Dialog helper for Universal Apps the easy way

Today I read Joost van Schaik’s blog post called A behavior to show a MessageDialog from a MVVMLight viewmodel in Universal apps–with callbacks. I am not a MVVMLight guy (I use Caliburn.Micro) and I personally use an approach that uses a little less code, employing a helper class.

Helper class

/// <summary>
/// Helper class for showing message dialogs
/// </summary>
public static class DialogHelper
    /// <summary>
    /// Shows a dialog with given message and ok/cancel buttons. 
    /// </summary>
    /// <param name="message">Message</param>
    /// <param name="title">Title</param>
    /// <param name="okText">OK text (optional)</param>
    /// <param name="cancelText">Cancel text (optional)</param>
    /// <returns>True if ok pressed, false otherwise</returns>
    public static async Task<bool> ShowMessageDialog(string message, string title, string okText, string cancelText)
        bool result = false;
        var dialog = new MessageDialog(message, title);

        if (!string.IsNullOrWhiteSpace(okText))
            dialog.Commands.Add(new UICommand(okText, cmd => result = true));

        if (!string.IsNullOrWhiteSpace(cancelText))
            dialog.Commands.Add(new UICommand(cancelText, cmd => result = false));

        await dialog.ShowAsync();            
        return result;

with a simple usage in ViewModel

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Creating a fake splashscreen for your Universal App

Sometimes you may want your app to display the startup splashscreen a bit longer, so you can initialize or fetch some data necessary for the app to run. To achieve this, you can create a fake splaschreen, a View that looks just like the splashscreen, does all the work and redirects to the real main View afterwards.

In theory, it is quite simple:

  • Create a SplashScreenView with just the right background and the splashscreen image
  • Set the app to display SplashScreenView at startup
  • Do all the initializing and data fetching in SplashScreenViewModel and redirect to there real MainView

This works quite well with Windows 8.1, but on Windows Phone 8.1 there is a problem. When you run the Windows Phone 8.1 app, you will see a page transition happen between the real splashscreen and your SplashScreenView. This looks strange, so it is better to get rid of it.

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Why Universal Apps as not as universal as you may think

I have been developing Windows Phone apps for a few years now, always sticking to Silverlight and keeping using Silverlight also after Microsoft announced the WinRT flavor of Windows Phone apps and the so called Universal Apps. The Windows Phone 8.0 and 8.1 Silverlight APIs have some limitations, but are now well known do not contain many bugs. They are the safe choice if you want to create a Windows Phone apps. And do not forget that there are still many device running Windows Phone 8 (like Verizon customers in the US) that never got the 8.1 updated promised to everyone during the summer.

Really universal?

Windows Phone 8.1 XAML and Universal Apps included WinRT APIs that have many problems, including some that there is no solution for. I used the WinRT APIs when creating first Windows 8 apps about 2 years ago, so I am not new to the APIs. I have not touched the WinRT APIs again until recently, because there was no demand for Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 apps. Why would it? People use Windows 8 or 8.1 but do not care about Metro apps, they give them no value compared to “normal” Win32 and Windows tablets are practically non-exists (expect for the Surface tablets owned by few programmers and maybe no one else).

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REST service base class for Windows Phone 8.1 XAML apps

Communicating with a JSON based REST service is a task that many Windows Phone apps have to do. My apps sure do it a lot so I came up with a base class that I use in all of them, put it on Github and created a Nuget package, so your apps could use it to.

The usage of this base class is simple. Create your service class and inherit from BaseRestService. The minimum you need to do to make it work is to override the GetBaseUrl() method to set the base url for all the requests. You can (but do not have to) also override the GetRequestHeaders() method to set the default request headers.

public class MyDataService: BaseRestService
  protected override string GetBaseUrl()
    return "my base url";
  protected override Dictionary<string, string> GetRequestHeaders()
    return new Dictionary<string, string>
      {"Accept-Encoding", "gzip, deflate"},
      {"Accept", "application/json"},

and you can now use the following protected methods

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Detecting tablets and smartphones in ASP.NET

I recently worked on an ASP.NET application that needed to detect if users were coming from tablets or smartphones. The project used data from http://user-agent-string.info/ to do this detection, but the result were not really good. We needed a better solution, so I came up with using WURFL.

WURFL, the Wireless Universal Resource FiLe, is a Device Description Repository (DDR), i.e. a software component that maps HTTP Request headers to the profile of the HTTP client (Desktop, Mobile Device, Tablet, etc.) that issued the request. Adding WURFL to your ASP.NET application is easy thanks to the WURFL_Official_API Nuget package. The Nuget package also contains definition file, so you just need to update the Nuget package once in a while to get your definition file up to date.

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asp  csharp 

Converting between pixels, meters and map coordinates in Windows Phone

In my current project I needed to solve one quite interesting problem. Imagine you have a map with some pins representing points of interest. If the user taps on a pin, a label with the place title is shown like on this image (that is not from the real project, obviously).

The client had an interesting requirement. When the user taps the pin and the label is shown, they wanted the label to be centered on the map (basically move the map so the label appears in the middle of the map).

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Developing Windows Store apps with Caliburn Micro Part 4: services and dependency injection

In this installment of the series I will show you how user data services. We will finally use the Unity DI container that is part of the project setup.

Data and Services

In next installment we will be showing a list of products, so let’s create a simple Product class first in the Data directory:

PropertyChangedBase is a base class implementing the INotifyPropertyChanged interface and the ImplementPropertyChanged attribute makes sure it’s method is called for all the property changes. (More about Fody here)

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Developing Windows Store apps with Caliburn Micro Part 3: saving and restoring state

In the previous post I stated that a well-behaved Windows Store app should remeber the View the user navigated to before suspension and navigate to this View upon next run. The View can contain some input that the user can fill in. A well-behaved Windows Store app should remember the user’s input and restore it after suspension.

Saving and restoring state

Implementation of the above-mentioned scenario is not very complicated, thanks to the project setup. If you want your ViewModel to be able to save and restore state, implement the IHaveState interface. It contains two method that you can override; SaveState and LoadState. In bith method you have access to a page state dictionary that you can use to save and load the state.

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Developing Windows Store apps with Caliburn Micro Part 2: navigation

In this second part you will add another ViewModel and View and implement navigation between two ViewModels, including saving the navigation state between starts. The code is as always available at Github.

Invoking ViewModel methods

If you want to test out navigation between ViewModels, you first need something that will trigger the navigation. The easiest way to do this is to use a standard Button. If you do MVVM “by hand”, you are probably used to creating ICommand properties and binding them to the Button’s Command dependency property.

Caliburn Micro offers an easier way. If you want a Button to invoke a method on your ViewModel, just the give the button the same name as the name of the button. The method should be public void.

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Developing Windows Store apps with Caliburn Micro Part 1: setup and first view

I have been developing Windows Store apps for some time. I have always used MVVM, but mostly “my own” MVVM. I have finally decided to use a “real” MVVM framework and I have chosen Caliburn Micro, because I did not like MVVM very much. In this article I am going to show you how to use Caliburn Micro, Unity and Fody to develop Windows Store apps.

Caliburn Micro

Caliburn Micro is a small, yet powerful framework, designed for building applications across all Xaml Platforms. With strong support for MVVM and other proven UI patterns, Caliburn.Micro will enable you to build your solution quickly, without the need to sacrifice code quality or testability.

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