Rating control for Windows Phone 8.1 Apps

In Silverlight 8.x you can use the Toolkit Rating control to provide standard star rating functionality in your app. If you’re moving to a Windows Phone 8.1 App project you can’t use the Silverlight based toolkit and there isn’t a native control to replace it.

If you’ve worked with Windows Store apps you’re probably familiar with the Callisto toolkit – a set of controls for Windows Store apps that brought things like settings flyouts (prior to them being rolled into the Windows Runtime) and a rating control. You can use this control within a Phone app with one caveat. If you try to reference the NuGet package for Callisto it will tell you it contains no library for Phone apps. However if you are using a Universal project this is easy to overcome:-

  1. Add the Callisto NuGet package to your Windows Store app
  2. In your Phone project select Add Reference and browse to the packages folder in the root of your solution
  3. Locate Callisto.1.4.0/lib/netcore451 and select Callisto.dll
  4. Bingo you can now add the rating control to your phone project.

I haven’t tested all the functionality in a Phone project so it is possible there may be some items which don’t work on Phone…

Hopefully in a future update to the Callisto NuGet package it will include a dll for Phone 8.1 apps too to avoid these extra steps…


Charming Share now “lights up” on Windows Phone 8.1

Charming Share provides a share API for Windows Phone 8.0 projects which mimics the built in support in various system apps and exposes an API which is the same as that available in Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1. Now that we have a full Sharing feature in Windows Phone 8.1 we can take advantage of this from both AppX and Silverlight 8.1 projects. But what if you need to continue using a Silverlight 8.0 project?

Well the answer is to use Charming Share as it is now smart enough to determine when it is running on an 8.1 device and defer to the system Sharing feature. To quickly illustrate here are screenshots from the same 8.0 project running on both 8.0 and 8.1:-

Charming Share on Windows Phone 8 Charming Share on Windows Phone 8.1

The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice the 8.1 list is quite sparse – this is because it’s taken from the Emulator which has no email accounts or social apps installed. But imagine Facebook etc and any other third-party apps appearing in this list.

In terms of look and feel, I don’t have any plans to change the look of the 8.0 sharing screens – these are designed to match the system as this is how the sharing features appear in Windows Phone 8.

Now that there are so many platforms to cover I’ve changed the main documentation page into a feature matrix so it is easier to compare functionality across platforms and app models


Clipboard API for Windows Phone 8.1

In the latest release of Charming Share which is now live on NuGet I’ve added a new Clipboard API.

For Windows Phone 8 and 8.1 Silverlight apps this wraps the existing Silverlight functionality. For Windows Phone Store 8.1 applications this provides a workaround to the lack of any Clipboard API on that platform. The library provides a Windows-style API (differing only in root namespace) to make it easier to share more code across projects.

As with the existing Silverlight model the Clipboard is “write-only” with only the user in control of pasting the contents into a TextBox. It exposes two static methods – SetContent and Clear. I haven’t yet updated the documentation on the project site but these two methods are fairly straight-forward. Unlike “big” Windows the clipboard can only store plain text (again this is familiar from the Silverlight model) so will accept data packages containing text or Uris.

In order to facilitate this functionality on non-Silverlight apps on 8.1 there is of course a gotcha. It requires a separate app to be installed and there is a small visual transition while this app handles the request. This isn’t ideal but if there are some cases where you need Clipboard it is a necessary evil and by matching the Windows Store API we have hopefully provided a clean transition should this missing feature be added in a future release.

Why would I want another app? When building this solution I though about how this add-on app could provide additional value and so it takes advantage of a number of Windows Phone 8.1 features. It doesn’t use any online services so the data you share with it never leaves the device. It’s a simple free app called “Clipboarder” and I encourage you to check it out (and provide feedback!).

Share Target: You can share text and Uris to the clipboard from other Windows Phone 8.1 apps which are Share sources.

Share Source: If you run the app from the programs list you can enter arbitrary text and either copy to the clipboard or Share with other Windows Phone 8.1 targets.

Download from the Windows Phone Store

Silverlight 8.1 Developers – Know Your Manifests!

I’m just passing this on because I’ve been stung by a couple of gotchas introduced with SL8.1 which only seem obvious after you’ve fixed them:-

If your application implements a custom Uri scheme you probably think you just have to add it to your WMAppManifest.xml as you always used to and the job is done. Well no, you see Silverlight 8.1 apps have two manifests – they also have a Windows Store Package.appxmanifest and this is the one the store uses. So if you have an app which handles say “myapp:” and you run an app which calls this Uri the store opens on the phone and displays no results. If you have the app installed then the association works as expected. You need to add the protocol to the Declarations tab of the Package.appxmanifest editor and submit an update. Once this is submitted it starts working even before your new version is necessarily available…

This leads onto the second issue. I always use the WMAppManifest.xml version and increment it and store it in source control. When I submit an 8.0 update I find it frustrating that the store doesn’t pick this up and I have to manually input it. If they don’t match my update prompter gets very confused (but that’s another issue). When I submitted a new SL8.1 app I was impressed that this version box is now greyed out and will populate the value from my submitted package. What I failed to notice when doing an update was that I now need to make sure I update both the WMAppManifest.xml and the Package.appxmanifest versions to keep these in step as the store uses the value from Package.appxmanifest…