Who’s on 8: Jack-O-Lantern

Found this one while sitting with my youngest checking out some of the more seasonal apps currently in the Window Phone Store.  Jack-O-Lantern is the creation of Eric Harty of Ebscer, and is a simple and free way to create funny (and weird) jack-o-lantern faces on your phone.

Just swipe the various features to create new expressions and tap to change the background color – incredibly simple, but rather addictive for my youngest (and ok, me as well).

wp_ss_20131016_0001     wp_ss_20131016_0002

Check the Jack-O-Lantern app out – free – on the Windows Phone Store, and get in the holiday spirit!

Who’s on 8: Save Recipes

Being on vacation for a couple of weeks has given me some extra time to check out new apps in the store, and I thought I’d share a recent find by one of our more prolific developers, Matt Ruffell of MDR Applications in upstate New York.

Save Recipes by MDR ApplicationsSave Recipes does exactly what it says – allows you to store your favorite recipes from friends, grandma, and all those cooking reality shows right on your Windows 8 “sous chef” slate in the kitchen! This app also comes with a backup and restore feature to SkyDrive so you’re not at risk of losing your culinary collection.

Matt has published the app with a free (30-day) trial – a best practice for any paid application. In fact, around a year ago, the Windows Phone team published some statistics indicating that paid apps with a trial were downloaded 70 more times than paid apps without a trial and came with around a 10% conversion rate to the full version, a majority within a day after downloading the trial.

I’ve yet to meet Matt in person, but have conversed with him numerous times over the past year or two beginning when his Windows Phone app, Cool Tools, first caught my attention.  That was one of his first Windows 8 apps and as I’m writing this, Cool Tools for Windows 8 also appears as the highlighted app for the Tools category on the Windows Store. So I guess double congratulations are due – nice job, Matt!

Who’s on 8: Tablet Letter Pro and Tablet Invoice Pro

Steve Hall of Lucky 8 Solutions is no stranger to Windows 8. He has published 10 Windows Store apps focused on mobile data collection and digital forms, including the recently launched Table Letter Pro, and in September 2012 founded and continues to run the Boston Windows 8 App Developers and IT Group in Cambridge. 

Table Letter Pro   Tablet Invoice Pro

Recently I asked Steve to share his thoughts on the latest apps he’s developed (pictured above):

Most recently I launched ‘Tablet Invoice Pro’ (Windows 8/RT App). This app is optimized for Windows tablets and touch-screen usability. You can choose from professional templates or customize yourself by adding images, receipt photos, and a touch-screen signature. Stay organized with easy filter options and automatically attach invoice to emails (Word, XLS or PDF format). Taxes and totals are calculated for you.

I started Tablet Invoice Pro in July 2013 because I wanted to create a digital forms app for mobile business users that would showcase the capabilities of Windows store apps when optimized for Windows tablets. I set out with three primary objectives.

  1. Make it faster to fill out touch screen forms using a Windows tablet;
  2. Use the tablet to include photos and to get a customer signature using the touch screen;
  3. Be able to easily save, edit and email the invoices in Word, Excel or PDF formats right from the tablet. I wanted knew Microsoft was focused on tablets and I wanted to show other app developers what is possible.

To save time custom developing key functionality we took advantage of Syncfusion Essential Studio for WinRT/XAML. By using this tool set, we were able to save over 100 hours developing the technology that turns forms into formatted Word, Excel and PDF documents (plus functionality to include photos and digital signature).

The process of developing mobile business apps optimized for Windows 8/RT tablets has been exciting. I am not a developer, but I hired a developer in India thru Elance, which was recommended to me from Microsoft BizSpark. I understood workflows and picked up the concept of the metro design and XAML fairly quickly. The developer understood WPF, MVVM and XAML, so the coding was pretty straightforward.

We developed the entire app in C#/XAML. The hardest part was just figuring out the best way to do something new since there weren’t really many good digital forms apps in the Windows Store to look at. My local Boston Windows App Tech evangelist, Jim O’Neil gave me advice along the way and great feedback on improvements I could make based on Microsoft suggested best practices.

Over the past year my experience with Microsoft has been great. They have helped me every step of the way and as a result I have 10 apps in the store. Building Windows Store Apps is fun and easy and I would recommend it to anyone. I have created apps focused on photos, videos, drawings, Bing Maps, voice notes, text notes and SkyDrive – all with the help of Microsoft and the tools and resources they offer for app developers.

Next I plan to develop more mobile business apps showcasing digital forms and mobile data collection capabilities for Windows Tablets to help Boston Windows 8 App Developers & IT Group members understand what’s possible. Windows 8 tablet apps are better for mobile business users than iPad apps and I can prove it.

Who’s on 8: Word Guesser

Word Guesser in the Windows Store

Here’s a shout out to Kyle Mitofsky for getting Word Guesser published in the Windows Store. I’m a big fan of word games, and although this one has a simple concept – essentially a binary search – it’s really tough to put it down!

What’s additionally great about Kyle’s work here is that he’s put all of his code out there on GitHub so you can see and learn exactly how he built the app and leverage that to achieve your own successes in the Windows Store.

But he didn’t stop there, he was one of the presenters at the recent Vermont Code Camp where he covered Introduction to Windows 8 Apps for Windows Form Developers (and also posted his slides). Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend code camp, but from his description he certainly got a lot done in that hour!

This talk will focus on the differences between traditional desktop applications and new Windows Store apps. We’ll build a couple small metro applications using VB/XAML while leveraging new controls to build an immersive application that meets Windows 8 Design Guidelines, by supporting app bars, settings panels, snapped layouts, and asynchronous calls. We’ll even get to debug code on the SurfaceRT tablet provided by Microsoft to the .NET user group.

For those of you that see Windows 8 app development as a huge learning curve or requiring super-human design abilities, Kyle’s code and slides are a fantastic way to jump in and begin leveraging the skills you already have.

Congrats, Kyle, and thank you for sharing your own experiences with the greater development community!