Category Archives: XAML

Windows 8.1 Updated Reources and Tools

With Windows 8.1 also come lots of updates to the tools and templates that you can use to create Windows Store apps. These updates can help cut down the work in your development and test cycles.

 

Get the updated tools described below at our Windows 8.1 page.

 w81_intro_2

New or updated in Windows 8.1

General updates

Area Description of update
Support for updating your Windows Store apps to Windows 8.1. Migrate your Windows 8 app to Windows 8.1. This may first require updating your app code for Windows 8.1.
Windows Store app templates We’ve updated all templates for Windows 8.1, and we’ve added a new Hub template too.
Azure Mobile Services and push notification wizards
  • The Services Manager makes it easy to connect your app to Azure Mobile Services or Microsoft Advertising.
  • The push notification wizard makes it easy to set up a Azure Mobile Service to send push notifications to your app.
App bundle support Now you can combine resource packages (like multiple scales, languages, or Microsoft Direct3D feature levels) into a single .appxbundle file for submission to the Windows Store. For your customers, this means that your app is only deployed with the resources they need for their device and locale.
App validation on a remote device The Create App Package Wizard in Microsoft Visual Studio 2013 now makes it easy to validate your app using Windows App Certification Kit 3.0 on a remote device (such as Windows RT PCs).
Create coded UI tests using XAML Write automated functional tests for testing Windows Store apps using XAML and the cross-hair tool.

Note  Touch interactions are now supported for controls.

New Visual Studio theme/ and Visual Design We’ve added a third theme, Blue, to the existing Light and Dark themes. The Blue theme offers a mid-range color scheme reminiscent of Microsoft Visual Studio 2010.

Also, based on user feedback, we’ve enhanced all themes with additional color and clarity in icons, revised icons, more contrast across the development environment , and clearer segmentation of regions within the environment.

 

Diagnostics

Area Description of update
Mixed-language debugging For Windows Store apps that use JavaScript and C++, the debugger now lets you set breakpoints in either language and provides a call stack with both JavaScript and C++ functions.
Managed app debugging The debugger now displays return values. You can use Edit and Continue in 64-bit managed apps. Exceptions that come from Windows Store apps preserve information about the error, even across language boundaries.
Asynchronous debugging improvements The call-stack window now includes the creation stack if you stop in an asynchronous method.
Native “Just My Code” For native code, the call stack simplifies debugging by displaying only the code that you’ve created.
DOM Explorer
  • The Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) editor supports improved editing, Microsoft IntelliSense, inline style support, shorthand, specificity, and notification of invalid properties.
  • The Computed and Styles panes have been enhanced.
  • The DOM Explorer supports search, editing as HTML, IntelliSense, and undo stacks.
JavaScript Console The console now supports object preview and visualization, new APIs, multiline function support, IntelliSense, evaluation of elements as objects or HTML, and legacy document modes.
JavaScript Memory Profiler
  • Dominators view shows memory allocation retained by each object.
  • The profiler notifies you of potential memory leaks caused by detached or disconnected DOM nodes.
JavaScript UI Responsiveness
  • The Details pane includes hyperlinks to event source locations, plus a chart showing the percentage of time that each child event contributed to the selected event’s overall duration.
  • You can now expand instances of Layout and Style calculation events to display the HTML elements that were affected by the operation.
XAML UI Responsiveness For C#/VB/C++ XAML-based Windows Store apps, the XAML UI Responsiveness tool allows you to diagnose performance issues related to app startup and page navigation, panning and scrolling, and input responsiveness in general.

 

JavaScript editor

Area Description of update
Completion of enclosing character pairs The editor automatically inserts the closing character when you type a left brace (“{“), parenthesis (“(“), bracket (“[“), single quotation mark (“`”), or (“””). A smart auto-format and indent of your source is also made as it auto-completes.
Editor navigation bar This new UI feature helps you identify and move through the important elements in your source code. New for JavaScript developers, the navigation bar will highlight important functions and objects in your source.
Deprecation notes in IntelliSense. If a Windows API element has been deprecated in Windows 8.1, IntelliSense tooltips identify it as “[deprecated]”.
Go To Definition for namespaces You can right-click a namespace you use in your code (such as WinJS.UI) and then click Go To Definition to be taken to the line where that namespace is defined.
Identifier highlighting Select an identifier (for example, a variable, parameter, or function name) in your source and any uses of that identifier will be highlighted in your source code.

 

C++ development

Area Description of update
Windows Store app development for Windows 8.1
  • Boxed types in value structs

    You can now define value types by using fields that can be null—for example, IBox<int>^ as opposed to int. This means that the fields can either have a value, or be equal to nullptr.

  • Richer exception information

    C++/CX supports the new Windows error model that enables the capture and propagation of rich exception information across the Application Binary Interface (ABI); this includes call stacks and custom message strings.

  • Object::ToString is now virtual

    You can now override ToString() in user-defined Windows Runtime ref types.

C++11 standard compliance Compiler support for ISO C++11 language features

  • Default template arguments for function templates
  • Delegating constructors
  • Explicit conversion operators
  • Initializer lists and uniform initialization
  • Raw string literals
  • Variadic templates

Updated Standard Template Library (STL) to use the latest C++11 features Improvements to C99 libraries

  • C99 functionality added to
  • Complex math functions in new header, <complex.h>
  • Integer type support in new header, ; includes format string support for “hh”
  • Support for variable-argument scanf forms in . C99 variants of vscanf, strtoll, vwscanf/wcstoll, and isblank/iswblank are implemented.
  • New conversion support for long long and long double in <stdlib.h>
C++ REST SDK Modern C++ implementation of Representational State Transfer (REST) services. For more info see C++ REST SDK (codename “Casablanca”).
C++ Azure Mobile Services SDK The shortest path to a connected C++ app with a Azure backend.
C++ AMP SxS CPU/GPU debugging (for WARP accelerator), enhanced texture support (mipmaps and new sampling modes), and improved diagnostics and exceptions.
IDE productivity features
  • Improved code formatting.
  • Brace completion.
  • Auto-generation of event handler code in C++/CX and C++/CLI.
  • Context-based member list filtering.
  • Parameter help scrolling.
  • Toggle header/code file.
  • Resizable C++ project-properties window.
  • Faster builds. Numerous optimizations and multi-core utilization make builds faster, especially for large projects. Incremental builds for C++ apps that have references to C++ WinMD are also much faster.
App performance
  • Pass vector type arguments by using the __vectorcall calling convention to use vector registers.
  • Reduction or elimination of CPU/GPU data transfer in C++ AMP.
  • Auto-vectorization improvements.
  • C++/CX optimizations in allocations and casting.
  • Performance tuning of C++ AMP runtime libraries.
  • New: PGO for Windows Store app development.
Build-time performance enhancements Compiler throughput improvements for highly parallel builds.

 

 

HTML design tools

Area Description of update
CSS animation The timeline editor helps you create CSS animations.
JavaScript behaviors Add JavaScript event listeners to any element without writing code. Choose from a list of supplied event handlers or create your own.
Custom font embedding Create a branded experience by using custom fonts for HTML text.
Data binding Set the data binding for any template.
Rules and guides Create custom guides.
Border radius Easy-to-use handles on each element help you create rounded corners and ellipses.
Searching and setting CSS properties The search box lets you set CSS property values directly and quickly.
Finding elements with CSS syntax The live DOM search now supports CSS syntax. For example, you can automatically select all elements with class “myclass” by searching for “.myclass”.

 

XAML design tools

Area Description of update
XAML editor improvements The XAML editor in Visual Studio 2013 includes IntelliSense for data bindings and resources, smart commenting, and Go To Definition.
Rulers and guides Create custom guides.
Better style editing support Edit styles and templates in the context of the document where they’re used, even if they’re actually defined in another, shared location.
Sample data support The data panel enhances sample data support in XAML projects for the Windows Store. This includes the ability to create sample data from JSON content. For an example of how to set this up, see the updated Windows Store app project templates for XAML.
View state authoring The device panel in Blend for Microsoft Visual Studio 2013 and Visual Studio 2013 supports updated view states properties and requirements to support variable minimum widths.

 

Windows App Certification Kit 3.0

Use the latest version of the Windows App Certification Kit to test the readiness of Windows Store apps for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 before on-boarding, and for the Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 Windows Desktop App Certification.

We’ve also updated the Windows App Certification Kit to give you a smooth experience. For example, you can now run tests in parallel to save time, and you have more flexibility in selecting the tests you run.

New validation tests

As with previous releases of Windows, we’ve revised the kit content to include more validation, helping to make sure that Windows apps running on the latest update are well behaved. Here’s a high-level breakdown of the new tests.

Test Description
Direct3D additional check Validates apps for compliance with Direct3D requirements, and ensures that apps using C++ and XAML are calling a new Trim method upon their suspend callback.
Supported directory structure Ensures that apps don’t create a structure on disk that results in files longer than MAX_PATH (260 characters).
File extensions and protocols Limits the number of file extensions and protocols that an app can register.
Platform appropriate files Checks for packages that contain cross-architecture binaries.
Banned file check Checks apps for use of outdated or prerelease components known to have security vulnerabilities.
JavaScript background tasks Verifies that apps that use JavaScript have the proper close statement in the background task, so the app doesn’t consume battery power unnecessarily.
Framework dependency rules Ensures that apps are taking the right framework dependencies for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1.

 

Test reports

We’ve made a number of changes to the test report generated by the Windows App Certification Kit. These reports include new information, are easier to read, and provide more links to resources that can help you resolve issues. Significant additions and updates include:

  • Expanded error-message details.
  • Actionable info for supported and deprecated APIs.
  • Details about the configuration of the current test device.
  • A language toggle (if the report is localized).

For more information on how to use this kit, see Using the Windows App Certification Kit.

Advertisements

Anticipating More from Cortana – A Look At : The Future of The Windows Phone

Microsoft Research – April 17, 2014 

 

Most of us can only dream of having the perfect personal assistant, one who is always there when needed, anticipating our every request and unobtrusively organizing our lives. Cortana, the new digital personal assistant powered by Bing that comes with Windows Phone 8.1, brings users closer to that dream.

Image

 

For Larry Heck, a distinguished engineer in Microsoft Research, this first release offers a taste of what he has in mind. Over time, Heck wants Cortana to interact in an increasingly anticipatory, natural manner.

Cortana already offers some of this behavior. Rather than just performing voice-activated commands, Cortana continually learns about its user and becomes increasingly personalized, with the goal of proactively carrying out the right tasks at the right time. If its user asks about outside temperatures every afternoon before leaving the office, Cortana will learn to offer that information without being asked.

Furthermore, if given permission to access phone data, Cortana can read calendars, contacts, and email to improve its knowledge of context and connections. Heck, who plays classical trumpet in a local orchestra, might receive a calendar update about a change in rehearsal time. Cortana would let him know about the change and alert him if the new time conflicts with another appointment.

Research Depth and Breadth an Advantage

While many people would categorize such logical associations and humanlike behaviors under the term ”artificial intelligence” (AI), Heck points to the diversity of research areas that have contributed to Cortana’s underlying technologies. He views Cortana as a specific expression of Microsoft Research’s work on different areas of personal-assistant technology.

“The base technologies for a virtual personal assistant include speech recognition, semantic/natural language processing, dialogue modeling between human and machines, and spoken-language generation,” he says. “Each area has in it a number of research problems that Microsoft Research has addressed over the years. In fact, we’ve pioneered efforts in each of those areas.”

The Cortana user interface
The Cortana user interface.

Cortana’s design philosophy is therefore entrenched in state-of-the-art machine-learning and data-mining algorithms. Furthermore both developers and researchers are able to use Microsoft’s broad assets across commercial and enterprise products, including strong ties to Bing web search and Microsoft speech algorithms and data.

If Heck has set the bar high for Cortana’s future, it’s because of the deep, varied expertise within Microsoft Research.

“Microsoft Research has a long and broad history in AI,” he says. “There are leading scientists and pioneers in the AI field who work here. The underlying vision for this work and where it can go was derived from Eric Horvitz’s work on conversational interactions and understanding, which go as far back as the early ’90s. Speech and natural language processing are research areas of long standing, and so is machine learning. Plus, Microsoft Research is a leader in deep-learning and deep-neural-network research.”

From Foundational Technology to Overall Experience

In 2009, Heck started what was then called the conversational-understanding (CU) personal-assistant effort at Microsoft.

“I was in the Bing research-and-development team reporting to Satya Nadella,” Heck says, “working on a technology vision for virtual personal assistants. Steve Ballmer had recently tapped Zig Serafin to unify Microsoft’s various speech efforts across the company, and Zig reached out to me to join the team as chief scientist. In this role and working with Zig, we began to detail out a plan to build what is now called Cortana.”

Researchers who made contributions to Cortana
Researchers who worked on the Cortana product (from left): top row, Malcolm Slaney, Lisa Stifelman, and Larry Heck; bottom row, Gokhan Tur, Dilek Hakkani-Tür, and Andreas Stolcke.

Heck and Serafin established the vision, mission, and long-range plan for Microsoft’s digital-personal-assistant technology, based on scaling conversations to the breadth of the web, and they built a team with the expertise to create the initial prototypes for Cortana. As the effort got off the ground, Heck’s team hired and trained several Ph.D.-level engineers for the product team to develop the work.

“Because the combination of search and speech skills is unique,” Heck says, “we needed to make sure that Microsoft had the right people with the right combination of skills to deliver, and we hired the best to do it.”

After the team was in place, Heck and his colleagues joined Microsoft Research to continue to think long-term, working on next-generation personal-assistant technology.

Some of the key researchers in these early efforts included Microsoft Research senior researchers Dilek Hakkani-Tür and Gokhan Tur, and principal researcher Andreas Stolcke. Other early members of Heck’s team included principal research software developer Madhu Chinthakunta, and principal user-experience designer Lisa Stifelman.

“We started out working on the low-level, foundational technology,” Heck recalls. “Then, near the end of the project, our team was doing high-level, all-encompassing usability studies that provided guidance to the product group. It was kind of like climbing up to the crow’s nest of a ship to look over the entire experience.

“Research manager Geoff Zweig led usability studies in Microsoft Research. He brought people in, had them try out the prototype, and just let them go at it. Then we would learn from that. Microsoft Research was in a good position to study usability, because we understood the base technology as well as the long-term vision and how things should work.”

The Long-Term View

Heck has been integral to Cortana since its inception, but even before coming to Microsoft in 2009, he already had contributed to early research on CU personal assistants. While at SRI International in the 1990s, his tenure included some of the earliest work on deep-learning and deep-neural-network technology.

Heck was also part of an SRI team whose efforts laid the groundwork for the CALO AI project funded by the U.S. government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The project aimed to build a new generation of cognitive assistants that could learn from experience and reason intelligently under ambiguous circumstances. Later roles at Nuance Communications and Yahoo! added expertise in research areas vital to contributing to making Cortana robust.

The Cortana notebook menu
The notebook menu for Cortana.

Not surprisingly, Heck’s perspectives extend to a distant horizon.

“I believe the personal-assistant technology that’s out there right now is comparable to the early days of search,” he says, “in the sense that we still need to grow the breadth of domains that digital personal assistants can cover. In the mid-’90s, before search, there was the Yahoo! directory. It organized information, it was popular, but as the web grew, the directory model became unwieldy. That’s where search came in, and now you can search for anything that’s on the web.”

He sees personal-assistant technology traveling along a similar trajectory. Current implementations target the most common functions, such as reminders and calendars, but as technology matures, the personal assistant has to extend to other domains so that users can get any information and conduct any transaction anytime and anywhere.

“Microsoft has intentionally built Cortana to scale out to all the different domains,” Heck says. “Having a long-term vision means we have a long-term architecture. The goal is to support all types of human interaction—whether it’s speech, text, or gestures—across domains of information and function and make it as easy as a natural conversation.”