Belgians at Build Day 2: Windows Azure Updates and Belgian Dinner

Together with about 25 other developers from Belgium, Olivier Matis (C# MVP) is at the Build conference in San Francisco this week. He’s sharing his experience at the conference in a series of blog posts. The MSDN Belux team

Day 2 at Build started with another keynote session, which was mostly about Azure. The platform is becoming incredibly versatile and powerful. I have the feeling there is something new every week. Not an easy job to be an Azure expert ;-). As a mobile developer, I really like the effort put in Windows Azure Mobile Services. The integration in Visual Studio is a great feature. If we could use C# instead of JavaScript, it would be almost perfect ;-).

Here’s a quick recap of some of the sessions I followed …

- Beautiful apps at any size on any screen

This session mainly described the new multi-window views. Basically, snap mode is optional now. The application minimum size is 500px. It still must have full functionality, though. You can still use snap mode, just as with Windows 8. Snap mode size can be from 320 to 499px, but in fact it will always be 320px, the rest will be filled. New feature: if you use different resources for each scale factor, then you can put them in a different resource file, and only the one that fits your device will be downloaded and installed. Scale factors are still the same.

- Designing and building user interfaces for Windows

This was more of a recap session. We went through the basic design guidelines, with lots of examples on how to break the rules so your design will not be just plain squares on a grid. Like they say: know the rules so you know when and how to break them.

- Design and build a great search experience in your app

This session was mainly about the new Search Box control. I thought they would talk about the new Bing search experience, etc. … but it was more about tips and tricks how to make search faster and more effective than about new features, as the Search Box uses the same system as the Search Pane. They did say more would be announced soon (in another 8.1 preview?).

- Dramatically increase performance when users interact with large amount of data in Gridview and Listview

Well we have a winner for the longest session name Glimlach.  Here’s an overview of some of the optimizations:

  • Virtualization: virtualization is by item now (some items before and after the ones showing) instead of by group (rendering an entire group as soon as one item of the group is showing).
  • Placeholder: if no time to render, some grey placeholder will show, showing there are some data.
  • Incremental: basically, the engine will raise an event for all items. You can then show what you want. First off, you better not show too much and register a callback. When all items are done in this phase, the callback will be called for all elements. Then, you can show more. You can then stop if all is rendered, or you can continue as much phases as you want. I like this, but you need to do this all by yourself (playing with opacity, setting text, etc. …). It would have been nice to have something you can set in XAML, e.g. a priority number that said which items are the most important, so those will be rendered in the first phase. (Note: there might be a behavior developed by the XAML team, but I’m not sure if I understood correctly).
  • Presenter: the presenter visual tree has been simplified (there were 15+ objects before). For the selected template, the drag one, etc.… now there is only one control. There are properties for the basic stuff like selection color, etc. … but if you really need a custom template, there is a way too.

Most of the time, those improvements are by default on 8.1. For 8.0 apps, you just need to recompile.

Build is not only about the sessions of course, there’s also lot of fun stuff going on …

Yesterday was the VIP party:

VIP Party Build VIP Party Build - 2 Captain Coke

There are a lot of devices on display in the expo area at the conference:

Devices at Build Devices at Build - 2

We also had nice Belgian dinner organized by Microsoft Belgium in a good restaurant (Cliff House):

Our table The view! Best salmon I ever ate ...

Tomorrow the conference ends at 3PM – stay tuned for my last report!

Olivier Matis C# MVP MEET member .NET Architect