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Getting started with Cinder for Windows Store Apps

What is different on Windows 8

Legacy software written for Windows 7 and prior targeted the traditional Windows API, often referred to as Win32. They resulting apps would be a combination of an executable, assets and libraries. The Windows 8 operating system introduces a new type of application, called a Windows Store app. The new architecture is called Windows Runtime, or WinRT for short. Windows Store apps are written exclusively against this new WinRT architecture.

Windows 7 and prior only had one mode of interacting with software, launching the application's executable from the desktop or file path. Windows 8 now defaults to a Windows Runtime start screen, where Windows Store apps are presented and can be accessed through their respective Live Tiles. An application's Live Tile is registered automatically when that app is installed from the Windows Store. If a user needs to access legacy software that hasn't been migrated to the new Windows Store format, they can still get to the desktop from the Start Screen.

Windows desktops and laptops have traditionally run on Intel processors, referred to frequently as x86 or x64 machines. However, in parallel with the release of Windows 8, an optimized version of the operating system designed for mobile ARM based devices was released called Windows RT. Windows RT devices, however, will not run legacy Win32 software, nor can you develop Win32 software for content.

So unlike a Windows 8 computer, which is optimized for the Windows Store apps written against WinRT but still provides access to Win32 software from the desktop, Windows RT devices do not.

What about the Microsoft Surface?

There are two versions of the Microsoft Surface. The first version runs the Windows RT operating system and uses an ARM CPU. The Surface Pro, however, is an x64 device and runs Windows Pro 8. Both devices are optimized for Windows Store apps, but the Surface Pro is a fully featured computer as well, allowing you to install Visual Studio, Photoshop, or whatever else you wish. You can think of the Microsoft Surface as a light, long lasting consumer consumption device, whereas the Surface Pro is a powerful, mobile content creation device and netbook equivalent.

What's up with Cinder and DirectX?

Cinder is a cross platform framework for C++ design engineering. In order to run and Apple, Android and Windows devices prior to Windows 8, the rendering libraries leveraged OpenGL as the open source, cross platform solution.

Even though DirectX has been Microsoft's preferred rendering solution for advanced graphics programming, Windows traditionally provided both DirectX and OpenGL support from the desktop. However, Windows 8 Store applications are now exclusively DirectX based, to maximize reusability across the entire domain of Microsoft experiences including Windows Phone, Windows RT, Windows 8, and gaming. This means that Cinder apps that leverage OpenGL for their rendering will not work as Windows Store apps.

To get a Cinder project running as a Windows Store app, the Cinder project needs to leverage a DirectX render instead of the default OpenGL renderer.

Both OpenGL and DirectX have undergone significant changes over the years, with DirectX migrating away from the simpler fixed function pipeline of OpenGL early on. As hardware and software continue to advance, both libraries continue to progress in their own distinct ways. Windows 8 Store apps leverage the most recent version of DirectX 11.1, which itself has some breaking changes from DirectX 11, most notably is the loss of D3DX, a very popular helper library.

As this document targets using Cinder for Windows Store apps, we will be using DirectX 11.1. Whereas you could have a DirectX renderer for desktop based Cinder experiences, because of the history and community support behind the existing OpenGL render, it would be a difficult choice to argue. However, to create a Windows Store app, DirectX 11.1 must be used as the underlying rendering technology in the Cinder framework.

What about Visual Studio?

Previous versions of Cinder were written to make it easy to use for Visual Studio 2010, and targeted Win32 applications. Since Windows Store apps require targeting the WinRT architecture, this has changed.

To develop software for Window Store 8, you need to use Visual Studio 2012. We will be walking through the setup assuming you have downloaded the free version of the software, Visual Studio Express 2012.

You should know, however ,that the professional versions of Visual Studio 2012 comes with several new features for professional graphics engineering, including a robust graphics debugger, DirectX support, visual shader editors, and tools for working with virtual models and objects.

Enough theory, lets get started

To create Windows Store apps, you need to have Windows 8 installed and running at least Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows 8. Do not download Visual Studio Express 2012 for Web, Phone or Desktop. We are targeting Windows 8 here.

Setting up Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows 8

Once you have a copy of Windows 8 running natively or on a virtual machine from another Operating System, you can get the bytes for Visual Express 2012 for Windows here:

http://www.microsoft.com/visualstudio/eng/products/visual-studio-express-products

 

                       

When the installer has finished and you launch the application, you will be taken to a registration screen. If you choose not to register, Visual Studio Express 2012 will expire after 30 days. Go ahead and register the product.

 

 

Once registration is complete, Visual Studio will launch for the first time. In order to create a Windows Store app, you need to setup a Developer license. A developer license allows you to develop, install and test apps on your computer before submitting them to the Microsoft store for publishing and deployment to the community.

At this time, it would also be a good idea to go to the menu item Tools > Extensions and Updates and check for any updates to Visual Studio as well:

 

 

Grabbing the Git branch

Now that we have Windows 8 and Visual Studio Express 2012 setup, our next step is getting the correct Cinder bits on our machine. Since this is still under development, we need to pull from the correct developer branch of Cinder from Cinder's GitHub account.

The professional version of Visual Studio 2012 allows for rich Git integration, but the free Express version doesn't support this, so you will need to have a standalone Git client if you choose to use the Express version of Visual Studio. If so, we recommend downloading the GitHub client, which installs both itself and helpful Git utilities.

You can download the GitHub client here:

https://help.github.com/articles/set-up-git

 

 

After the GitHub client is installed, you may find it helpful to enter or setup your account. However, you should be able to pull the project if you just want to get up and running quickly using the Git Shell as explained further below.

As a community developed, open source project, Cinder separates the stable, official version of its Cinder framework from newer branches that developers setup as they program future functionality. WinRT support for Cinder is currently being developed off of one of these feature branches, with the goal of integrating in to a future iteration of the master project.

So we will need to clone the Cinder project locally, which defaults to the master branch, and then explicitly move to the dx_rt branch to get to the version under development that also includes support for Windows Store 8 projects.

To clone Cinder, either open your Git enabled Power Shell in the directory you want to use and type:

git clone https://github.com/cinder/Cinder.git

 

Or open a browser and go to the Cinder project page on GitHub.com. There you will see a Clone In Windows button that should launch the GitHub client automatically and start the local cloning process:

https://github.com/cinder/Cinder/tree/dx_rt

 

 

 

This should take several minutes to download the Cinder project and open it in your GitHub client. Once it appears as a line item in your GitHub client, you can right click the repository icon and select open a shell here. We will do the rest of the commands from the Power Shell directly.

 

If you look at your command prompt and you are still on the master branch, you can switch to the dx_rt branch by typing the following:

git checkout dx_rt

Or if you prefer to use the GitHub client you installed, you can switch from the master branch to the dx_rt branch from there as well.

 

If you are using the GitHub client, though, it would probably be a good idea to switch to a command shell for the next steps. You can do that from the client directly by right clicking on project's list item like so:

 

 

The master, dev and dx_rt branches all require you to also install certain Boost libraries to the Cinder project directory before you can compile the Cinder framework. However, on the dx_rt branch we will be using, this process has been greatly automated for you. So once you've switched to the dx_rt branch, type in the following two commands to download the required Boost libraries that are compatible with this particular branch of Cinder for Windows Store:

git submodule init

git submodule update

This may take a few minutes, but once it is done you should be ready to open the Cinder project and compile it for use.

 

Compiling Cinder for Windows Store apps

Once you have pulled the Cinder project from its GitHub repository, switched to the dx_rt branch that contains the bits for working on Windows Store apps, and run the submodules that download the additional Boost dependencies, you are ready to open up the Cinder solution to compile the library.

 

  

 

Go to where GitHub cloned the Cinder project, the default is Libraries\Documents\GitHub\Cinder. There you will find multiple version of the Cinder framework separated by development environment. You should see the xcode and vc10 solutions, but you will also three additional folders. Vc11 provides support for compiling Cinder for Visual Studio 2012, but still using OpenGL and thus limited to Desktop mode. VC11-DirectX is provides support for compiling Cinder for Visual Studio 2012 using DirectX 11 but also for Desktop mode. We will be focusing on the third option, the winrt folder. This is the solution that supports Windows Store apps and development.

Launch Cinder/winrt/cinder.sln and the Cinder project should open up in Visual Studio 2012 automatically. If you are using the professional version of Visual Studio 2012, you can Batch Build all the versions you need. Since we are using the Express edition in this walkthrough, though, we will Build individually the debug and release versions of the Cinder library we need.

We will build the debug version of the framework by making sure that our Solution Configuration in the toolbar is set to Debug and the Solution Platform is set to Win32.

 

 

To build the solution, simply go to the Build menu option and select Build Solution.

 

 

Some warnings may pop up, but there should be no errors. Once that is done, you will find a new file in the Cinder project directory under:

..\Cinder\lib\winrt\Win32\Debug\cinder.lib

This is the Cinder library your Windows Store projects will link to when you are programming and debugging your application. Now we need to rebuild this framework to provide a release version of this same framework. Going back to the Cinder project, and on the toolbar change the Solution Configuration option from Debug to Release and Build the solution again.

You now have a Debug and Release version of the Cinder framework and are ready to start creating Windows Store programs against it for any Windows 8 device, including the Surface Pro. However, any WindowsRT device, such as the non-Pro version of Surface, will be running on ARM and so you would need to follow the above steps targeting the ARM platform instead of just the Win32 platform.

Testing out the Library

At this point, you are ready to explore the collection of DirectX samples created specifically for Windows Store apps. You can find various projects for Windows Store in the DirectX folder inside the samples folder. For our initial test, we will open the following sample:

..\Cinder\samples\DirectX\_winrtBasic\winrt\winrtBasic.sln

When you open the solution in Visual Studio Express 2012, you will find basicApp.cpp in the Solution Explorer. This contains all the code we need to start using the Cinder framework.

 

 

The code in this sample illustrates a few basic tasks, including loading an image from the assets folder and using it as a texture, loading fonts and displaying them on the screen, handling mouse events, drawing various geometries and implementing a basic follower easing algorithm in the update() call.

Once you're looked over the code, you can press F5 or the Play button on the main toolbar to run the program on the machine. If you compiled both the Debug and Release versions of the framework, you can select either Solution Configuration. You will find a significant increase in speed in Release mode over Debug mode.

 

 

You will also notice that the program has automatically installed its own Live Tile on your Start Screen, which you can use to launch the program again whenever you wish.

 

 

 Congratulations! You should now be ready to start exploring Cinder for Windows Store apps.

 

@rickbarraza

 

You can learn more about this branch by going to the Cinder forums found here:

https://forum.libcinder.org/#Topic/23286000001540037

 

 

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