10,0" Grid.Row="1" Grid.Column="0"/>
        <TextBlock Text="Contact Name" VerticalAlignment="Center" Margin="10,0" Grid.Row="2" Grid.Column="0"/>
        <TextBlock Text="Contact Title" VerticalAlignment="Center" Margin="10,0" Grid.Row="3" Grid.Column="0"/>
        <TextBlock Text="Address" VerticalAlignment="Center" Margin="10,0" Grid.Row="4" Grid.Column="0"/>
        <TextBlock Text="City" VerticalAlignment="Center" Margin="10,0" Grid.Row="5" Grid.Column="0"/>
        <TextBlock Text="Country" VerticalAlignment="Center" Margin="10,0" Grid.Row="6" Grid.Column="0"/>
        <TextBox Text="{x:Bind MasterMenuItem.Id, Mode=TwoWay}" 
                 VerticalAlignment="Center" Margin="10,5" Grid.Row="0" Grid.Column="1"/>
        <TextBox Text="{x:Bind MasterMenuItem.CompanyName, Mode=TwoWay}" 
                 VerticalAlignment="Center" Margin="10,5" Grid.Row="1" Grid.Column="1"/>
        <TextBox Text="{x:Bind MasterMenuItem.ContactName, Mode=TwoWay}" 
                 VerticalAlignment="Center" Margin="10,5" Grid.Row="2" Grid.Column="1"/>
        <TextBox Text="{x:Bind MasterMenuItem.ContactTitle, Mode=TwoWay}" 
                 VerticalAlignment="Center" Margin="10,5" Grid.Row="3" Grid.Column="1"/>
        <TextBox Text="{x:Bind MasterMenuItem.Address, Mode=TwoWay}" 
                 VerticalAlignment="Center" Margin="10,5" Grid.Row="4" Grid.Column="1"/>
        <TextBox Text="{x:Bind MasterMenuItem.City, Mode=TwoWay}" 
                 VerticalAlignment="Center" Margin="10,5" Grid.Row="5" Grid.Column="1"/>
        <TextBox Text="{x:Bind MasterMenuItem.Country, Mode=TwoWay}" 
                 VerticalAlignment="Center" Margin="10,5" Grid.Row="6" Grid.Column="1"/>
    </Grid>
</ScrollViewer>

Now, if you run the app, you will see the customer data:

image

Adding, updating and deleting customers

Until now, the data is read-only, we can’t update it. To allow updating the data, we need to save the file in the isolated storage; the actual file is located in the installation folder and it’s read-only. To copy the file to the isolated storage, we must change the Customer Service:

public class CustomerService
{
    public async Task<IEnumerable<Customer>> GetDataAsync()
    {
        StorageFolder localFolder = ApplicationData.Current.LocalFolder;
        var customerData = await localFolder.ReadAsync<List<Customer>>("Customers");
        if (customerData == null)
        {
            customerData = await LoadInitialCustomerDataAsync();
            await localFolder.SaveAsync("Customers", customerData);
        }
        return customerData;
    }

    private static async Task<List<Customer>> LoadInitialCustomerDataAsync()
    {
        StorageFile customerFile = await StorageFile.GetFileFromApplicationUriAsync(
            new Uri("ms-appx:///Customers.json"));
        var customerJson = await FileIO.ReadTextAsync(customerFile);
        return await Json.ToObjectAsync<List<Customer>>(customerJson);
    }
}
 public class CustomerService
 {
     public async Task<IEnumerable<Customer>> GetDataAsync()
     {
         StorageFolder localFolder = ApplicationData.Current.LocalFolder;
         var customerData = await localFolder.ReadAsync<List<Customer>>("Customers");
         if (customerData == null)
         {
             customerData = await LoadInitialCustomerDataAsync();
             await localFolder.SaveAsync("Customers", customerData);
         }
         return customerData;
     }

     private static async Task<List<Customer>> LoadInitialCustomerDataAsync()
     {
         StorageFile customerFile = await StorageFile.GetFileFromApplicationUriAsync(
             new Uri("ms-appx:///Customers.json"));
         var customerJson = await FileIO.ReadTextAsync(customerFile);
         return await Json.ToObjectAsync<List<Customer>>(customerJson);
     }

     public async Task SaveDataAsync(IEnumerable<Customer> customerData)
     {
         StorageFolder localFolder = ApplicationData.Current.LocalFolder;
         await localFolder.SaveAsync("Customers", customerData);
     }
 }

We are using the SettingsStorageExtensions helper class to load the data from the isolated storage. If there is no data, we load the customers from the installation file. We also created a SaveDataAsync method to save the data.

Now we must create some buttons to allow adding, deleting and saving customers. In CustomerPage.xaml we will add the buttons for these actions:

<!--The SystemControlPageBackgroundChromeLowBrush background represents where you should place your master content.-->
<StackPanel Orientation="Horizontal" Grid.Row="1" Margin="0,4">
    <Button Width="48" Height="48" BorderThickness="0" Background="Transparent" 
            Command="{x:Bind ViewModel.AddCustomerCommand}">
        <Grid>
            <FontIcon FontFamily="Segoe MDL2 Assets" Glyph="" FontSize="16"/>
            <Grid Background="White" Margin="16,16,0,0" Width="8" Height="8">
                <FontIcon FontFamily="Segoe MDL2 Assets" Glyph="" FontSize="8" Foreground="Red" />
            </Grid>
        </Grid>
    </Button>
    <Button Width="48" Height="48" BorderThickness="0" Background="Transparent" 
            Command="{x:Bind ViewModel.DeleteCustomerCommand}">
        <Grid>
            <FontIcon FontFamily="Segoe MDL2 Assets" Glyph="" FontSize="16"/>
            <Grid Background="White" Margin="16,16,0,0" Width="8" Height="8">
                <FontIcon FontFamily="Segoe MDL2 Assets" Glyph="" FontSize="8" Foreground="Red" />
            </Grid>
        </Grid>
    </Button>
    <Button Width="48" Height="48" BorderThickness="0" Background="Transparent" 
            Command="{x:Bind ViewModel.SaveCustomersCommand}">
        <Grid>
            <FontIcon FontFamily="Segoe MDL2 Assets" Glyph="" FontSize="16"/>
            <Grid Background="White" Margin="16,16,0,0" Width="8" Height="8">
                <FontIcon FontFamily="Segoe MDL2 Assets" Glyph="" FontSize="8" Foreground="Red" />
            </Grid>
        </Grid>
    </Button>
</StackPanel>

We must add the three commands in CustomerViewModel:

public ICommand AddCustomerCommand { get; }
public ICommand DeleteCustomerCommand { get; }
public ICommand SaveCustomersCommand { get; }

public CustomerViewModel()
{
    ItemClickCommand = new RelayCommand<ItemClickEventArgs>(OnItemClick);
    StateChangedCommand = new RelayCommand<VisualStateChangedEventArgs>(OnStateChanged);
    AddCustomerCommand = new RelayCommand(DoAddCustomer);
    DeleteCustomerCommand = new RelayCommand(DoDeleteCustomer);
    SaveCustomersCommand = new RelayCommand(DoSaveCustomers);
}

private async void DoSaveCustomers()
{
    var customerService = new CustomerService();
    await customerService.SaveDataAsync(Customers);
}

private void DoDeleteCustomer()
{
    if (Selected != null)
        Customers.Remove(Selected);
}

private void DoAddCustomer()
{
    var customer = new Customer();
    Customers.Add(customer);
    Selected = customer;
}
public ICommand AddCustomerCommand { get; }
public ICommand DeleteCustomerCommand { get; }
public ICommand SaveCustomersCommand { get; }

public CustomerViewModel()
{
    ItemClickCommand = new RelayCommand<ItemClickEventArgs>(OnItemClick);
    StateChangedCommand = new RelayCommand<VisualStateChangedEventArgs>(OnStateChanged);
    AddCustomerCommand = new RelayCommand(DoAddCustomer);
    DeleteCustomerCommand = new RelayCommand(DoDeleteCustomer);
    SaveCustomersCommand = new RelayCommand(DoSaveCustomers);
}

private async void DoSaveCustomers()
{
    var customerService = new CustomerService();
    await customerService.SaveDataAsync(Customers);
}

private void DoDeleteCustomer()
{
    if (Selected != null)
        Customers.Remove(Selected);
    Selected = Customers.FirstOrDefault();
}

private void DoAddCustomer()
{
    var customer = new Customer();
    Customers.Add(customer);
    Selected = customer;
}

Now, when you run the program, you will see three icons at the top of the customer list and you are able to create update and delete customers. If you click the Save button, the data will be saved and will be available in the next run.

Saving and Loading the current state

One thing that is nice in an application is that the current state is saved when the app is closed. We want to save the selected customer when the app is closed and restore it when it is reopened. To do that, we will save the id of the selected customer to the application settings, using the SettingsStorageExtensions class:

public async Task LoadDataAsync(VisualState currentState)
{
    _currentState = currentState;
    Customers.Clear();

    var service = new CustomerService();
    var data = await service.GetDataAsync();

    foreach (var item in data)
    {
        Customers.Add(item);
    }
    await LoadSettingsAsync();
}

public async void SaveSettings()
{
    if (Selected != null)
    {
        var localSettings = Windows.Storage.ApplicationData.Current.LocalSettings;

        var container =
            localSettings.CreateContainer("CustSettings",
                Windows.Storage.ApplicationDataCreateDisposition.Always);
        await container.SaveAsync("LastCust", Selected.Id);
    }
}

public async Task LoadSettingsAsync()
{
    if (Selected != null)
    {
        var localSettings = Windows.Storage.ApplicationData.Current.LocalSettings;

        var container =
            localSettings.CreateContainer("CustSettings",
                Windows.Storage.ApplicationDataCreateDisposition.Always);
        var lastCust = await container.ReadAsync<string>("LastCust");
        if (!string.IsNullOrEmpty(lastCust))
        Selected = Customers.FirstOrDefault(c => c.Id == lastCust);
    }
}
public async Task LoadDataAsync(VisualState currentState)
{
    _currentState = currentState;
    Customers.Clear();

    var service = new CustomerService();
    var data = await service.GetDataAsync();

    foreach (var item in data)
    {
        Customers.Add(item);
    }
    await LoadSettingsAsync();
}

private async void SaveSettings()
{
    if (Selected != null)
    {
        var localSettings = Windows.Storage.ApplicationData.Current.LocalSettings;

        var container =
            localSettings.CreateContainer("CustSettings",
                Windows.Storage.ApplicationDataCreateDisposition.Always);
        await container.SaveAsync("LastCust", Selected.Id);
    }
}

private async Task LoadSettingsAsync()
{
    var localSettings = Windows.Storage.ApplicationData.Current.LocalSettings;

    var container =
        localSettings.CreateContainer("CustSettings",
            Windows.Storage.ApplicationDataCreateDisposition.Always);
    var lastCust = await container.ReadAsync<string>("LastCust");
    Selected = !string.IsNullOrEmpty(lastCust) ? 
        Customers.FirstOrDefault(c => c.Id == lastCust) : 
        Customers.FirstOrDefault();
}
public Customer Selected
{
    get { return _selected; }
    set
    {
        Set(ref _selected, value);
        SaveSettings();
    }
}

public async Task LoadDataAsync(VisualState currentState)
{
    _currentState = currentState;
    Customers.Clear();

    var service = new CustomerService();
    var data = await service.GetDataAsync();

    foreach (var item in data)
    {
        Customers.Add(item);
    }
    await LoadSettingsAsync();
}

private async void SaveSettings()
{
    if (Selected != null)
    {
        var localSettings = Windows.Storage.ApplicationData.Current.LocalSettings;

        var container =
            localSettings.CreateContainer("CustSettings",
                Windows.Storage.ApplicationDataCreateDisposition.Always);
        await container.SaveAsync("LastCust", Selected.Id);
    }
}

private async Task LoadSettingsAsync()
{
    var localSettings = Windows.Storage.ApplicationData.Current.LocalSettings;

    var container =
        localSettings.CreateContainer("CustSettings",
            Windows.Storage.ApplicationDataCreateDisposition.Always);
    var lastCust = await container.ReadAsync<string>("LastCust");
    Selected = !string.IsNullOrEmpty(lastCust) ? 
        Customers.FirstOrDefault(c => c.Id == lastCust) : 
        Customers.FirstOrDefault();
}

When the data is loaded, the id of the last selected customer is retrieved from the storage settings. This information is saved every time the selected customer changes. That way, when the user opens the app, the last selected customer is shown in the screen.

Working with toasts and tiles

You should have noticed that every time you run the project, a toast notification is shown. As we selected to add the Toast Notifications to the project, these were added and we can customize them. The sample toast is called from DefaultLaunchActivationHandler.cs:

protected override async Task HandleInternalAsync(LaunchActivatedEventArgs args)
{
    // When the navigation stack isn't restored navigate to the first page,
    // configuring the new page by passing required information as a navigation
    // parameter
    NavigationService.Navigate(_navElement, args.Arguments);

    // TODO UWPTemplates: This is a sample on how to show a toast notification.
    // You can use this sample to create toast notifications where needed in your app.
    Singleton<ToastNotificationsService>.Instance.ShowToastNotificationSample();
    await Task.CompletedTask;
}

We will remove this call and add it at the end of the load process, to show how many customers were loaded and after saving the customer file, to show how many customers were saved. Before that, we must change the sample toast (in ToastNotificationsService.Samples.cs) to show a custom message:

public void ShowToastNotificationSample(string message)
{
    var customerService = new CustomerService();
    // Create the toast content
    var content = new ToastContent()
    {
        // TODO UWPTemplates: Check this documentation to know more about the Launch property
        // Documentation: https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/uwp-community-toolkit/api/microsoft_toolkit_uwp_notifications_toastcontent
        Launch = "ToastContentActivationParams",

        Visual = new ToastVisual()
        {
            BindingGeneric = new ToastBindingGeneric()
            {
                Children =
                {
                    new AdaptiveText()
                    {
                        Text = "Customer CRUD"
                    },

                    new AdaptiveText()
                    {
                         Text = message
                    }
                }
            }
        },

        Actions = new ToastActionsCustom()
        {
            Buttons =
            {
                // TODO UWPTemplates: Check this documentation to know more about Toast Buttons
                // Documentation: https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/uwp-community-toolkit/api/microsoft_toolkit_uwp_notifications_toastbutton
                new ToastButton("OK", "ToastButtonActivationArguments")
                {
                    ActivationType = ToastActivationType.Foreground
                },

                new ToastButtonDismiss("Cancel")
            }
        }
    };

    // Create the toast
    var toast = new ToastNotification(content.GetXml())
    {
        // TODO UWPTemplates: Gets or sets the unique identifier of this notification within the notification Group. Max length 16 characters.
        // Documentation: https://docs.microsoft.com/uwp/api/windows.ui.notifications.toastnotification
        Tag = "ToastTag"
    };

    // And show the toast
    ShowToastNotification(toast);
}

Then we can change the methods to load and save data in CustomerViewModel.cs to show the toast:

 private async void DoSaveCustomers()
 {
     var customerService = new CustomerService();
     await customerService.SaveDataAsync(Customers);
     Singleton<ToastNotificationsService>.Instance.ShowToastNotificationSample($"Saved {Customers.Count} customers");
 }

 public async Task LoadDataAsync(VisualState currentState)
 {
     _currentState = currentState;
     Customers.Clear();

     var service = new CustomerService();
     var data = await service.GetDataAsync();

     foreach (var item in data)
     {
         Customers.Add(item);
     }
     await LoadSettingsAsync();
     
     Singleton<ToastNotificationsService>.Instance.ShowToastNotificationSample($"Loaded {Customers.Count} customers");
 }

Now, when you run the app, every time the data is loaded or saved, a toast is shown with the number of customers in the file. You can even capture the click of the OK button in the HandleInternalAsync method in ToastNotificationsService.

One final change should be made in our app: it is still showing a default tile.We will change that to reflect the number of customers in the file. The sample tile is shown in the StartupAsync method in ActivationService.cs.

private async Task StartupAsync()
{
    Singleton<LiveTileService>.Instance.SampleUpdate();
    Services.ThemeSelectorService.SetRequestedTheme();
    await Task.CompletedTask;
}

We will change the SampleUpdate in LiveTileService.Samples.cs to show a custom message:

public void SampleUpdate(string message)
{
    // See more information about Live Tiles Notifications
    // Documentation: https://docs.microsoft.com/windows/uwp/controls-and-patterns/tiles-and-notifications-sending-a-local-tile-notification

    // These would be initialized with actual data
    string title = "Customer CRUD";
   
    // Construct the tile content
    TileContent content = new TileContent()
    {
        Visual = new TileVisual()
        {
            Arguments = "Customer CRUD",
            TileMedium = new TileBinding()
            {
                Content = new TileBindingContentAdaptive()
                {
                    Children =
                    {
                        new AdaptiveText()
                        {
                            Text = title
                        },
                        new AdaptiveText()
                        {
                            Text = message,
                            HintStyle = AdaptiveTextStyle.CaptionSubtle
                        }
                    }
                }
            },

            TileWide = new TileBinding()
            {
                Content = new TileBindingContentAdaptive()
                {
                    Children =
                    {
                        new AdaptiveText()
                        {
                            Text = title,
                            HintStyle = AdaptiveTextStyle.Subtitle
                        },
                        new AdaptiveText()
                        {
                            Text = message,
                            HintStyle = AdaptiveTextStyle.CaptionSubtle
                        }
                    }
                }
            }
        }
    };

    // Then create the tile notification            
    var notification = new TileNotification(content.GetXml());
    UpdateTile(notification);
}

With that change, we can change CustomerViewModel to update the live tile every time the customer file is loaded or saved:

private async void DoSaveCustomers()
{
    var customerService = new CustomerService();
    await customerService.SaveDataAsync(Customers);
    Singleton<ToastNotificationsService>.Instance.ShowToastNotificationSample($"Saved {Customers.Count} customers");
    Singleton<LiveTileService>.Instance.SampleUpdate($"{Customers.Count} customers in the database");
}

public async Task LoadDataAsync(VisualState currentState)
{
    _currentState = currentState;
    Customers.Clear();

    var service = new CustomerService();
    var data = await service.GetDataAsync();

    foreach (var item in data)
    {
        Customers.Add(item);
    }
    await LoadSettingsAsync();
    
    Singleton<ToastNotificationsService>.Instance.ShowToastNotificationSample($"Loaded {Customers.Count} customers");
    Singleton<LiveTileService>.Instance.SampleUpdate($"{Customers.Count} customers in the database");
}

Conclusions

As you can see, we went from 0 to a full UWP app, using the MVVM pattern, toast and live tiles, using best practices. The Windows Template Studio gives us a good starting point for it: just select what you want and a sample project is created, where you can fully customize it. In this case, I used a json file, but CustomerService could get its data from an external service with minimal changes. There is a lot of room to improve this app, but the basis is there, it’s not impossible to create a LOB app using UWP.

The full project source is in https://github.com/bsonnino/CustomerCrud

protected override async Task HandleInternalAsync(LaunchActivatedEventArgs args)
{
    // When the navigation stack isn't restored navigate to the first page,
    // configuring the new page by passing required information as a navigation
    // parameter
    NavigationService.Navigate(_navElement, args.Arguments);

    // TODO UWPTemplates: This is a sample on how to show a toast notification.
    // You can use this sample to create toast notifications where needed in your app.
    Singleton<ToastNotificationsService>.Instance.ShowToastNotificationSample();
    await Task.CompletedTask;
}

When you have a multi-monitor device, you usually want to write code in one monitor and debug the program in another one. This is especially helpful when you want to debug some visual interface that is rendered by the code (or debug the Paint event, for WinForms apps).

But the program you’re debugging insists to open in the same monitor you are writing code. If you try to find some setting in Visual Studio to set the monitor to open the program, you won’t find any. So, what can be done in this case?

I’ve found two options, the code one, and the Windows one. Let’s start with the code option:

Add some code in the closing of the main form to save the window position and in the constructor of the form to restore the window position. This code could be used as a feature for your program: that way, the user can reposition and resize the window and the next time he opens it, it will be in the same position. If you don’t want this feature for the released version, enclose the code in the conditional compiler directive #if DEBUG ..#endif. You can check something like that for WPF in this CodeProject article: https://www.codeproject.com/Articles/50761/Save-and-Restore-WPF-Window-Size-Position-and-or-S (things should be similar for WinForms). With this code, you can move the window to the other monitor and start debugging there. Just remember to close the app normally, to save the current position. The next time you will debug the program, the window it will be in the same place.

For UWP, saving the last window position is the default behavior, so you don’t have to do anything in the code: just move the window to the new position and close it normally and everything is set.

The Windows option is very simple, but not quite at sight: when you have a multi-monitor disposition, there is a checkbox in the display settings that says “Make this my main display”. All you have to do in this case is to right click the desktop of any monitor, select “ Display settings”, select the monitor you want to open your programs, check this box and voilà, all programs will open by default on the selected monitor. The only side effect in this case is that the search bar and the system tray will move to this monitor, but I think that this is minimal and does not affect my daily use. Easy, no?

image

That way, you can edit code in one screen and run the program in the other. So, happy debugging!

O Visual Studio 2015 introduziu novas ferramentas de debugging de UI para as aplicações WPF, Windows 8.1 ou Windows 10: a Live Visual Tree e o Live Property Explorer.

Com estas duas ferramentas, você pode examinar a interface que é gerada em tempo de execução e também ver os valores das propriedades dos elementos.

Uma coisa muito interessante é que você, além de poder examinar as propriedades, também pode alterá-las dinamicamente, avaliando como fica a interface – sem dúvida, isso é uma mão na roda para quem quer fazer experiências com a UI e ver por que algo não ficou exatamente como esperado!

Se você quer saber mais sobre isso, pode dar uma olhada em meu vídeo no Channel 9: https://channel9.msdn.com/Series/Windows-Development/Ferramentas-de-Debugging-de-UI-no-VS-2015