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My First Windows Phone 8 Application — Day 1

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For a few years, like many people, I had a Blackberry that was issued for work. It was OK, though I didn’t use it for much more than e-mail, calendar, phone calls, and the occasional web browsing. When BYOD was becoming popular, I went out and got my own Droid X — the popular Android device at the time. That was shortly before Microsoft came out with Windows Phone 7. I enjoyed my phone for more than two years. It served me well for the most part.
When it was time to get a new phone, I decided to try another OS. I was generally happy with Android, but I felt it was time I tried something new. Since I work with — and enjoy — the Microsoft platform in my professional life, I thought I would give Windows Phone 8 a try, and actually try my hand at writing a mobile app or two while I was at it.
This series of blog posts will focus on my journey in writing my first mobile application for the new Windows Phone 8 (WP8) platform. Since this application is being written in my personal time, I will not to get work on it every day, but I will try to work on it frequently, and write here about my experiences.

First I needed to decide what kind of app to write. I wanted something more invovled than “Hello World”. I wanted the application to actually do something and be useful, but I still wanted it to remain fairly simple so that I could expect to finish it in a reasonable amount of time. I decided on writing a ToDo app. I used one on my DroidX for my personal life and found it very valueble. I don’t like the idea of using a calendar as that usually means you need to do something by a specific point in time. My todo lists usually revolve around tasks that need to be finished sooner rather than later, but also tend not to have a hard dead-line.
There are plenty of ToDo apps that already exist. I downloaded a few and tried some. I found more than one that would fit my needs, but there was one thing I noticed: all of them wrote their user interface (UI) from scratch. They worked completely different from one another and none of them took advantage of the WP8 native UI. The WP8 UI works great for emails, texts messages, etc. So why not tasks?
OK, so I just lept over the first major hurdle: the idea. Now I just needed to fire up my desktop and start coding! Wait a minute. What software do I need? Is there a free trial? I hit my first problem and I hadn’t even written my first line of code yet!
I did some searching on the internet, and while the information is out there, it was much harder to find than I expected. Here’s the minimum you need that I found:

So this post is a bit of a lie, this wasn’t just may Day 1 expereince, it’s really my first few days experience. I ordered the OS online. It came a few days later and I installed it without any problems.
Actually, I didn’t do a straight install of Windows 8. I’m not quite ready to ditch Windows 7 yet as there’s various software I have on it that I wasn’t sure was 100% compatible with Windows 8 and I can’t live without it for now, so I followed this excellent post by Scott Hanselman for installing Windows 8 on a VHD (Virtual Hard Drive). This has the benefits of keeping everything you already have intact while not taking a huge hit from virtualization (only the hard drive is virtualized).
Now that Windows 8 is installed, I need to install Visual Studio. Following the link above made it simple to install and register. Now it’s time to explore the development environment that Microsoft has put together for me, but that will need to wait for Day 2.

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