Create a Xamarin.Forms app with Azure

This tutorial shows you how to add a cloud-based back-end service to a Xamarin.Forms mobile app by using the Mobile Apps feature of Azure App Service as the back end. You create both a new Mobile Apps back end and a simple to-do list Xamarin.Forms app that stores app data in Azure.

Completing this tutorial is a prerequisite for all other Mobile Apps tutorials for Xamarin.Forms.

Prerequisites

To complete this tutorial, you need the following:

  • An active Azure account. If you don't have an account, you can sign up for an Azure trial and get up to 10 free mobile apps that you can keep using even after your trial ends. For more information, see Azure Free Trial.

  • Visual Studio Tools for Xamarin, in Visual Studio 2017 or later, or Visual Studio for Mac. See the Xamarin installation page for instructions.

  • (optional) To build an iOS app, a Mac with Xcode 9.0 or later is required. Visual Studio for Mac can be used to develop iOS apps, or Visual Studio 2017 or later can be used (so long as the Mac is available on the network).

Create a new Mobile Apps back end

  1. Sign in to the Azure portal.

  2. Click Create a resource.

  3. In the search box, type Mobile Apps.

  4. In the results list, select Mobile App, and then select Create.

  5. Choose a unique App name. This will also be part of the domain name for your App Service.

  6. Select the Subscription for this mobile app.

  7. Under Resource Group, select an existing resource group or create a new one (using the same name as your app).

  8. Click Create. Wait a few minutes for the service to be deployed successfully before proceeding. Watch the Notifications (bell) icon in the portal header for status updates.

Create a database connection and configure the client and server project

  1. Download the client SDK quickstarts for the following platforms:

    iOS (Objective-C)
    iOS (Swift)
    Android (Java)
    Xamarin.iOS
    Xamarin.Android
    Xamarin.Forms
    Cordova
    Windows (C#)

    Note

    If you use the iOS project you need to download "azuresdk-iOS-*.zip" from latest GitHub release. Unzip and add the MicrosoftAzureMobile.framework file to the project's root.

  2. You will have to add a database connection or connect to an existing connection. First, determine whether you’ll create a data store or use an existing one.

    • Create a new data store: If you’re going to create a data store, use the following quickstart:

      Quickstart: Getting started with single databases in Azure SQL Database

    • Existing data source: Follow the instructions below if you want to use an existing database connection

      1. SQL Database Connection String format - Data Source=tcp:{your_SQLServer},{port};Initial Catalog={your_catalogue};User ID={your_username};Password={your_password}

        {your_SQLServer} Name of the server, this can be found in the overview page for your database and is usually in the form of “server_name.database.windows.net”. {port} usually 1433. {your_catalogue} Name of the database. {your_username} User name to access your database. {your_password} Password to access your database.

        Learn more about SQL Connection String format

      2. Add the connection string to your mobile app In App Service, you can manage connection strings for your application by using the Configuration option in the menu.

        To add a connection string:

        1. Click on the Application settings tab.

        2. Click on [+] New connection string.

        3. You will need to provide Name, Value and Type for your connection string.

        4. Type Name as MS_TableConnectionString

        5. Value should be the connecting string you formed in the step before.

        6. If you are adding a connection string to a SQL Azure database choose SQLAzure under type.

  3. Azure Mobile Apps has SDKs for .NET and Node.js backends.

    • Node.js backend

      If you’re going to use Node.js quickstart app, follow the instructions below.

      1. In the Azure portal, go to Easy Tables, you will see this screen.

        Node Easy Tables

      2. Make sure the SQL connection string is already added in the Configuration tab. Then check the box of I acknowledge that this will overwrite all site contents and click the Create TodoItem table button.

        Node Easy Tables Configuration

      3. In Easy Tables, click the + Add button.

        Node Easy Tables Add Button

      4. Create a TodoItem table with anonymous access.

        Node Easy Tables Add Table

    • .NET backend

      If you’re going to use .NET quickstart app, follow the instructions below.

      1. Download the Azure Mobile Apps .NET server project from the azure-mobile-apps-quickstarts repository.

      2. Build the .NET server project locally in Visual Studio.

      3. In Visual Studio, open Solution Explorer, right-click on ZUMOAPPNAMEService project, click Publish, you will see a Publish to App Service window. If you are working on Mac, check out other ways to deploy the app here.

        Visual studio publishing

      4. Select App Service as publish target, then click Select Existing, then click the Publish button at the bottom of the window.

      5. You will need to log into Visual Studio with your Azure subscription first. Select the Subscription, Resource Group, and then select the name of your app. When you are ready, click OK, this will deploy the .NET server project that you have locally into the App Service backend. When deployment finishes, you will be redirected to http://{zumoappname}.azurewebsites.net/ in the browser.

        Backend is up

Run the Xamarin.Forms solution

The Visual Studio Tools for Xamarin are required to open the solution, see the Xamarin installation instructions. If the tools are already installed, follow these steps to download and open the solution:

Visual Studio (Windows and Mac)

  1. Go to the Azure portal and navigate to the mobile app that you created. On the Overview blade, look for the URL which is the public endpoint for your mobile app. Example - the sitename for my app name "test123" will be https://test123.azurewebsites.net.

  2. Open the file Constants.cs in this folder - xamarin.forms/ZUMOAPPNAME. The application name is ZUMOAPPNAME.

  3. In Constants.cs class, replace ZUMOAPPURL variable with public endpoint above.

    public static string ApplicationURL = @"ZUMOAPPURL";

    becomes

    public static string ApplicationURL = @"https://test123.azurewebsites.net";

  4. Follow the instructions below to run the Android or Windows projects; and if there is a networked Mac computer available, the iOS project.

(Optional) Run the Android project

In this section, you run the Xamarin.Android project. You can skip this section if you are not working with Android devices.

Visual Studio

  1. Right-click the Android (Droid) project, and then select Set as StartUp Project.

  2. On the Build menu, select Configuration Manager.

  3. In the Configuration Manager dialog box, select the Build and Deploy check boxes next to the Android project, and ensure the shared code project has the Build box checked.

  4. To build the project and start the app in an Android emulator, press the F5 key or click the Start button.

Visual Studio for Mac

  1. Right-click the Android project, and then select Set As Startup Project.

  2. To build the project and start the app in an Android emulator, select the Run menu, then Start Debugging.

In the app, type meaningful text, such as Learn Xamarin, and then select the plus sign (+).

Android to-do app

This action sends a post request to the new Mobile Apps back end that's hosted in Azure. Data from the request is inserted into the TodoItem table. Items that are stored in the table are returned by the Mobile Apps back end, and the data is displayed in the list.

Note

The code that accesses your Mobile Apps back end is in the TodoItemManager.cs C# file of the shared code project in the solution.

(Optional) Run the iOS project

In this section, you run the Xamarin.iOS project for iOS devices. You can skip this section if you are not working with iOS devices.

Visual Studio

  1. Right-click the iOS project, and then select Set as StartUp Project.

  2. On the Build menu, select Configuration Manager.

  3. In the Configuration Manager dialog box, select the Build and Deploy check boxes next to the iOS project, and ensure the shared code project has the Build box checked.

  4. To build the project and start the app in the iPhone emulator, select the F5 key.

Visual Studio for Mac

  1. Right-click the iOS project, and then select Set As Startup Project.

  2. On the Run menu, select Start Debugging to build the project and start the app in the iPhone emulator.

In the app, type meaningful text, such as Learn Xamarin, and then select the plus sign (+).

iOS to-do app

This action sends a post request to the new Mobile Apps back end that's hosted in Azure. Data from the request is inserted into the TodoItem table. Items that are stored in the table are returned by the Mobile Apps back end, and the data is displayed in the list.

Note

You'll find the code that accesses your Mobile Apps back end in the TodoItemManager.cs C# file of the shared code project in the solution.

(Optional) Run the Windows project

In this section, you run the Xamarin.Forms Universal Windows Platform (UWP) project for Windows devices. You can skip this section if you are not working with Windows devices.

Visual Studio

  1. Right-click any the UWP project, and then select Set as StartUp Project.

  2. On the Build menu, select Configuration Manager.

  3. In the Configuration Manager dialog box, select the Build and Deploy check boxes next to the Windows project that you chose, and ensure the shared code project has the Build box checked.

  4. To build the project and start the app in a Windows emulator, press the F5 key or click the Start button (which should read Local Machine).

Note

The Windows project cannot be run on macOS.

In the app, type meaningful text, such as Learn Xamarin, and then select the plus sign (+).

This action sends a post request to the new Mobile Apps back end that's hosted in Azure. Data from the request is inserted into the TodoItem table. Items that are stored in the table are returned by the Mobile Apps back end, and the data is displayed in the list.

UWP to-do app

Note

You'll find the code that accesses your Mobile Apps back end in the TodoItemManager.cs C# file of the portable class library project of your solution.

Troubleshooting

If you have problems building the solution, run the NuGet package manager and update to the latest version of Xamarin.Forms, and in the Android project, update the Xamarin.Android support packages. Quickstart projects might not always include the latest versions.

Please note that all the support packages referenced in your Android project must have the same version. The Azure Mobile Apps NuGet package has Xamarin.Android.Support.CustomTabs dependency for Android platform, so if your project uses newer support packages you need to install this package with required version directly to avoid conflicts.