Windows 8–Who Cares?

I am in Europe this week and for the next three weeks, traveling from city to city and giving presentations on Windows 8.  Along the way I will be distilling these presentations into blog posts, adding in commentary about what I’m learning as I give the presentations.

There are four presentations that I’m giving in total:

  • Crash Course In Windows 8 Programming
  • Windows 8 Programming for .NET Developers
  • To 10 Things You’ll Love About Windows 8 Programming
  • Crash Course II – Beyond the Basics of Windows 8 Programming

Last evening I gave the second of these,  and as I often do, I begin with a core question: Who Cares?

Why, after all, should developers turn their lives upside down for a new, unproven operating system?  It could be that Win8 will be a tremendous success, but there are no guarantees.  And unlike the change from Vista to Win7, coding for Windows 8 requires a new set of skills.

To be more precise, Windows 8 supports two types of applications: desktop and Windows Store applications, and it is the latter that requires the new skills.  Or, at a minimum, learning a new API.

You can program for Windows Store applications using…

  • C++ and XAML
  • C#/VB.Net and XAML
  • JavaScript and HTML

Whichever you choose, you’ll be using a “language projection” on top of WinRT that makes the new operating system look and feel natural.  Let’s focus on C# and XAML; programming Windows 8 Market (Store) Applications looks and feels like programming for .NET.  That makes the transition easier, but still not trivial.

So again, why bother?  The answer lies in two facts:

  • There are more Windows installations than Mac, iOS and Android combined
  • Every Windows 8 start screen features a prominent link to the store

MarketShare

There are 690 million Windows 7 installations, and over a billion Windows installations in total.  If a substantial fraction of these users switch to Windows 8 (which is the only way they can get the new Store applications) then the market opportunity for smart developers who create popular commercial Store applications will be… unprecedented.

That answers, for many of us, the why bother question.  The next question is typically “OK, how do I get started?”  That is what my talks are about and that is what these blog posts will be about.

We begin the presentation by noting the 8 traits of a successful Windows Store Application:

  • Metro Style Design
  • Fast & Fluid
  • Snap & Scale Beautifully
  • Use the Right Contracts
  • Invest in a Great Tile
  • Feel Connected & Alive
  • Roam the Cloud
  • Embrace Metro Principles

Each of these can be a blog post or a chapter in a book; they are very broad principles.  We will consider each of them repeatedly as we review how to build Windows Store applications.

Design Basics

iStock_BoyWithBrainXSmall

I am not a designer, but as a developer I do need my Windows Store applications to look and feel “right.”  To do this, I can follow some fundamental guidelines.

For example: Content Before Chrome.  This means a sharp focus on the content being displayed and a ruthless dedication to removing chrome from the page, where Chrome is lines, boxes, buttons, navigation, etc. 

You remove Chrome in two ways:  first by designing differently, and second by relegating navigation and command to the AppBar (about which, more later). 

Designing differently means using space rather than lines and boxes to achieve organization.  It means using font size and weight to telegraph meaning and hierarchy to the user. In fact, Microsoft guidance suggests using just four font sizes:

  • 42 Points for headlines
  • 20 Points for sub-headers
  • 11 Points for body-text
  • 9 Points for tertiary text

The font of choice in Windows 8 is Segoe UI. 

By using Fonts and alignment and space, and by stretching your content to the edges, your application begins to look and feel like other Microsoft Store applications.

Microsoft includes a “silhouette” with the templates you use to create your application, that can greatly assist with laying  out your pages.  In fact, the templates themselves can be of enormous assistance in helping with both layout and page navigation.

All of this and more will be covered in future, more advanced blog posts.

More to come soon as I continue giving presentations and distilling them into these blog posts

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About Jesse Liberty

Jesse Liberty is a Master Consultant for Falafel Software, and has three decades of experience writing and delivering software projects. He is the author of 2 dozen books and multiple Pluralsight courses, and has been a Technical Evangelist for Telerik and for Microsoft, a Distinguished Software Engineer for AT&T, a VP for Information Services for Citibank and a Software Architect for PBS.
This entry was posted in Community, Essentials, Observations, Windows 8 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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  9. John says:

    Jesse, your entire argument hinges on a HUGE “what if” which, as another person suggested, doesn’t seem all that likely based on popular opinion. It is of course within your best interest to hope for the best since you’re one of the best known authors for .NET, but this is a little bit like continuing to advocate for the best way to design wagon wheels. You may want to find a more open software stack to start writing books about, though I don’t see how that’s all that sustainable either since book piracy is rampant.

    • You are certainly right that having a vested interest can distort one’s perception, but of course that cuts both ways; folks who are invested in other technologies have a skewed view point as well.

      As for books: they hardly pay any more… I write because I enjoy writing and because it is a good way to learn and teach.

      Time will tell with Windows 8; if folks don’t upgrade then I’ll be dead wrong. It has happened before :-)

  10. Billy says:

    “If a substantial fraction of these users switch to Windows 8…”
    That’s a big big “If”. Have you done or read any surveys on the sentiments of folks toward win8 who are running win7 at the moment?

    I spoke to two dozens people recently, and not one of them showed an iota of interest in upgrading. All of them were concerned about its compatibility with existing apps and the steep learning curve etc.

    The most common question is: what’s in it for me to upgrade? None, that’s the perception of the majority of people using win7.

  11. Foo Bar says:

    I learned C++ many years ago by reading your excellent C++ book. Now I’m a bit disappointed to find out that you’re a Windows troll :(

    • Thank you for reading my book. No need to call names, especially when you use a pseudonym. Next time we’re at a conference together come over, introduce yourself and let me know why you think that liking Windows 8 (and I do like it, a lot) makes me a troll.

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