20+ Tools for Windows Phone 7 Developers

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If you want to develop apps for Windows Phone 7, I collected a list of tools and sites both Microsoft’s and external you might be interested in to make apps for Windows Phone. For the latest information on Microsoft tools, check out MSDN.

* Visual Studio 2010

 Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone is FREE and has everything you need to start developing Windows Phone apps. You can develop two types of apps for Windows Phones: Silverlight or game apps. For game apps Microsoft includes XNA Game Studio 4.0. Naturally, the kit also contains Windows Phone Emulator, .NET Framework 4.0 and Silverlight.

Where to Get

* Expression Blend 4.0


Expression Blend is a totally tool for rapid developing and designing Silverlight apps. It’s especially great if you need to develop apps that contain animations, transitions and storyboarding. Expression Blend is a new kid on the block, but it totally rocks. Think Flash apps development, only on steroids of .NET Framework 4.0, C# and XAML.

I think of Visual Studio and Expression Blend as a “light tool” vs “dark tool”. You got it: dark themes are usually used by video, photo and design apps. Light themes are for pure development work. I think visually that’s what Microsoft meant when creating Expression Blend.

The best part: you can open the same project in Visual Studio and Expression Blend. I usually use Expression Blend for all type of animations, transitions and layouts.


* SketchFlow Template for Windows Phone 7

2011-06-09 09h43_52And while you’re at Expression Blend, don’t forget to get this SketchFlow Template for Expression Blend. SketchFlow is like nothing else on this planet for prototyping apps!

The SketchFlow Template for Windows Phone 7 adds a new SketchFlow template for Expression Blend* users that makes creating a prototype of a Windows Phone app quick and easy.

* Please note: To use the SketchFlow Template for Windows Phone 7 you need to be using Blend 4 with SketchFlow enabled (this is the version of Blend that comes with both Expression Studio 4 Ultimate and Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate) you also need to have theMango developer tools for Windows Phone installed.

* Windows Phone Developer Tools (WPDT)

After installing core tools, get the Windows Phone Developers Tools (WPDT), which gets updated with every release of Windows Phone 7. The latest and greatest WPDT is Mango: version 7.1: Download the Windows Phone Developer Tools (WPDT) 7.1 Beta. Check this page for the latest.

* HTML5 and CSS3 Web Standards Update for Visual Studio

HTML5-logo.svgIf you want to develop your apps using latest HTML5 and CSS3 standards, remember to update your Visual Studio with this Web Standards update pack.

This is not a core piece, but it may help you when you edit HTML. For example, if you have a Web browser control in your Windows Phone 7 app, this will help Intellisense recognize video and canvas tags.

* Create Marketplace Account


You will need to publish your apps, right? So go ahead and create your App Hub account. This is where you’ll upload your app, track statistics etc. The signup is easy but will cost you $99 per year (because each app is actually tested when you submit it), and once you’re through you can publish your creations. If I were to compare Microsoft, Apple Store and Android Marketplace account processing: Android is the fastest and least expensive ($25), publishing apps is instantaneous, but standards are lower. Microsoft is pretty straightforward but a bit longer: it’ll take your app 3-5 days to appear on the marketplace. Apple Store is also $99, and it’s really painful and slow.

* Expression Design


Looking for a new vector graphics tool? Microsoft has Expression Design, which is a really cool tool, especially if you use Expression Blend already. The best part of it: since you’ll be developing Windows Phone apps in Silverlight (which is based on XAML), this tool allows you to do vector graphics in XAML!

In addition to vector graphics, you can also use Expression Design for pixel graphics and imaging. A couple of alternatives follow, especially if you’re used to other open source tools: Paint.NET and Inkscape.

* Paint.NET

You probably need an image editing app, I think Paint.NET serves the purpose. It’s a FREE app for imaging, and it’s really worth downloading. This is not a core tool and many people have image editing preferences (please, submit your comments – what tool do you like?), but this is one of the options.

* Inkscape

Inkscape Icon Clip Art

I use Inkscape for all vector graphics. It’s free and it’s a great vector tool that draws everything in open source SVG format. It’s a bit rough around the edges sometimes, not as polished as Adobe Illustrator, but it certainly does the job.

As an alternative use Microsoft Expression Design: then you can do vector graphics in XAML, a great advantage if you develop Silverlight (XAML based) apps anyway.

* Expression Encoder

imageWhat if your app uses video and you need to stream it to your Windows Phone app? Here’s a set of tools that can help! First, pick Expression Encoder. Encoder has presets for exporting your video in smooth streaming format or resolutions specific for Windows Phone 7. No need to guess, just pick a Windows Phone 7 preset and the Encoder handles the rest.

* Get an Azure Account

If you need to store videos or heavy files, you can get an Azure cloud account. With Azure there’s some free storage and capacity available, if you check the latest offerings.

* Azure Toolkit for Windows Phone 7

There’s also a set of tools for Windows Azure for Windows Phone 7 on Codeplex, check it out!

The kit is designed to make it easier for you to build mobile applications that leverage cloud services running in Windows Azure.  The toolkit includes Visual Studio project templates for Windows Phone 7 and Windows Azure, class libraries optimized for use on the phone, sample applications, and documentation.  All this content is designed to be easily reused, simplifying your experience and optimizing your time when building your own phone applications leveraging cloud services.


* Microsoft Media Framework Control

imageWindows Phone has a Media Player control, and you can also play video with browser control’s HTML 5 tag. But for some advanced functionality, check out Microsoft Media Framework, an open-source project hosted on Codeplex. The Media Framework supports smooth streaming, which significantly improves video playing.

Microsoft Media Framework control is very promising, and I hope eventually it’ll be included in Silverlight.

* WordPress XMLRPC Library

icon_bigIf you frequently develop apps that talk to blogs and use XMLRPC (such as WordPress), you may want to take a look at this post and Charles Cook’s XMLRPC library.

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