Creating Your First Mobile Device Application

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Creating Applications for Mobile Devices

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Amateur developers and coders are often intimidated with the various issues surrounding the development of apps for mobile devices. Thankfully, the advanced technology available to us today, makes it relatively simple in creating mobile applications. This article focuses on how to create mobile apps across a vast range of mobile platforms.

Creating a mobile application

How do you go about creating your first mobile application? The first aspect you have to look at here is the size of the deployment that you are aiming to create and the platform that you intend to use. In this article, we deal with creating mobile apps for Windows, Pocket PC and Smartphones.

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    Creating your First Windows Mobile Application

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    Windows Mobile was a powerful platform that enabled developers to create varied applications to enhance user experience. Having Windows CE 5.0 as its basis, Windows Mobile packed in many features that included shell and communications functionality. Creating Windows Mobile applications was made easy for the app developer - almost as easy as creating desktop apps.

    Windows Mobile has now faded out, giving way to Windows Phone 7 and the most recent Windows Phone 8 mobile platforms, which have caught the fancy of app developers and mobile users alike.

    What you will need

    You will need the following to start creating your mobile app:

    • Visual Studio 2005 or 2008: This nifty program allows you to create, author, debug and present your application, all from one single platform. The interface is easy to understand and use as well.
    • Windows Mobile SDK: This useful tool contains the API header and library files that are vital to access the Windows Mobile functionality. It also gives you sample apps, debug emulators and documentation.
    • ActiveSync or Windows Mobile Device Center: Active Sync and Windows Mobile Device Center help in deploying applications to an emulator or device. While Windows XP works with Active Sync, Windows Vista comes with the Windows Mobile Device Center.

    Tools you can use to write data on Windows Mobile

    Visual Studio offers you all the tools necessary to build apps in native code, managed code or a combination of these two languages. Let us now look at the tools you can use to write data for creating Windows Mobile apps.

    Native Code, that is, Visual C++ - gives you direct hardware access and high performance, with a small footprint. This is written in the "native" language used by the computer that it runs on and is directly executed by the processor.

    Native code can only be used to run unmanaged applications - all data must be recompiled in case you move on to another OS.

    Managed code, that is, Visual C# or Visual Basic .NET - can be used to create varied user-interface type of applications and gives the developer access to Web data and services by making use of Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Compact Edition.

    This approach solves many coding problems inherent in C++, while also managing memory, emulation and debugging, which are most essential to write more advanced, complicated apps that target business enterprise software and solutions.

    ASP.NET can be written using Visual Studio .NET, C# and J#. ASP.NET Mobile Controls is effective for use on several devices using a single code set, as also if you need a guaranteed data bandwidth for your device.

    While ASP.NET helps you target a variety of devices, the disadvantage is that it will work only when the client device is connected to the server. Hence, this is not suitable for collecting client data to later synchronize it with the server or for applications that directly use the device for handling data.

    Google Data APIs help developers access and manage all data related to Google services. Since these are based on standard protocols like HTTP and XML, coders can easily create and build apps for the Windows Mobile platform.

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  • 03
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    Build and Run your First Windows Mobile Application

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    The following steps help you create an empty Windows Mobile application:

    • Create a new project

    Open Visual Studio and go to File > New > Project. Expand the Project Types pane and select Smart Device. Go to the Templates pane, choose Smart Device Project and hit OK. Select Device Application here and click OK. Congratulations! You just created your first project.

    • Play around with coding

    The Toolbox pane lets you play around with many features. Check out each of these drag-and-drop buttons for gaining more familiarity with the way the program works.

    • Run your application

    The next step involves running your application on a Windows Mobile device. Connect the device to the desktop, hit the F5 key, choose the emulator or device to deploy it to and select OK. If all goes well, you will see your application running smoothly.

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    Creating Applications for Smartphones

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    Creating apps for Smartphones is similar to Windows Mobile devices. But you need to first understand your device. Smartphones have features similar to PDAs, so they have send and end button features. The back-key is used both for backspace and browser back functions.

    The best thing about this device is the soft key, which is programmable. You can employ this feature to create multiple functions. The central button also acts as an "Enter" button.

    Note: You have to install SmartPhone 2003 SDK to write smartphone applications using Visual Studio .NET 2003.

    What if the smartphone has a touchscreen?

    Here comes the difficult part. In the absence of button controls in a touchscreen handheld, you will have to choose alternate controls, such as the menu. Visual Studio gives you a MainMenu control, which is customizable. But too many top-level menu options will cause the system to crash. What you can do is to create very few top-level menus and give a variety of options under each one of them.

    Writing apps for BlackBerry smartphones

    Developing apps for the BlackBerry OS is big business today. For writing a BlackBerry app, you will have to possess:

    • The BlackBerry JDE Plug-in for Eclipse
    • A BlackBerry simulator
    • BlackBerry smartphone and data cable
    • JAVA programming knowledge.

    Eclipse works great with JAVA programming. A new project, filed with a .COD extension, can be directly loaded onto the simulator. You can then test the app by loading it through Device Manager or by using the "Javaloader" command line option.

    Note: Not all BlackBerry APIs will work for all BlackBerry smartphones. So note the devices that accept the code.

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  • 05
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    Creating Applications for Pocket PC

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    Creating apps for the Pocket PC is similar to that of the above devices. The difference here is that the device uses the .NET Compact Framework, which is more than ten times "lighter" than the full Windows version and also offers developers more features, controls and Web services support.

    The entire package can be stowed away in a tiny CAB file and installed directly on your target device - this works out much quicker and more hassle-free.

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    What next?

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    Once you have learnt to create a basic mobile device application, you should proceed further and try to enhance your knowledge. Here is how:

    • Take active part in developer forums and discussions.
    • Enrol in learning labs, both online and otherwise. This will give you more tips and tricks on creating varied applications.
    • View online video tutorials on building apps across various mobile platforms.
    • Subscribe to Webcasts for constant updates on the subject.
    Creating Applications for Different Mobile Systems