Despite dreams of yet-to-be-realized mobile app glory (you know, create the next “Angry Birds”, make a boatload of money, and retire to some place secluded and sun-soaked …), I am not a coder, and the likelihood of my becoming one is pretty slim. That said, Microsoft’s new online tool called “Windows Phone App Studio” makes it possible for folks like me to create their very own apps for use on Windows Phone, including the Nokia Lumia line.
This video demo gives you an idea of how to use the tool:
Today, Microsoft noted in the Windows Phone Developer Blog that the initial response to the tool has exceeded their expectations!
Thinking this could be just the thing to help me get started, I decided to give it a whirl.
Get your code on
You start by pointing your browser to the App Studio website, and clicking the link to “Start Building”. You will need a free Microsoft account to use the service, and to login you also need an “invitation code”. You obtain this code by sending email to [email protected], and then it should be sent to you within 24 hours – keep an eye out for the email!
Once you have that invite code, you can start building your first Windows Phone app. Let’s assume you have a brilliant idea ready to go, you can create an app from scratch (“Create an empty app”) or you can use one of the many thematic templates that Microsoft provides to build your app. There are prefabbed layouts for businesses, restaurants, celebrations, favorite bands, sports teams, personal training, and many others. Pick the one that suits your needs, and begin.
You will then add a title, description, and a logo (this needs to be 160 X 160 in the .PNG format). You will then move on to “configure” the content in your app. This part is perhaps the trickiest, as it may look a little technical the first time you do it, but there are plenty of on-screen instructions to guide you.
I decided to create the “unofficial” app for DVLUP.com, the rewards program for Windows Phone app developers run by Nokia (don’t worry, this app is not being “published” anytime soon – it is merely for demonstration purposes).
You can add several pages to your app, if you want, and each page can have different sections of content. My first app is just one page – hey, we’ve all got to start somewhere!
Once you settle on the content, you can customize the look of your app. You “Configure” the app style, the format of Live Tiles, and the background image for the Splash and Lock Screen – you can use the styles provided, or add your own selections.
Once you complete these steps, you move to the Summary screen to get a final look at your work. You will see a “preview” of your choices as you move through the steps.
If you’re happy with the result, it’s time to finish up. Of course, you can go back and make tweaks, too. Do note the “Share your creation” section above. This is where you decide if you want your app to be available to others (the public – your future fans?), or if you want to keep it all to yourself. My app is a private creation.
Naturally, I was eager to see the results, so I hit the “Generate” button in the lower-left of the Summary page.
Depending on the level of detail to your app, this may take a few minutes or so to complete – this is where all of the code is stitched together in the background to produce your real live app.
Given the relative simplicity of my first app (I can admit it!), my finished product was ready right away.
To use your newly created app on your Nokia Lumia phone, you must “install the certificate” that will be sent to you in an email. Open this email on your phone. The installation happens very quickly – it might look like nothing happened, but it really did! After that, point your Lumia at the Congrats screen shown in App Studio, and scan the QR code displayed. This will trigger the installation process, which will also be completed very quickly.
And you’re done! You will have a new Windows Phone app that you created on your device. You can keep it for yourself, or share it with friends – the choice is yours.
So, are you ready to start creating your own Windows Phone apps? The Windows Phone App Studio is free to use, and you can have a completed app in about 30 minutes.
Take it further
Then, if you’re hooked on developing Windows Phone apps, take your work to the next level by downloading the source code from App Studio (it will be in a format known as a .XAP file). It’s your app, and your code. You can use tools like Microsoft Visual Studio to add some serious functionality to your app.
If you want to publish your app to Windows Phone Store, you will need a Microsoft Dev Center account. Right now, you can get this account for only $19 (USD), which is a significant discount off the regular price (valid through August 26, 2013). If you dream of creating the next great mobile app, this deal combined with Windows Phone App Studio is a great place to start.
Have you tried Windows Phone App Studio? Tell us about your new apps in the Comments below.