Quickly zipping together your Windows 8 App with ZipApp

Continuing with our "Building Windows 8 App's quickly" theme started last Wednesday, Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, some PCL and your social world = Social Media Dashboard Sample, today's Modern Monday post shows off another way where you can quickly, easily and cheaply (free) create a Windows 8 app, one where in the end you can grab the source too...

ZipApp – Can a non-coder use it to create an app with great content?

ZipApp is a tool that claims to allow non-programmers to build Windows 8 apps quickly. Their claim seems to be accurate!

As Windows 8 matures, more tools and templates are appearing to help developers and non-developers create Windows 8 apps. Two weeks ago, I tested IdeaPress. Today, I will test ZipApp by creating an app for my sister’s running group.

The promise: “Quick, simple and faster than hell”, “You don’t need to be a programmer”

The reality: Yes, a non-programmer can build a useful app in an afternoon.

What will the app be able to do?

ZipApp supports creating apps with the following types of content

  • Static content (hardcoded images, formatted text, and hyperlinks)
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • RSS

What do you need before you start?

Not much, you should have an idea for a suitable app and the content you want to include in the app.

Will I need anything else to publish the app?

When you finish creating your app, the ZipApp tool will send you a .zip file containing the code for your application. You cannot just take that code and publish it to the store. You will need Visual Studio 2012 and the Windows 8 Software Development Kit (SDK) to build the package that you submit to the store. Installing the Windows 8 SDK requires Windows 8. So all that to say, if you plan to publish the app you need

Now let’s dive into the tool and see how it works!

Susan continues in her post to walk you through the entire process, which is very easy to do.

In the end, you can publish the app using a Third Party, or grab the source and publish it yourself.

So of course I had to create a Channel 9 app, right?

Creating the app on the site was very easy. Click, click, click and I had my basic Channel 9 app

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Once I downloaded the project, it compiled and ran for me the first time.

Here's the Hub;

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And the Blog group;

image

Finally a post;

image

Now there was a problem where at first the post page was only showing me the title, and no content.

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Doh! But since I had the source... Smiley

Here's an snap of the Project;

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I opened the itemDetail.js and focused on where the content was as actually being posted;

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Setting a breakpoint here, item.content was empty.

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Okay, that explains the missing content...

In looking at the item object, it looks like the description property had the data I needed.

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So instead of figuring out why content was empty (i.e. I was being lazy), I just switched it to description... and that did the trick!

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In Summary

ZipApp does allow someone with no programming experience to create an nice app with good content. It does not support key Windows 8 features such as Search and Share. You do require Windows 8 and the Windows 8 SDK to publish your application. There appear to be a few minor bugs, but all in all, a very nice tool for those who want to build an app but do not have the coding experience.

As Susan said, there are some bugs, but ZipApp made it very quick and easy to knock out a Windows 8 app, and having the source means you can use this as a base for further customization and tweaking...

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