Windows Phone 7.5 - Using advanced tiles API

by Andrea Boschin

There is not any doubt, the first thing you meet when you use Windows Phone are the tiles. These are the large squares on the home screen that identifies some applications and they are also a distinguishable character that make your Windows Phone unique.

As you know for sure, the tiles can be attached or detached from the home screen and some particular software can take advantage of double size tiles. While this is not a feature available to developers, in OS7.5, the tiles gained new features and a new set of APIs that you can use to enrich your applications. As an example you are now able to update your tiles from inside the application and you can use double faced tiles to improve information to the user. In this article I would like to explore these new features and show how to take advantage of them, while porting your software to the new operating system.

Accessing and changing your tile(s)

Once your application is running the user can have pinned its tile on the home screen. If this happened, you can have access to a bunch of tile's properties you can change at every time while the application is running, but please take note that it implies that the tile exists. Obviously, none of these APIs can work if your application is not pinned.

The root of your work is the ShellTile class that gives you access to a collection of ActiveTiles. At the very first place in this collection there is a structure that represents the main tile of your application. Reading the previous paragraph, you can expect this collection is empty when you application has not been pinned, but it is not true. The collection always contains at least one element, and you can update it every time also if the application's tile is not in the home screen. This does not cause a visible change but if the user choose to pin the application at a later time its tile will reflect these changes. The ShellTile class returned by this collection contains an "Update" method that is useful to change the tile's content:

    1: StandardTileData data = new StandardTileData
    2: {
    3:     Title = "My tile!",
    4:     Count = 10,
    5:     BackgroundImage = new Uri("/Background.png", UriKind.RelativeOrAbsolute),
    6:     BackTitle = "This is the back",
    7:     BackContent = "Hallo!",
    8:     BackBackgroundImage = new Uri("/Background.png", UriKind.RelativeOrAbsolute)
    9: };
   11: ShellTile.ActiveTiles.First().Update(data);

The properties of the StandardTileData class reflect the parts of the tile and are divided in two categories: Front and Back. So, we have a "Title" property that reflects the title of the tile on the front side and the "BackTitle" that has the same meaning for the back side. This led to the consideration that in OS 7.5, tiles can have two sides available. It suffice you set the value of one of the "Back" properties and the tile automatically activates the back side on a random schedule.


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