Notepad Classic

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Fri, 10/05/2012 - 18:46

imageSometimes you just need a simple tool, for a simple job and while Microsoft offers the FANTASTIC OneNote MX available for Windows 8 to use, it may is just too much. With that in mind, let me introduce a simpler text editor, NOTEPAD CLASSIC!  Notepad Classic is that - a simple text editor! Enjoy

Download

Video

Screenshots

Notepad Classic makes use of icons created by the awesome (& free) Metro Studio 2.


Updates

15 October 2012

  • Made the menu act as the store app does, so you can hide them away now if you want.
  • Added colour options for foreground & background colours
  • Added some colour to the appbar
  • Added feedback & privacy policy links
  • Fixed the dirty flag (so less asking to save when not needed)
  • Status bar merged with menu bar.
  • Fixed the wrong font being used

Windows Store app Development Snack: What the age restriction for apps means to developers.

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Fri, 10/05/2012 - 09:16

For more posts in this series, see the series index.

I often think of age restrictions in, this is for adults only & this is for everyone however Microsoft has a far more complex view of the world:

  • 3+: Suitable for young child (three or above)
  • 7+: Suitable for ages 7 and older
  • 12+: Suitable for ages 12 and older
  • 16+: Suitable for ages 16 and older
  • Finally Adult Only apps

Content

Adult only apps are not allowed in the store – so we are only going to focus on the four other categories. The obvious aspect of ratings is content is a major influencer so for example at 3+ the content guideline is

These applications are considered appropriate for young children. There may be minimal comic violence in non-realistic, cartoon form. Characters should not resemble or be associated with real life characters. There should be no content that could be frightening, and there should be no nudity or references to sexual or criminal activity

While at 16+:

Apps with this age rating can depict realistic violence with minimal blood, and they can depict sexual activity. They can also contain drug or tobacco use and criminal activities, and more profanity than would be allowed in a 12+ app

None of that should be any surprise to any developer and just a bit of reading when you submit should keep you out of trouble.

Platform Access

The ratings have a second role, controlling what can & can’t be used! It is not until you reach 12+ can you access to online services, of personal information, or enable features such as microphones or webcams. This can get you into a bit of trouble when submitting.

My experience is that obvious online access is heavily controlled but I do have apps on 3+ that do access services (such as to load pictures). There is also nothing stopping your app on a technical level with these so it is something of an honour system which is maintained by the content review phase of submitting.

Windows Store app Development Snack: Knowing your (memory) limits, will avoid problems in the store!

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Thu, 10/04/2012 - 10:01

For more posts in this series, see the series index.

imageHere is a interesting requirement of Windows Store apps – they must run on a low-power computer, and if (like me) fail this you get the error message you see in the screenshot which suggests a test tool exists.

The problem with this tool is it can only test HTML apps :/ The question is then, what can XAML developers do to help avoid this situation? Use task manager – really. It is that easy! Just watch your memory usage while using your application once you have that there is two things you can do.

At the bottom of the Selling details page is the option to specify if you need more than 2Gb of RAM – which feels really high for the types of apps I build, but maybe worthwhile to those developing games. If you are over 2Gb of RAM, make sure you set that.

image

The second location is under the Description page which has a completely optional Recommended hardware

image

Here is some free form space for you to put in conditions about the application including things like disk space & memory usage. I resubmitted the app that failed originally with just this specified and it passed, so it appears that this is taken into account.

Windows Store app Development Snack: What's in a name?

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Wed, 10/03/2012 - 10:46

For more posts in this series, see the series index.

During development of Zune, then Windows Phone and finally Windows 8 the term Metro was used to define the UI design style, this was later extended to explain what a desktop app is versus a Windows 8 app is. However Microsoft has stopped using the name and recommended developers stop using the name too so what should we call these things?

Metro apps – these are now called Windows Store apps. Visual Studio uses this name too so shouldn’t be too surprising. Note one pedantic pro-tip: app’s is ALWAYS lowercase.

Metro as in the style – As I explained Metro started out as a way to explain the UI design, that is now known as the Microsoft design style.

Metro principals – Finally we often talk of the 8 traits or principals of a great Metro Windows Store app and one of those is Embrace Metro Windows design style principals:

  1. Show pride in craftsmanship
  2. Do more with less
  3. Be fast and fluid
  4. Be authentically digital
  5. Win as one

Source: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/apps/hh464920.aspx

Windows Store app Development Snack: Publishing your app, what has to be done before you publish?

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Tue, 10/02/2012 - 08:07

For more posts in this series, see the series index.

imageDevelopment is done and not just done, but done-done. You have logged into the Dashboard and want to submit your application – there are two things that must be done PRIOR to you publishing successfully, and both are on the right hand side menu under Profile.

Payout

Payout is used to setup which account money will be paid into – if this is not setup your app will not even go through certification! You may think this only applies to those doing paid apps – it doesn’t. ALL apps, even free ones, need this setup first.

When you do payout setup it is going to ask you for one of three values (from what I can gather):

  • Credit card CVV – the simplest option.
  • Transaction amount – Microsoft will put through a transaction on your account and you need to put in the cents portion of that amount.
  • Transaction code – Microsoft will put through a transaction on your account and you will need the magic code in the description.

Below is a screen grab from my account statement, so if they asked for amount it would be 29 and if they asked for code is would be 851.

image

There is two final points around payout that are vital to remember:

  • Limited attempts: You get a few attempts to put the number in. Get all these wrong and your account is locked. You will need to deal with support who must escalate for you to other teams and this will take DAYS.
  • Transactions take time: If you are not lucky enough to get a CVV check then you will get the one of the transaction checks. These can take time to appear, especially if you are not in America – so if you do not see it immediately, wait two days. DO NOT TRY AND GUESS because you will hit your limited attempts.

Tax

The second issue is tax – once again this must be completed by EVERYONE. However having invalid tax forms will not block certification, it will merely block publishing. The form is easy to use but an annoyance is that even after you complete it the status will remain invalid. It stays invalid until it is verified by the system. So read invalid as either not done or not processed.

Windows Store app Development Snack: Where is Microsoft-Windows-TWinUI exactly?

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Mon, 10/01/2012 - 08:28

For more posts in this series, see the series index.

imageA lot of the guides for developing Windows Store apps talk about an event log where you can see information from the apps – this is of special importance for those doing background processing, live & secondary tiles. In the documentation it is either called just TWinUI or it is called Microsoft-Windows-TWinUI, however you may battle to find that in the event viewer since the group it is in, is not named that.

To get to it go to

  1. Application and Services Logs
  2. Microsoft
  3. Windows
  4. Apps

And you will find it inside that group! Happy debugging.

South African Postal Codes

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Sat, 09/29/2012 - 15:09

Mailbox-190-white-solid organge background

South Africa, as with many countries in the world, uses a numerical postal code system to help work out where to delivery mail – however besides some high level consistency there really is very little rhyme or reason in the numbers.

This little tool allows you to search, share, browse & pin the postal codes you need – when you need it!

This tool was inspired by my Postal Code apps for Windows Phone 7 – and really allowed me to experiment with the concept of how you can take & share development resources (including code) between two platforms.

Download

This app is also in the Apptivate competition so please go there and vote for it by clicking the image below:

apptivate

screenshot_09152012_093250screenshot_09152012_093337

South African Postal Codes makes use of icons created by the awesome (& free) Metro Studio 2.

Portal 2: Lab Rat for Windows 8

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Sat, 09/29/2012 - 12:00

aperture-190I love Portal, both the first & second games were amazing but what happened between them is never clearly explained in the games. Valve released an amazing comic book called Lab Rat a while ago that explained it! I enjoyed it so much I created a Windows Phone app for it. One of the things I had to do in that app was use very LOW resolution images and I was never happy with that.

Now I am proud to announce not only have I solved that but I also get to share my second Windows Store app – Lab Rat!

This is a GREAT Microsoft Style experience – high resolution images, full screen, touch – it all just works amazingly well together (see images below).

Having a new platform let me bring in ridiculously high resolve images too (which is why this download is over 250Mb worth of content), but not only the original English images but also the images without text (as in the Windows Phone app) and, for the first time, the Russian version too!

Download

As with my previous Windows 8 apps, this app is in the Apptivate competition so please go there and vote for it by clicking the image below:

apptivate

screenshot_09162012_195444screenshot_09162012_195509screenshot_09162012_195518screenshot_09162012_195459


Updates

Release 2 - 9 October 2012

  • Added the ability to zoom & pan images
  • Minor tweaks

How to correctly format currency in South Africa?

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Fri, 09/28/2012 - 11:26

Recently on a Windows Phone project I got a bug raised that I was formatting the currency for South Africa incorrectly (in particular the use of a comma to separate the Rands & cents – i.e. the decimal mark) which sparked off an investigation into what is the correct way to format the currency in the country I live in.

tl;dr: The comma is the decimal mark for South Africa.

As I am a developer my first stops were Microsoft & IBM who both have guides on this that states the decimal mark for South Africa is a comma. Wikipedia also states that officially the comma is has been adopted as the decimal mark.

Not happy with that vague “official” - I dug further to try and find a more official source which lead me the University of Johannesburg (UJ) style guide, which is meant to assist students with the correct language style to use in their documents. The very interesting bit is in section 6 (bold & underline added by me):

Note the spaces and commas in the following: 3 000 (or 3000); 3 500; 2 354 701; R5,87. The so-called Continental System (also used in South Africa) requires that the decimal point be replaced by a comma. However, it is not always possible to do this, since many computer programs require a decimal point for calculations.

So UJ agrees with the usage of the comma – but for me this also gave me a clue to find more info in something called the Continental System… which didn’t lead anywhere.

I then happened to find the 2012 Winter School textbox for Grade 10 Maths Literacy which also states:

South Africa officially uses a decimal comma, with a space as thousands separators.
Example:
1 450 789,32 = one million; four hundred thousand; fifty thousand; zero thousands;  seven hundreds; eighty; nine; three tenths; two hundredths.

Finally I found some official documentation on the subject, first up Government Editorial Style Guide which states – still not saying it is “official” as Wikipedia said:

Write decimal and negative numbers as numerals: 3,3 and –4. Use the decimal comma, not the decimal point: 17,4 million.

Use a space, not commas, to indicate thousands: 3 000, 20 000.

However the best source I found was a document titled The South African measurement system and its origin by EE Publishers which has the following:

Finally, it is worth noting that, in Table 1, the grouping of thousands (in threes) and the use of the decimal comma, as opposed to the decimal point, was effected, to be in accordance with the applicable legislation of South Africa: “where the magnitude of a quantity is expressed in terms of a unit, a comma on the line is used as the decimal sign in the numerical part of the expression and the digits are separated into groups of three digits on either side of the comma by means of spaces…” [2]. The exception was made, for land registration purposes, by the then Director-General of Surveys, who judged, in his Circular No. 2 of 1971: “it has been decided to abandon the writing of areas, such as 45 236 1 ha with a space after the 3rd decimal figure and to advocate that as in the past the four figures be grouped together viz. 45 2361 ha”. Here, a space was left between the number and the symbol of a unit, as required [2]. These rules were highlighted in an old Land Survey Act No. 9 of 1927 (Regulation 24.1), but an amended Land Survey Act No. 8 of 1997 does not contain such information.

English-speaking countries (plus China, India and Japan) use the decimal point. There seems to be a general tendency to formally declare its use worldwide and the International Organisation for Standardization, ISO, also tends towards using the decimal point over the decimal comma. In view
of the South African law, however, the comma shall still be employed in South Africa as “the only recognised decimal indicator for all numbers” [3].

References

[1] DR Hendrikz: South African Units of Length and Area, Department of Lands, Trigonometrical Survey, Special Publication No. 2, 1944.
[2] Measuring Units and National Measuring Standards Act, 1973 (Act No. 76 of 1973), Government Gazette No. 4326, 5 July 1974.
[3] The International Metric System (SI), Guide to the use of the SI in South Africa, The Council of the South African Bureau of Standards, M 33a, 1992
[4] Measurement Units and Measurement Standards Act, 2006 (Act No. 18 of 2006), Government Gazette No. 29752, 28 March 2007.
[5] T Zakiewicz: “Units of Length Measure & Geodetic Standards at the Cape, 1813-1912”, History of Surveying and Land Tenure, Collected Papers,
Vol. 2, The Institute of Professional Land Surveyors & Geomaticians of the Western Cape, May 2004.

WOW! That gives the official acts and a great depth of knowledge into the subject matter and for me answers it once and for all – we use a comma!

The two final locations I found in my searches provided some interesting information on the comma as a decimal mark in general (i.e. not specific to South Africa). First up is the Wikipedia page for International System of Units which states

The 10th resolution of CGPM in 2003 declared that "the symbol for the decimal marker shall be either the point on the line or the comma on the line." In practice, the decimal point is used in English-speaking countries and most of Asia, and the comma in most of Latin America and in continental European languages.

Secondly is a forum answer about the use of the comma:

Sender: Franck Menuge
Subject: comma as decimal separator

Could somebody tell me the origin of the use of a 'comma' as a decimal separator and of a 'dot' for thousands in the French numeric system, ex.1.234,56 Is it only used in France or in other european coutries? Why is it different in the UK?

Many thanks,

Hi Frank,

The comma as a decimal separator is used in several continental European countries, including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, and - we think - also Italy and the Netherlands.
   The notational convention of using a punctuation mark to separate the fractional part of a number seems to have begun with John Napier,a Scot, in his book "Descriptio" published in 1616. In this book he proposed using a decimal point (period) to separate the whole number part from the decimal part of a number. In the following year, 1617, in his book "Rhabdologia" he proposed a point or a comma as the decimal sepatatrix. In his writing he used both. To quote Cajori, "Napier vacillated between period and comma; mathematicians have been vacillating in this matter ever since", Florin Cajori, "A History of Mathematical Notation", 1974 page 324. By 1619 the decimal point had become standard in England.
   In Earliest Uses of Mathematical Symbols under Grouping the claim is made that the modern system of separating a numeral into groups of 3 with commas first appeared in 1795 in the article "Numeration" in "Mathematical and Philosophical Dictionary" by Hutton. Again the reference is from Cajori.
   The confusion doesn't stop there. In the school system in North Amarica teachers have started to use a space rather than a comma to separate the digits in a numeral into groups of three. Thus the number thirty-one thousand three hundred twenty four and six tenths is written 31 324.6. One last point. Notice that the decimal point in the number 31 324.6 in on the line were it is our understanding that in the UK you would write this number with the decimal point floating above the line. In North America the period floating above the line indicates multiplication, so

Cheers,
Patrick and Penny

Windows Store app Development Snack: Lock screen image pain

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Fri, 09/28/2012 - 11:16

For more posts in this series, see the series index.

imageIn a recent application I made use of the amazing Metro Studio tool for the logo of the application and needed to create a lock screen image. Lock screen images must be white & transparent and 24px square so I used the tool to create the image as in the image below.

image

However I kept getting an error when trying to certify the app:

Image reference "ClusterGroup.png": The image "\ClusterGroup.png" has an ABGR value "0x9BFEFEFE" at position (8, 0) that is not valid. The pixel must be white (##FFFFFF) or transparent (00######).

Huh?! My image is white & transparent! Using the awesomely improved graphic editor in Visual Studio 2012 I went to check the pixel (column 8, row 0) in the error message. I used the eye dropper tool to get the colour into the right hand window and sure enough it isn’t white. It is a grey colour used to anti-alias the image. (This has been reported to SyncFusion – but no response at time of publishing)

image

The problem is this is not valid you can either have:

  • Fully transparent – from the error message the alpha channel needs to be zero and the RGB can be anything: 00######
  • White – from the error message the RBG must be max (so white) and then the transparency can be set to anything: ##FFFFFF

The second one means you can have solid white #FFFFFFFF or a more transparent option #77FFFFFF (for example). The idea is to use the transparency rather than a grey colour to anti-alias. For me the fix was to manually edit the pixels to fix this.