Creating a simple Windows 10 game with Win2D

Some time ago while looking at some pixel art work I got an idea to create a retro pixel art game for Windows 10. The choice was obvious, Sokoban. I have a very special relationship with the Sokoban game. The Delpi version of Sokoban was the first game I ever created. I later ported it to all the platforms I played with, namely J2ME (for my Siemens S60 phone), Linux (using Kylix which was basically a Delphi for Linux), Windows Phone 7 and now Sokoban Pixel for the Universal Windows Platform.

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Creating better forms in Windows Phone apps

If you are a Windows Phone user you must know that filling in forms in apps is usually a real pain. There is no good way to move from one input to another or to collapse the keyboard. The whole process becomes a struggle, tapping outside the input fields to collapse the keyboard allowing you to scroll to the next input or to the submit button at the top of the screen, usually occluded by the keyboard.

The typical struggle to get to the last input fields and the submit button may look like this

There is no guidance on how to approach this. Take a look at the Store app on Windows 10 mobile, the perfect example of bad UI and UX directly from Microsoft and try review an app. You fill in the title of the review, then struggle to go into the review text input, you have to tap somewhere above the input to hide the keyboard, but not to hit the stars control … just an UX disaster.

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Using Tooltips to make better menus in Windows apps

If you use Windows apps with navigation menus consisting of icons, you may have noticed that some of those apps show you a text when hovering above those icons. This is a nice touch for the users, allowing them to quickly grasp the meaning of the menu icons without the need to click them or to expand the menu (if available).

Implementing this kind of hovers is really easy thanks to the ToolTipService that is available in Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 UWP. You can add <ToolTipService.ToolTip> with any element and include basically any XAML content as the tooltip. Here is a sample from the animation using a simple localized TextBlock

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Choosing an image from gallery or camera a bit better in Universal Windows apps

When developing Windows Phone apps you may encounter a use case when you have to allow the user to either pick a photo from the photos gallery in the photo or a take a new photo using the phone’s camera. One example of this may be the registration process when the user may choose a profile picture.

In Windows Phone 8.1, this task is quite simple, just use the FileOpenPicker. It allows you to pick a photo from the gallery or take a new photo. Just take a look at this animation showing how the users takes a new photo using the phone’s camera.

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Using Hockey App to distribute Windows Phone apps

Distributing Windows Phone apps to testers has always been a pain. The Private Beta in the Windows Store intended for this is not very flexible and it got much worse with Windows 10 (generating promotional code that can take up to 24 hours).

One of the better ways to solve the beta build distribution is using a service like Hockey App, that Microsoft recently acquired. To be able to use Hockey App (or any other service) you need to buy a $299 certificate from Symantec.

You then use the certificate to sign the XAP or APPX files of your app. Those signed binaries can be than installed on devices with the correct application enrollment token directly from Hockey App, bypassing the Windows Store.

One of my clients got persuaded to try this approach after some problem with the Windows Store Private Beta and bough the certificate. It took a week for the purchase to go through and another week to finally get the certificate in the correct PFX format from Symantec.

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How to handle localization strings provided by the client in a Windows Phone app

I currently work on a Windows Phone 8.1 app for a client with an interesting approach to app localization. They have a Google Docs sheet with all the localization string for the app in all the supported languages and a tool that converts this localization strings in to per-language versioned JSON files. The generated JSON files are kept in a git repository. The Android, iOS and now my Windows Phone app should have the git repository added as a submodule. When a new version of the JSON files with the localization appear in the submodule, the app should use them.

Deciding the localization approach

In the old days of Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 I would simply write an utility that reads the newest version of the JSON localization files and generate a RESX file for each language. RESX is XML format that is simple to generate. If you had a localized string with a key say Game, you would put it everywhere when the localization of the word game was needed. Simple

In Windows Phone 8.1 (and 10) you should use RESW files for localization. This is the new x:Uid approach that, in my honest opinion, really sucks. It forces you to duplicate string if you use I string in multiple places, there is no design time support, you never know what UI element are localized and what you forgot to localize. Simply put, it is a mess. This approach is not usable at all with the string client provides.

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Detecting gestures over WebView on Windows Phone

If you develop Windows Phone apps, you surely had to use the WebView component at least once. Any you must have realized, that it kind of sucks. One of the problems is that it swallows all the gestures and manipulation events. This means you cannot put it into a Pivot, you cannot detect swipe left or right events to navigate to next or previous article .. or can you?

In a recent project, I had to implement exactly the mentioned functionality, swiping between articles displayed in a WebView. I did some research and I could not find any solution. So I had to get creative and I find a way involving JavaScript.

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Highlighting letters in TextBlock in Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1

In my current project I had to implement an interesting feature for both Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1 project of the Universal app. The idea is simply. The users want to search for a movie. They enter a search term into a TextBox and a list of results is shown. The results should have the search term highlighted in them.

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Strange combination of HTTPS and Windows Phone 8.1 that can make your app and phone freeze

Last week I came upon a really bizarre problem that you may also find interesting. Lets start with a bit of context.

Tl;Dr: There seems to be a bug in Windows phone 8.1 that can make your app and the phone freezes when displaying images over HTTPS from some servers. Skip to the end of this article to see a video and get the source code.

The Windows Phone app

The app is a Windows Phone 8 shopping app for the biggest Czech online retailer. The main screen of the app contains quite a bit of data, usually about ten carousel with about 10 products and the list of main categories, so about 10 more images.

In worst case the main screen contains over 10 hundred images. It was quite a hassle to make it work well in the Windows Phone 8 SDK (no, rewriting a shopping about with about 70 screens to Windows Phone 8.1 is not feasible). But it work juts fine. Until last week.

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Problems getting paid from the Windows Store, again

I do not make much money on my Windows Phone apps (who does?), but when the payout time comes every couple of months, I expect the money to be delivered. Dealing with Microsoft, I should know better.

Failed payment

Last month I looked into the Dev Center and saw that my scheduled payment failed, telling me to contact the support. So I did. The result was one moth of exchanging email without a solution.

Dealing with support

The Microsoft employee told me that I am in a small group of people with this problem. I do not know if I have such a bad look always be in a problematic supposedly small group, or that the group are not that small. He told me that Microsoft will retry the payment. The payment was supposedly retried on June 24th and succeeded. So they say.

Great news, your June payout was returned due to an internal issue; however, the payout of 5264.17 CZK has been re-attempted and was successfully completed on June 24th. If you have not received the payout then please review this transaction with your bank. Please let me know if you have any further questions.

I never got the money. The employee asked me a few times if I got the money and then resigned, telling me that it is my problem and I should check with my bank. Of course I checked with my bank, they do not have the money. If they had, they would transfer it to my account.

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