Android to Windows Phone 8 Part 5: Building a Simple User Interface

April 18, 2013

Over the past several weeks I’ve been working on some content I’m excited to finally share with you through a series of blog posts. This series will introduce you to Windows Phone 8 development from an Android developer’s perspective. Through the course of the series you’ll create your first app. It won’t be anything pretty, but you’ll learn the ins and outs of the development environment, how to create a simple user interface, and how to perform navigation. Along the way you’ll see some Android Hints that will help make it easier for you to transition your existing skills to the Windows Phone platform. You’ll also see some Visual Studio Tips to make you more productive in your development environment. Good luck!

A Windows Phone application is simply a collection of pages. A page is the interface seen by the end user.

ANDROID HINT

A page is similar to an Activity in Android development

 

Each page is designed for the end user to interact with the application. A page is composed of layout controls and various widgets. Only one page can be seen by the end user at a time.

ANDROID HINT

Like Android there is a system level “Back” button in Windows Phone.

 

To better familiarize yourself with the user interface components of a Windows Phone application the following table maps Android widgets to their Windows Store counterparts:

Purpose

Android

Windows Store

Display Text

TextView

TextBlock

Edit Text

EditText

TextBox

Radio Button

RadioButton

RadioButton

Check Box

CheckBox

CheckBox

Submit

Button

Button

Show Progress

ProgressBar

ProgressBar

Display a List of Components

LinearLayout

StackPanel

Vertical List of Components

ListView

ListView

2-Dimensionl Grid

GridView

Grid

Display an Image

ImageView

Image

 

This is by no means an extensive list. As with many development technologies there are a number of ways to perform the same task. For example, instead of using a ListView to display a vertical list in a Windows Phone app I could simply use a StackPanel and set its orientation property accordingly.

In this lesson you’ll learn how to create a simple interface for your Windows Phone application.

Add a Text Field

For your UI you’ll want a label to tell the user what to do, a field where users can input text, and a button. You’ll start by adding the text field.

Open the MainPage.xaml file in the root directory of your project.

VISUAL STUDIO TIP

When you open a *.xaml file you’ll first see a split view. The left view contains a visual designer. This lets you build layouts using WYSIWYG tools. The right view contains the markup generated by the designer. For this lesson, you’re going to work directly with the XAML. To give yourself more screenspace you can go to a “XAML only” view using the following steps.

  1. Click the button on the toolbar between the designer and the markup view. This will move the markup view to the left and designer view to the right.
  2. Click the button on the toolbar between the two views. This will minimize the designer.

 

You’ll notice that Visual Studio adds quite a bit to the markup for a page when it is created. For simplicity we’re going to delete most of it. Delete everything within the outermost <Grid> element of the page. You should end up with something that looks like this:


<Grid x:Name=”LayoutRoot” Background=”Transparent”>

 


</Grid>

Add a <StackPanel> element to the <Grid> element:


<Grid x:Name=”LayoutRoot” Background=”Transparent”>


<StackPanel x:Name=”theStackPanel”


Orientation=”Vertical”>


</StackPanel>

</Grid>

ANDROID HINT

A StackPanel is equivalent to a LinearLayout in Android development. It allows you to lay out child elements in either a verity or horizontal orientation.

 

The x:Name attribute is similar to the android:id attribute. However, you are not required to provide a x:Name attribute for your visual elements.

 

The Orientation attribute is identical to the android:Orientation attribute of the LinearLayout in Android. The default value for the Orientation attribute is Vertical.

 

Now add a <TextBox> element inside of the <StackPanel> element you just created. Be sure to provide a x:Name attribute for it. You should end up with something like this:

<Grid x:Name=”LayoutRoot” Background=”Transparent”>

<StackPanel x:Name=”theStackPanel”

Orientation=”Vertical”>


<TextBox x:Name=”theMessage” />

</StackPanel>

<Grid>

 

Add String Resources

Next you’ll want to add a label to your page to instruct the user on what to do. You might be tempted to add a <TextBlock> element and sent its Text attribute to the text you want displayed. While this will work, it goes against best practices for localization.

Start by opening the AppResources.resx file by double clicking it in Solution Explorer.

You’ll see several resources were defined when Visual Studio create the project. To add an additional resource, simply enter it on the last line of the editor. You should end up with something like this:

Add a Label

With the Resource file in place you’re now ready to add the label to your page.

Open MainPage.xaml if not’s not already open and add a <TextBlock> element above the <TextBox> element in the <StackPanel> like this:

<Grid x:Name=”LayoutRoot” Background=”Transparent”>

<StackPanel x:Name=”theStackPanel”

Orientation=”Vertical”>


<TextBlock x:Name=”theLabel”


Text=”{Binding Path=LocalizedResources.MessageLabelText,


Source={StaticResource LocalizedStrings}}” />

<TextBox x:Name=”theMessage” />

</StackPanel>

</Grid>

The Text attribute specifies the text the element will display. You need to do two things:

  1. Specify where the string resides (Source={StaticResource LocalizedStrings}).
  2. Specify the name of the specific string you want to use (Binding Path=LocalizedResources.MessageLabelText).

Add a Button

The last thing you’ll need to do as part of this lesson is to add a <Button> element to the page so you can send the message the user enters to a second page.

Before you add the <Button> be sure to add a string resource for its Content property in the AppResources.resx file.

Now add a <Button> element under the <TextBox> element in MainPage.xaml, being sure to specify the appropriate Content attribute for localization.

<Grid x:Name=”LayoutRoot” Background=”Transparent”>

<StackPanel x:Name=”theStackPanel”

Orientation=”Vertical”>

<TextBlock x:Name=”theLabel”

Text=”{Binding Path=LocalizedResources.MessageLabelText,

Source={StaticResource LocalizedStrings}}” />

<TextBox x:Name=”theMessage” />


<Button x:Name=”sendButton”


Content=”{Binding Path=LocalizedResources.SendButtonText,


Source={StaticResource LocalizedStrings}}” />

</StackPanel>

</Grid>

Congratulations! You just created your first Windows Store UI. It might not be pretty, but it works. You can run your app now (press F5 or F6 to see the results).

Previous Posts in this Series

  • Setting up the Development Environment
  • Creating Your First Windows Phone Project
  • Exploring the Windows Phone Project
  • Running the Windows Phone Application

Additional Resources