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.NET: Book Review

Book Review: Windows 8.1 Apps with XAML and C# Unleashed

A must have for any Windows 8.1 developer of any level.

As with Nathan's book WPF 4 Unleashed books, this book is a pure pleasure to read. It is in full color, the content is laid out in an easy to read style, the author's writing style makes it easy to read, and the content is all valuable. There is no fluff like you find in a lot of the books written today.

Part I of the book starts out with an awesome chapter on the anatomy of a Windows store app and then has a great chapter introducing XAML. The book is broken down into a total of 7 parts. I have listed them below along with the chapters they contain.

Part I: Getting Started
Chapter 1. Hello, Real World!
Chapter 2. Mastering XAML

Part II: Building an App
Chapter 3. Sizing, Positioning, and Transforming Elements
Chapter 4. Layout
Chapter 5. Interactivity
Chapter 6. Handling Input: Touch, Mouse, Pen, and Keyboard

Part III: Working with the App Model
Chapter 7. App Lifecycle
Chapter 8. Threading, Windows, and Pages
Chapter 9. The Many Ways to Earn Money

Part IV: Understanding Controls
Chapter 10. Content Controls
Chapter 11. Items Controls
Chapter 12. Text
Chapter 13. Images
Chapter 14. Audio, Video, and Speech
Chapter 15. Other Controls

Part V: Leveraging the Richness of XAML
Chapter 16. Vector Graphics
Chapter 17. Animation
Chapter 18. Styles, Templates, and Visual States
Chapter 19. Data Binding

Part VI: Exploiting Windows 8.1
Chapter 20. Working with Data
Chapter 21. Supporting Charms
Chapter 22. Leveraging Contracts
Chapter 23. Reading from Sensors
Chapter 24. Controlling Devices
Chapter 25. Thinking Outside the App: Live Tiles, Notifications, and the Lock Screen

Part VII: Advanced Features
Chapter 26. Integrating DirectX
Chapter 27. Custom Controls and Components
Chapter 28. Layout with Custom Panels

In Part II there are a lot of things that are specific to Windows 8 apps that developers are going to need to learn. The book does a great job of covering all of these. The first three chapters in this section cover interactivity, sizing, positioning, transforming elements, and layout, which now can be full-screen landscape, full-screen portrait, filled, and snapped.

Chapter 6 is a very important chapter for developers that need to learn and understand touch. It covers touch, mouse, pen, and keyboard input. Developers need to understand the differences between the way pen digitizer works compared to a stylus that uses a capacitive touch screen. This chapter covers all the details that you need to know to get a firm grasp on the differences. This chapter also covers the basic Windows 8 gestures including tapped, right tapped, holding, and crossline.

Part III is a new section which took chapter 7 of the last version of the book, broke it into 3 chapters, and enhanced the material.

Chapter 7 is very important chapter in part three. This chapter covers the lifecycle of an application from launching to suspending to resuming to killing and terminating. It also covers how applications interact with the Windows store.

Chapter 8 covers the threading model for Windows Store Apps, displaying multiple windows, and navigating between pages.

Chapter 9 covers one of the topics developers are going to want to learn, which is how to support a free trial, and later how enable a full license of their application to be purchased.

Part IV is all about controls, images, audio, and video. The controls covered include Button , HyperlinkButton , RepeatButton , ToggleButton , CheckBox , RadioButton , ToolTip , AppBar, Items Panels , ComboBox , ListBox , ListView , GridView , FlipView , SemanticZoom , TextBlock , RichTextBlock , TextBox , RichEditBox, MenuFlyout, Hub, and PasswordBox. The chapter on images not only covers the Image Element but includes coverage on encoding and decoding images. The chapter on audio and video include coverage of playback, capture, and transcoding. There is a ton of material covered in part four!!!

Part V digs deep into XAML capabilities. Chapter 14 covers vector graphics which included shapes, geometries, and brushes. Chapter 15 covers animation which includes theme transitions and animations, custom animations, custom keyframe animations, easing functions, and manual animations. The title of Chapter 16 Styles, Templates, and Visual States some up exactly what that chapters about.

Part VI covers a ton of information on how your application will integrate with the Windows 8 environment. It covers where you get your data from, how to integrate with charms, and how to implement extensions. Chapter 21 covers the accelerometer, qyrometer, inclinometer, compass, light sensor, orientation, location, and proximity.

Chapter 25 covers Live Tiles, Toast Notifications, and the Lock Screen. As Windows 8 developers you are going to want to know how to use these features.

The one topic I would have liked to have seen more on in Part VI is using SQLite. I mentioned this in my review of the previous version of this book. So far all the books that I have read on Windows 8 Apps tell you that it's available, but they don't explain how to use it. The apps I am working on are going to need a robust local data cache, and App Data and User Data are not going to be able to handle it.

Part VII cover integrating with DirectX, building custom controls and components, and building custom panels for layout.

Another thing I would like to see added to the book is a chapter on MVVM. The author says this, "You won’t find examples of patterns such as Model-View-ViewModel (MVVM) in this book. I am a fan of applying such patterns to code, but I don’t want to distract from the core lessons in each chapter. Whether you’re new to XAML or a long-time XAML developer, I hope you find this book to exhibit all these attributes."

I know there is plenty of MVVM material available, but I would still like to see the author provide his view on how to use it in the context of the material presented in this book.

There really is not a chapter in this book that should be skipped. Every chapter contains a wealth of valuable information for those looking to get into Windows 8 development.

The author's writing style is very clean and easy to understand making the book an enjoyable read.

The code samples are well organized, very usable and work as downloaded. I mention the work as download because lately I have been downloads some author's code samples and the time it takes to get them to work is more than they are worth.

Over all this is an awesome book. It is a must have for any Windows 8.1 developer of any level.


Windows 8.1 Apps with XAML and C# Unleashed

Windows 8.1 Apps with XAML and C# Unleashed

More Stories By Tad Anderson

Tad Anderson has been doing Software Architecture for 18 years and Enterprise Architecture for the past few.