Prototype Android Apps in Microsoft SketchFlow

Prototype Android Apps in Microsoft SketchFlow

(If you are a C# | XAML dev and prototype cross-platform apps, Xamarin anyone, these template projects can make your job very easy!)

This is third post in the series of SketchFlow template projects for prototyping apps for mobile devices. Last two posts were for Windows Phone & iPhone 6.

Pull this and various platform template SketchFlow projects from GitHub.

This post introduces Android Lollipop template project for SketchFlow. For this first Android template I chose LG G3 phone skeleton as base and added Lollipop home screen for more in-time feel in prototype. As and when I get time I will add more Android devices which can be easily swapped in the prototype in seconds.

For a quick demo of Android Lollipop prototype template project, have a look at this video:

Some screenshots of the project in action:
Screen_2 Android Lollipop LG G3 Microsoft Blend SketchFlow Prototype App Development in Visual Studio

Screen_2 Android Lollipop LG G3 Microsoft Blend SketchFlow Prototype App Development in Visual Studio

Advertisements

App Mock Up

App Mock Up

Sharp Snippets

You are toying with an idea of creating a new app. If you are not replicating functionality of some other app, you would go through the process of visualizing your idea in the form of app UI. You don’t want to jump into code at this time but want to feel how information in the app will be placed and how it will look inside the screen boundaries. This process is a pre-cursor to UX development or full-fledged wire-frame creation. This process of visualizing the idea takes some time before you are confident about how you want to take your app forward and jump into some sort of coding. Paper+pen or whiteboard+marker are good way to work through fluid ideas and layout information. This is not the phase when you are working on UX or designing UI, but just laying out ideas in rough screens. I personally like drawing and…

View original post 465 more words

C# | .NET : Smart Duration Class

C# | .NET : Smart Duration Class

[Originally posted on 11 October 13]

Sometimes you need to have start and end dates, validate whether these dates define valid duration, or determine overlapping duration/timespan in two given duration(s)? I wrote an MVVM ready, equitable, duration class which does all the above and a little more. :-). I call this class TimeDuration. Let’s go through the code of the class.

TimeDuration implements two interfaces,  IEquatable and INotifyPropertyChanged. In later parts we will see the implementation of methods for IEquatable, let’s see INotifyPropertyChanged implementation first.  It has System.ComponentModel and a PropertyChangedEventHandler type public event PropertyChanged. It has a private method onPropertyChanged with a return type void. The complete INotifyPropertyChanged implementation looks like this:

using System;
using System.ComponentModel;

namespace Demo.DateExtentions
{
    public class TimeDuration : IEquatable, INotifyPropertyChanged
    {
        public event PropertyChangedEventHandler PropertyChanged;
        private void onPropertyChanged(string name)
        {
            if (PropertyChanged != null)
            {
                PropertyChanged(this, new PropertyChangedEventArgs(name));
            }
        }
    }
}

The class encapsulate two basic information elements – start time and end time. To expose this information class has two public DateTime type properties; Start and End. To notify views when the basic information changes in VM the class calls onPropertyChanged method from inside settters of both these properties. The implementation code looks like this:

        DateTime start;
        DateTime end;
        public DateTime Start
        {
            get { return start; }
            set
            {
                if (start != value)
                {
                    start = value;
                    onPropertyChanged("Start");
                }
            }
        }
        public DateTime End
        {
            get { return end; }
            set
            {
                if (end != value)
                {
                    end = value;
                    onPropertyChanged("End");
                }
            }
        }

The class initializes DateTime structured in the constructor so that object based on this class is ready for use on initialization. Constructor looks like so:

        public TimeDuration()
        {
            start = new DateTime();
            end = new DateTime();
        }

(Fields could have been initialized at the time of defining the field and not have the constructor at all.)
Duration represents a time span, so TimeDuration class has a TimeSpan type public property named Duration. This property returns the difference of start and end times. Code is like this:

        public TimeSpan Duration { get { return end - start; } }

This part makes the class a smart duration class. TimeDuration is capable of telling intersecting duration/timespan between two given durations. Following figure illustrates intersecting durations:
DurationFigure

In the figure above AB, CD, EF, and GH represent durations. Class returns information regarding CB in the context of AB and CD, where starting part of CD overlaps with end part of AB. The method returns overlap duration if one duration completely falls inside of another duration, as in AB and EF, where EF completely lies inside AB. The third scenario is where tail part of one duration overlaps with head part of another duration as in AB and GH where overlap is occurring at AH. Following is the code to return appropriate type, TimeSpan or TimeDuration, after checking the intersection.

        public TimeSpan IntersectingSpan(TimeDuration other)
        {
            return getIntersection(other).Duration;
        }
        public TimeDuration IntersectingDuration(TimeDuration other)
        {
            return getIntersection(other);
        }
        private TimeDuration getIntersection(TimeDuration other)
        {
            if (this.Equals(other)) return this;
            DateTime iStart = this.Start < other.Start ? other.Start : this.Start;
            DateTime iEnd = this.End < other.End ? this.End : other.End;
            return iStart < iEnd ? new TimeDuration(iStart, iEnd) : new TimeDuration();
        }

IEquatable interface implementation:

        public bool Equals(TimeDuration compareWith)
        {
            return CompareWith.Start == this.Start && CompareWith.End == this.End;
        }
        public override int GetHashCode()
        {
            return _start.GetHashCode() ^ _end.GetHashCode();
        }

The entire SmartDuration class:

/*
 * Disclaimer
 * Unless otherwise noted, code snippets in this repository are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
 * Please do not forget to credit if you choose to use code in any which way.  You can credit in any way you please as below:
        By Sanjay (https://sharpsnippets.wordpress.com/)
        By Sanjay (http://www.twitter.com/SanjayAtPilcrow)
 * Blog post about following code: http://wp.me/p2iWZr-4T
 * General Notes
 *      - This is working code, but not production code.
 *      - Code follows universal C# code convention but might not follow your company's internal convention.
 *      - Code is more of POC and thus does not have full exception handling and parameter checking.
 *      - If you choose to use the code in production, do re-code to make it production ready as per your org's engineering policy.
*/
using System;
using System.ComponentModel;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Linq;
using System.Text;
using System.Threading.Tasks;

namespace POCs.Sanjay.SharpSnippets.Dates
{
    public class TimeDuration : IEquatable, INotifyPropertyChanged
    {
        DateTime start;
        DateTime end;
        public DateTime Start
        {
            get { return start; }
            set
            {
                if (start != value)
                {
                    start = value;
                    onPropertyChanged("Start");
                }
            }
        }
        public DateTime End
        {
            get { return end; }
            set
            {
                if (end != value)
                {
                    end = value;
                    onPropertyChanged("End");
                }
            }
        }
        public event PropertyChangedEventHandler PropertyChanged;
        public TimeDuration()
        {
            start = new DateTime();
            end = new DateTime();
        }
        public TimeDuration(DateTime start, DateTime end)
        {
            start = start;
            end = end;
        }
        public bool IsValidDuration
        {
            get { return _start <= _end; }
        }
        public TimeSpan Duration { get { return end - start; } }
        public TimeSpan IntersectingSpan(TimeDuration other)
        {
            return getIntersection(other).Duration;
        }
        public TimeDuration IntersectingDuration(TimeDuration other)
        {
            return getIntersection(other);
        }
        private TimeDuration getIntersection(TimeDuration other)
        {
            if (this.Equals(other)) return this;
            DateTime iStart = this.Start < other.Start ? other.Start : this.Start;
            DateTime iEnd = this.End < other.End ? this.End : other.End;
            return iStart < iEnd ? new TimeDuration(iStart, iEnd) : new TimeDuration();
        }

        #region Equatable
        public bool Equals(TimeDuration compareWith)
        {
            return CompareWith.Start == this.Start && CompareWith.End == this.End;
        }
        public override int GetHashCode()
        {
            return _start.GetHashCode() ^ _end.GetHashCode();
        }
        #endregion //Equatable

        #region notify property changed
        private void onPropertyChanged(string name)
        {
            if (PropertyChanged != null)
            {
                PropertyChanged(this, new PropertyChangedEventArgs(name));
            }
        }
        #endregion

    }
}

Find code on my GitHub repository.

 

C#|.NET Query String in Uri

C#|.NET Query String in Uri

In a not-so-basic-application you might have pages which are used for multiple similar purposes. You pass query string with many fields with multiple values between such pages (or web pages). In database driven apps, parameter values could be user generated and stored in the back-end and you pull more info from database on the basis of the value in query parameter. This is not the scenario of back-end driven app. This is more about “Field Names” and Values, which are part of the design and known to you while coding, and you want to manage them effectively and make the code more readable.

Let’s take an example:

You have a page in your app which loads different lists (ex: city, state, pin, salutation, etc.) and lets user select an item from the list. At different places in your app you pop this page up with required parameters to load appropriate items. The call to page looks something like this:

this.NavigationService.Navigate("/ListPicker.xaml?ListType=city",UriKind.Relative)

Let’s assume your page also has the ability for editing and you want to activate appropriate functionality (select only || edit). You would add one more parameter to your query, like so:

this.NavigationService.Navigate("/ListPicker.xaml?ListType=city&FormType=select",UriKind.Relative)

If you have many such pages, each have multiple fields and their multiple values, and you make calls to these pages from different places in your code, soon it will be very difficult to manage hard-coded query strings in Uri’s.

Here comes enum based solution:

We will have enums for fields and their values. For the purpose of this example we will keep single enum for fields and multiple enums for values for different fields. Let’s code
First define enums for fields and their values:

        internal enum QueryFields { ListPicker_FormType, ListPicker_ListType };
        internal enum ListTypes { City, States, Zip, Salutation };
        internal enum FormTypes { Select, Edit };

If you do not wish to be more detailed, you could simply build your Uri’s like so:

This.NavigationService.Navigate("/ListPicker.xaml?{0}={1}",QueryFields.ListPicker_FormType.ToString(), FormTypes.Select.ToString());
//The resultant uri - /ListPicer.xaml?ListPicker_FormType=Select

We will see below how you could parse query parameters in the called page and retrieve values in enum types.

Creating Uri as above still has string formatting which is not easy to maintain in multiple uses. To make things manageable and less error prone, let’s create a new enum for pages in the app and shift Uri building code in a single method which could be called from anywhere in the app with different field and values.

        internal enum AppPages {ListPicker, Setting, Main, etc };
        internal static Uri GetUri(AppPages appPage, params KeyValuePair<string, string>[] args)
        {
            string uriString = "";
            switch (appPage)
            {
                case AppPages.ListPicker:
                    uriString = "/Views/ListPicker.xaml";
                    break;
                case AppPages.Setting:
                    uriString = "/Views/Settings.xaml";
                    break;
                case AppPages.Main:
                    uriString = "/Main.xaml";
                    break;
                default:
                    uriString = "/Main.xaml";
                    break;
            }
            int counter = 0;
            string seperator = "?";
            foreach(KeyValuePair<string, string> query in args)
            {
                if (counter > 0) seperator = "&";
                uriString = String.Format("{0}{1}{2}={3}", uriString, seperator, query.Key, query.Value);
            }
            return new Uri(uriString, UriKind.Relative);
        }

With GetUri, you could create page navigation Uri with enums only instead of hard-coded strings:

            KeyValuePair<string, string> query_1 = new KeyValuePair<string,string>(QueryFields.ListPicker_FormType.ToString(), FormTypes.Select.ToString());
            KeyValuePair<string, string> query_2 = new KeyValuePair<string,string>(QueryFields.ListPicker_ListType.ToString(), ListTypes.City.ToString());
            This.NavigationService.Navigate(GetUri(AppPages.ListPicker, query_1, query_2));

Once you are navigated to your page, you need to parse query strings and extract enums which you could use in the page to decide page’s functionality.

At page level you need to have required enum type fields. For this example we will have two fields, one FormTypes type and other ListTypes type. A private processQuery method which accepts a dictionary sets these two fields appropriately.

        FormTypes formType;
        ListTypes listType;
        private void processQuery(Dictionary<string, string> query)
        {
            string _formTypeName = "";
            string _listTypeName = "";
            query.TryGetValue(QueryFields.ListPicker_FormType.ToString(), out _formTypeName);
            query.TryGetValue(QueryFields.ListPicker_ListType.ToString(), out _listTypeName);
            if (_formTypeName.Length != 0) formType = (FormTypes)(Convert.ToInt32(_formTypeName));
            if (_listTypeName.Length != 0) listType = (ListTypes)(Convert.ToInt32(_listTypeName));
        }

You would call processQuery method from OnNavigatedTo method of your page.

        protected override void OnNavigatedTo(System.Windows.Navigation.NavigationEventArgs e)
        {
            Dictionary<string, string> _params = new Dictionary<string, string>(NavigationContext.QueryString);
            processQuery(new Dictionary<string, string>());
        }

If you have 100’s of case statements (to choose a page) in GetUri, and you are concerned about performance, refactore the method to accept page name with path as string. With page path name directly in string, you would not need case statements. By the way, in my case with about 80+ cases to get PageName, the query creation does not take more than 50MS, which is negligible for me. More so, navigation calls are not recursive ones.

Accelerate App Reviews

Accelerate App Reviews

Asking for review in your app? It’s tricky. If not done with due diligence, on encountering your request to review, users might get annoyed and still worse, they could rate your app low even though they liked it. A simplistic solution of asking for review after N days from installation (or first use) and N days after user has chosen “remind me later”, is not an appropriate solution. Why? User might have installed your app, ran it, exited, came back after N days and they were presented with a review request message, whereas, they had only used the app once. This is not a nice experience. Asking for review when user is exiting the app is less effective because user already has something else in their mind when they are coming out of the app.

Though there is no one solution that fits all, but this is how I try to tackle this scenario in my app. It’s not the “number of days” but “total minutes user has used your app” is my criteria to decide the interval of popping review message. I keep a record of overall usage of the app, and after a designated number of minutes, I pop a request to user. You might have to go through some trial and error to come up with the right “number of minutes” when you want to request. Determine whether your app is highly immersive or a quick open and shut type of app. In an immersive app|game you might want your review requests at longer intervals. In a less immersive app, you would rather ask earlier and at a less frequency. Then, you might want to gradually decrease the interval between requests during session. Don’t forget to code your logic in such a way that you could easily tune request intervals and accumulative usage time and update your app as soon as you realize that a change in the times is required. Here is pseudo-code for indication purpose:


[THIS IS PSEUDO CODE FOR INDICATION ONLY]

constant int POP_REQUEST_AFTER_ACCUMULATIVE_USAGE (adjusting knob) 
constant int POP_REQUEST_INTERVAL (adjusting knob : Initial interval between requests in the session) 
constant int POP_REQUEST_INTERVAL_DECREASE_BY (adjusting knob : Decrease interval after every request) 
constant int POP_REQUEST_INTERVAL_MINIMUM (adjusting knob : interval should not go below this)

int AccumulativeAppUsage (persist this info in storage)
DateTime LastReviewRequest;
Int ReviewRequestInterval = POP_REQUEST_INTERVAL;

App.Start | App.Activate
	DateTime AppStart
	LastReviewRequest = DateTime.Now //reset

App.Stop | App.Deactivate
	AccumulativeAppUsage += DateTime.NOW – AppStart
	Save AccumulativeAppUsage

Page.[identify the event which triggers PopRequest method]
	PopRequest()

PopRequest()
	totalUsageTillNow = AccumulativeAppUsage += DateTime.NOW – AppStart
	if(totalUsageTillNow >= POP_REQUEST_AFTER_ACCUMULATIVE_USAGE)
	{
		If(DateTime.Now – LastReviewRequest >= ReviewRequestInterval)
		{
			Show review request
			LastReviewRequest = DateTime.Now
			If(ReviewRequestInterval > POP_REQUEST_INTERVAL_MINIMUM)
				ReviewRequestInterval -= POP_REQUEST_INTERVAL_DECREASE_BY
		}
	}

Transparent Live Tile For Windows Phone 8.1

Transparent Live Tile For Windows Phone 8.1

Windows Phone 8.1 Dev Preview

Windows Phone 8.1 developer preview is totally awesome. So what is one of the most important things app devs can do right away, without much fuss, to make their apps look great with Windows Phone 8.1? Revisit your app’s Live Tile images. Why? In 8.1, Start screen is mesmerizing with the parallax effect and Live Tile with background overlay. Dev preview users are going crazy with new Start experience, and I am sure, with public release, end users are going to love to have background image as well. Take a look at this awesome Nokia Lumia 925 Start screen:

wp_ss_20140416_0015[1]

When users have a background image, they might not like to have solid Live Tiles block their beautiful background. So, revisit your app’s Live Tile images – all of them! Check if they are transparent or not? If they are like Cortana, Avirall Time Suite, etc. in the image above, you are all set. You can safely ignore this article and find some other awesome way to improve your app for WP8.1 (think Cortana). If they are not, I suggest to update ‘em ASAP. And it’s easy, too. Let’s see how you can create transparent Live Tile images with Open Source Inkscape. You could choose to use Paint.NET (not MS Paint), Photoshop, GIMP, or any other tool which allows you to export image with transparency. Though I prefer GIMP for image editing but I chose Inkscape for this demo. Let’s go.

Step 1: Setup the page

InkScape01

  1. Open Inkscape and create a new document and Open Document Properties from file menu.
  2. In most cases app icons are solid white, if yours is one too, change the background color of the page, temporarily, to light yellow. This is while working only so that you can see white color. Before exporting we will reset this to transparent (this is very important).
  3. This example is for 336 X 336 medium tile. So set the custom size to 336 X 336.
  4. Make sure Units is “px”.

Step 2: Setup the drawing

InkScape02

Windows Phone 8 Asset Template Guide suggests a 336 X 336 tile to have 110px margin on all sides. Create 110px margin guides on all the sides. To create margin guides click and drag from the horizontal ruler on the top and from the vertical ruler on the left.

Step 3: Create Live Tile image of your app

InkScape03

The center part between the margins is the space where your tile image will go. Create your image here. For this example I simply dragged the box from tool box and made a hole in it 😀

Step 4: Set background to transparent

InkScape03a

To create a transparent Live Tile image we would like to have a transparent background. Go back in document properties and set Background to transparent by resetting “A” to 0. If your image is solid white, you might not see anything after making the background transparent. Don’t worry, your image is there (maybe somebody can tell how working space (not document background) in Inkscape can be made a different color than white).

Step 5: Export

InkScape04

  1. Open Export dialog from File > Export Bitmap…
  2. Set X0, X1, Y0, Y1 as shown in the image above.
  3. Browse for the image location, and make sure you give “PNG” as the extension of the image, NOT JPG or BMP.
  4. Export. (Alternatively, as suggested by Austin Andrews, you could export as SVG, and use his awesome service!)

Step 6: Check Final Image

WindowsPhotoViewer05

Notice that your final image does not have a white background. Windows Photo Viewers’s light blue background is your image’s background.

You are done. You would want to change all Live Tile images of your app in the same way. A transparent Live Tile image will encourage users to have your app pinned to Start screen without obstructing their beautiful background images.

Respect your users!