SharpGIS

#GIS from a .NET developer's perspective

Fixing Visual Studio’s auto generated code

I usually have a zero-tolerance when it comes to build warnings. While granted often the warnings are benign, having a lot will very often hide the important ones. Sometimes I even set the option “treat warnings as errors” to help me enforce this. When you’re building a library, you should also add XML doc comments to your classes and members, so you get full intellisense support in the projects you’re using it from. Just remember to check off the following check box:

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This also have the benefit of giving you warnings for missing doc comments on public members, so you remember to write proper doc. However if you’re building for Windows Store or Phone, there’s a good chance you’ll see these four warnings now:

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These are coming from code auto-generated by the compiler which exposes a set of public classes. You can even see these in intellisense:

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This is a major issue in my mind. First of all it introduces warnings in code you didn’t write, and it pollutes your class library with methods that are not meant to be used. Here’s what this auto-generated class looks like:

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The fix seems simple: Just go in and add the doc comments, and problem is solved, right? Not really. The problem is any changes you make to this file is overwritten every time you build. So we need to tweak the file right after it’s being generated, but right before it’s being compiled, but who’s that fast?

Enter: The Build Task

We can use a build task to do exactly that, and tell Visual Studio to let us know that its about to compile the code and fix it ourselves.

First create a new empty Windows Class Library, and add the following two references:

image

Next add the following class and compile:

XamlTypeInfoBuildTask.cs

using Microsoft.Build.Framework;
using Microsoft.Build.Utilities;
using System;

namespace XamlBuildTasks
{
    public class XamlTypeInfoBuildTask : Task
    {
        private const string XamlTypeInfoFileName = "XamlTypeInfo.g.cs";

        [Required]
        public string IntermediateOutputPath { get; set; }       
       
        public override bool Execute()
        {
            string filename = IntermediateOutputPath + XamlTypeInfoFileName;
            if (!System.IO.File.Exists(filename))
                return false;
            string code = System.IO.File.ReadAllText(filename);

            if (code.StartsWith("#pragma warning disable 1591")) //Already modified
                return true;
            int idx = code.IndexOf("[System.CodeDom.Compiler.GeneratedCodeAttribute");
            if (idx < 0)
                return false;
            string insert = "[System.ComponentModel.EditorBrowsable(System.ComponentModel.EditorBrowsableState.Never)]\n";
            code = "#pragma warning disable 1591\n" + code.Substring(0, idx) + insert + code.Substring(idx) +
                "#pragma warning restore 1591\n";
            System.IO.File.WriteAllText(filename, code);
            return true;
        }
    }
}

What does this class do? Simple: It has one property: The folder where the intermediate files including XamlTypeInfo.g.cs is. It then opens the file to be modified, and first injects “#pragma warning disable 1591” at the header which disables doc warnings, and re-enables it again at the bottom. At the same time we hide the class from intellisense, by setting the EditorBrowsable attribute on the class. This doesn’t really remove the class from the assembly – it just tells Visual Studio to skip showing this for intellisense.

To use this build-task, we need to add a little bit to the project file that causes this issue. We’ll first create a .targets file with the parameters for buildtask. Place this next to the compiled DLL (and use the name of the dll where highlighted):

XamlTypeInfoBuildTask.targets

<Project xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/developer/msbuild/2003">
  <UsingTask TaskName="XamlTypeInfoBuildTask"
            AssemblyFile="$(MSBuildThisFileDirectory)XamlBuildTask.dll" />
  <Target Name="MyBuildTask" AfterTargets="MarkupCompilePass2" BeforeTargets="CoreCompile">
    <XamlTypeInfoBuildTask IntermediateOutputPath="$(IntermediateOutputPath)" />
  </Target>
</Project>

This tells the project to run this before the compilation after the markup has been processed. It also sets the IntermediateOutputPath property on our build task, so the build task can find the file.

Now the last step is to reference this .targets file from the csproj file. Open the csproj file up in notepad, and scroll down to the <Import…/> tags, and add the following (remember to modify the highlighted paths to where the targets file is:

  <Import Project="..\..\..\build\XamlTypeInfoBuildTask.targets" Condition="Exists('..\..\..\build\XamlTypeInfoBuildTask.targets')" />

Now when we build, we get a nice pretty build with no warnings:

image

And here’s all the auto-generated classes, gone from intellisense:

image

Making all this simpler

Naturally this is a bit of a pain having to set up over and over again. So unless you ever have to do a similar build task, you can forget everything you just read (sorry Smile), and just use the Nuget package I created that’ll do all this for you.

Simply add a reference to this nuget package, and the build task dll is downloaded and the .targets file auto-referenced.

And if you want the source code? It’s all available here on Github: https://github.com/dotMorten/XamlTypeInfoBuildTask

Enjoy!

Create Universal Map App In Under 2 Minutes

We just released the second beta drop of the 'ArcGIS Runtime for .NET SDK', which now supports both Windows Store 8.1, Windows Phone 8.1 in addition to WPF. This means you can now build universal apps with a map control that supports all these platforms. We also released the package on NuGet for your convenience.

As a demonstration how quick it is to create a Windows Phone and Windows Store app, here's a little video creating a universal map app from scratch in 80 seconds:

 

Note: The nuget package currently doesn't support WPF. You will need to download the full setup to get WPF support as well, instead of using the nuget version.

Behind the scenes of “Universal Apps”

At Build 2014, Microsoft announced the new ‘Universal Apps’ project type that allows you to share code between Windows Phone and Windows Store apps, using a new ‘shared’ project. Below is an example of the default hub project that shares a lot of the code has individual views for the parts where you want to tweak the UI specifically for phone or tablets.

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Before we had shared projects, we could do something similar, by linking the same code files into multiple projects. It worked fairly well, but which ever project you open the file from, is the ‘context’ you look at it, so intellisense etc might not match the platform you’re looking at. The universal apps really aren’t any different. This is really just a nice tooling on top of linked files that makes it easier to work with. Also it is much easier to change the ‘context’ the code is viewed in using a simple dropdown above your code:

image

As shown above, you can still use compiler conditionals to write individual differences for each platform and still share the rest of the code file. So again this is the same as when working with linked files, but the shared project makes this much easier.

So how does this really work? If we look in the project file for Windows Phone or Windows Store project you’ll find the highlighted tag:

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So the specific project simply references another project – kind of like how a linked file works, but in this case an entire group of files. Looking in the shared project that’s references, you find a fairly simple file, but this in turn references a file called [ProjectName].Shared.projitems, and the contents of this is really just a standard project with the files etc that needs to be referenced in the referencing project.

image

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The last piece to the puzzle is in the .sln solution file that makes sure the projects are nicely grouped together. There’s two parts to the solution that makes this work:

image

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The Guids are the project guids referencing the projects that needs to be grouped as a universal project.

Microsoft only gives you the tooling to do Windows Store and Windows Phone Universal projects. However knowing how this now works, it makes you wonder if you can manually go add the Shared Project reference to for example your WPF application, and add it to the solution under the nested project parts. And in fact you can! Below is an example of the ArcGIS Runtime Toolkit (which today uses linked files to compile for Store, Phone and WPF): Note how ‘Generic.xaml’ is the only file not shared, because the UI has been optimized for each platform, and also WPF XAML isn’t compatible with Store and Phone. Again the Universal Apps makes this really easy to manage files you don’t want shared.

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And the context switcher now also shows a third option:

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In fact I can make a shared project that’s used in a Windows Store, Windows Phone, WPF, Silverlight, Console, Windows Forms etc etc! Of course at some point the platforms are so different the amount of code that is shared will be reduced, but I find this as a great alternative to PCL without the limitations of PCLs.

Talking to the people behind this feature, this functionality does come with a warning: First of all this hasn’t been extensively tested, so you might hit issues with it. Another thing to be careful with is build actions. For example if you want to share image Assets, you want to set the build action to ‘Content’ for Windows Phone and Windows Store, but in WPF you want to set it to ‘Resource’, and this naturally isn’t supported (but you can still used linked files in the individual projects to work around this).

The layout of an ExtensionSDK

Extension SDKs are a very powerful way distribute your control libraries for use in Windows Store and Windows Phone apps.
This article will go through the layout of the extension sdk, and later take that knowledge to build an extension sdk from an already released app.

An ExtensionSDK essentially consists of 3 parts:

  • Files to use during design time
  • Files to deploy as content
  • Assemblies to use for reference

In addition there's a metadata file 'SDKManifest.xml' that describes the content.

The root layout then looks like the following:
    \EXTENSIONNAME\VERSION\DesignTime\
    \EXTENSIONNAME\VERSION\Redist\
    \EXTENSIONNAME\VERSION\References\
    \EXTENSIONNAME\VERSION\SDKManifest.xml
…where 'EXTENSIONAME' is the name of your extension, and VERSION is version number in the format "1.2.3.4".
   
For each of these groups you can control what gets deployed in debug and release or both. If you don't want to control whether you use debug or release, you will below these folders use the folder 'CommonConfiguration'. For debug specific configuration use 'Debug', and for release configuration use 'Retail'. In most case you will be using 'CommonConfiguration' though.
This means our folder structure now looks like this:
    \EXTENSIONNAME\VERSION\DesignTime\CommonConfiguration\
    \EXTENSIONNAME\VERSION\Redist\CommonConfiguration\
    \EXTENSIONNAME\VERSION\References\CommonConfiguration\

Next level down in the folders describe if files are related to AnyCPU, x86, x64 or ARM builds (the latter is very useful for C++ projects). For AnyCPU use 'neutral', meaning it doesn't matter. So use this for .NET Assemblies compiled for AnyCPU, image resources, winmd files etc. You will want to use the architecture specific folder if you deploy binaries that are architecture specific.

So what goes in what folders:

  • DesignTime: This is where you will put .Design assemblies if you have specific design time binaries for your assemblies, as well as Generic.xaml. You only need to deploy 'neutral' and/or 'x86' architectures, since VS runs in a 32bit process.
  • Redist: Images, shaders, Generic.xbf, videos etc, AND C++ binaries.
  • References: .NET DLLs, C++ WinMDs, xml doc.

Here's an example layout of an extension sdk that consists of two libraries: One C++ WinRT component (NativeLib) and a Managed library:
    \MyControlLib\1.0.0.0\SDKManifest.xml
    \MyControlLib\1.0.0.0\DesignTime\CommonConfiguration\neutral\ManagedLib\Themes\Generic.xaml
    \MyControlLib\1.0.0.0\DesignTime\CommonConfiguration\x86\ManagedLib.Design.dll
    \MyControlLib\1.0.0.0\Redist\CommonConfiguration\neutral\ManagedLib.pri
    \MyControlLib\1.0.0.0\Redist\CommonConfiguration\neutral\NativeLib.pri
    \MyControlLib\1.0.0.0\Redist\CommonConfiguration\neutral\ManagedLib\Icon.png
    \MyControlLib\1.0.0.0\Redist\CommonConfiguration\neutral\ManagedLib\Themes\Generic.xbf
    \MyControlLib\1.0.0.0\Redist\CommonConfiguration\neutral\NativeLib\shaders\PixelShader.cso
    \MyControlLib\1.0.0.0\Redist\CommonConfiguration\neutral\NativeLib\shaders\VertexShader.cso
    \MyControlLib\1.0.0.0\Redist\CommonConfiguration\ARM\NativeLib.dll
    \MyControlLib\1.0.0.0\Redist\CommonConfiguration\x86\NativeLib.dll
    \MyControlLib\1.0.0.0\Redist\CommonConfiguration\x64\NativeLib.dll
    \MyControlLib\1.0.0.0\References\CommonConfiguration\neutral\NativeLib.winmd
    \MyControlLib\1.0.0.0\References\CommonConfiguration\ARM\ManagedLib.dll
    \MyControlLib\1.0.0.0\References\CommonConfiguration\ARM\ManagedLib.xml
    \MyControlLib\1.0.0.0\References\CommonConfiguration\x64\ManagedLib.dll
    \MyControlLib\1.0.0.0\References\CommonConfiguration\x64\ManagedLib.xml
    \MyControlLib\1.0.0.0\References\CommonConfiguration\x86\ManagedLib.dll
    \MyControlLib\1.0.0.0\References\CommonConfiguration\x86\ManagedLib.xml

The SDKManifest could look like the following:

    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
    <FileList
      xmlns:xsi="
http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance"
      xsi:noNamespaceSchemaLocation="SDKManifest.xsd"
      DisplayName="My Super Duper Control Library"
      ProductFamilyName="MyControlLib"
      Description="My Control Library"
      MinVSVersion="12.0"
      Identity="MyControlLib, Version=1.0.0.0"
      MinToolsVersion="12.0"
      AppliesTo="WindowsAppContainer + ( Managed )"
      SupportedArchitectures="x86;x64;ARM"
      DependsOn="Microsoft.VCLibs, version=12.0"
      SupportsMultipleVersions="Error">
        <File Reference="NativeLib.winmd" Implementation="NativeLib.dll" />
        <File Reference="ManagedLib.dll"/>
    </FileList>

   
Note that if you don't have native dependencies, this would change quite a lot. The full set of properties are pretty poorly documented today, so generally I download and install a wealth of extension sdks and look at them and see if they do similar things to me and then copy from that.

Building an Extension SDK from an installed app

So now that we know the layout of an extension sdk, let us apply that to 'reverse-engineering' an already deployed app into an extension sdk and use that to build our own app on top. Because Windows Store apps aren't fully encrypted, this means you can often take parts of an app that's separated out into libraries and build a new app from these libraries. This is something to consider when you build your app - if you are really good are separating your stuff into sub-libraries, you also make it easier for others to reuse your stuff. As an example let's download the Bing Maps Preview app and reverse it into an SDK and build our own 3D Map App.

When you installed the app, you will be able to access a folder with a name similar to the following with administrator rights:
"c:\Program Files\WindowsApps\Microsoft.Maps3DPreview_2.1.2326.2333_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe\"

In here we'll find a lot of logic for the app, but the main one we are interested in is the "Bing.Maps" folder and the Bing.Maps dll+winmd. The folder is essentially the content and is image resources and shaders. The Bing Maps.dll and Winmd are C++ WinRT components. Since the dll is C++, the architecture will either be ARM, x86 or x64 depending on what PC you downloaded it on. In my case it's x64 so I should be able to build an extension sdk that will support 64 bit PCs from this alone. If I want to support more, I will have to install the app on a x86 or ARM PC and copy the dll from there as well (the other files are neutral and will be the same).

So let's first create the following folder : "Bing.Maps\1.0.0.0\".

Next, let's copy the "Bing.Maps" folder that has all the images and shaders into
    \Bing.Maps\1.0.0.0\Redist\CommonConfiguration\neutral\Bing.Maps\
Next copy the Bing.Maps.dll into (x64 if that's what you have, change/add ARM/x86 if your binary isn't x64)
    \Bing.Maps\1.0.0.0\Redist\CommonConfiguration\x64\Bing.Maps.dll
Lastly, copy the Bing.Maps.winmd into:
    \Bing.Maps\1.0.0.0\References\CommonConfiguration\neutral\Bing.Maps.winmd

Lastly we need to create a new file in \Bing.Maps\1.0.0.0\SDKManifest.xml to describe the SDK:

    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
    <FileList
      xmlns:xsi="
http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance"
      xsi:noNamespaceSchemaLocation="SDKManifest.xsd"
      DisplayName="Bing Maps"
      ProductFamilyName="Bing.Maps"
      MinVSVersion="12.0"
      Identity="Bing.Maps, Version=1.0.0.0"
      MinToolsVersion="12.0"
      AppliesTo="WindowsAppContainer"
      SupportedArchitectures="x86;x64;ARM"
      DependsOn="Microsoft.VCLibs, version=12.0"
      SupportsMultipleVersions="Error">
        <File Reference="Bing.Maps.winmd" Implementation="Bing.Maps.dll" />
    </FileList>

Voila! We now have an ExtensionSDK. There's several ways you can 'install' this into Visual Studio. The simplest way is to copy the folder into your user folder under %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Microsoft SDKs\<target platform>\v<platform version number>\ExtensionSDKs.
In this case %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Microsoft SDKs\Windows\v8.1\ExtensionSDKs\

If you're building an installer you can also install it into
    %Program Files%\Microsoft SDKs\Windows\v8.1\ExtensionSDKs
Or specify a link to the location of the folder in a registry key:
    HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Microsoft SDKs\Windows\v8.1\ExtensionSDKs\Bing.Maps\1.0.0.0\

Lastly you can do this in your project file    by using the 'SDKReferenceDirectoryRoot' tag. Add the following right before the <Target Name="BeforeBuild"/> tag at the very bottom.

  <PropertyGroup>
    <SDKReferenceDirectoryRoot>c:\myfolder\my_sdks\;$(SDKReferenceDirectoryRoot)</SDKReferenceDirectoryRoot>
  </PropertyGroup>

Note that for the latter, the folder should point to a root extension sdk folder, meaning the SDK above must be located in a certain tree under this folder. In this case:
    c:\myfolder\my_sdks\Windows\v8.1\ExtensionSDKs\Bing.Maps

When you've done any of these install options, you can now get started building an app. Go to "Add References" and the Bing Maps entry should show up.

image

Now add the following XAML to your page:

        <bing:Map x:Name="map" xmlns:bing="using:Bing.Maps">
            <bing:Map.MapProjection>
                <bing:ThreeDimensionalMapProjection />
            </bing:Map.MapProjection>
        </bing:Map>

And in code-behind after "InitializeComponents":

            map.BaseLayers = Bing.Maps.BaseLayers.CreatePhotoRealisticOverlay();

Run the app and you should see a 3D globe!

image

Note: This Bing Maps SDK is not based on anything officially released but on a un-finished app. This is by all means a giant hack and only meant as an exercise to build an Extension SDK. Use this at your own risk and don’t attempt to publish any apps using it.

References:

Adding a platform target dropdown to Visual Studio

Lately I’ve been writing or using a lot of native libraries in my Windows Phone and Windows 8 apps. If you are using sqlite, Bing maps, or any other 3rd party native dependency in your .NET app, you’ve probably hit the same issue if your Visual Studio is configured for C# or VB.NET layout: There’s no quick way to tell if you’re compiling for x86, ARM or x64 or to change it. You’ll need to go to the Configuration Manager menu, and change it there:

image

It’s really annoying when switching devices and I forget to pick the right platform, or think I’m working on a different target that I am. If you configured your Visual Studio for C++, you will have noticed this has a second dropdown next to the release/debug dropdown where you can quickly glance what platform you’re targeting and can change it instantly.

image

Fortunately you can add this dropdown to your Visual Studio even if it was configured for .NET. Below is a video of the steps needed to add it to your toolbar:

Decoding the IXamlMetadataProvider interface - Part 1

The WinRT XAML SDK holds a big secret. It’s even a secret why it’s a secret. But you’ll see several of forum posts with Microsoft staff hinting at this secret, but not following up with actual examples or sufficient documentation.

So what is this secret? Well let’s start with good old WPF, Silverlight and what else is dead. One of the issues with these frameworks has been performance, and one of the performance issues was converting XAML into running code at runtime. This requires a lot of reflection and was part of the performance problem. WinRT attempts to solve this by taking this hit during compile time. It basically generates metadata about the classes you use, and thereby avoids the reflection overhead. At first glance this is pretty clever but as I’ll show later can also have some major issues that require a lot of code using hardly documented interfaces to resolve.

This is my attempt to decode some of these interfaces. I’m not fully understanding all the bits myself yet, so this blogpost is partly to share what I found, but also my process for better understanding it.

So back to the big secret: IXamlMetadataProvider. This is the main interface that drives this type resolving at runtime, and for the most part this is done for you, and this is also where our journey will start, because we can take a peek at that work. Open any of your Windows Store XAML apps projects, turn on the “show all files”, and open up the secret \obj\[Config]\XamlTypeInfo.g.cs file.

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The code will look something like this in the top:

image

Keep scrolling a bit down, and you’ll start seeing some string-based typename lookups, including the types you use in your app:

image

Now let’s try and create a new class and see what happens to this file. Let’s add the following class:

public class StringCollection : ObservableCollection<string> { } 

Rebuild, and check the auto generated file. You’ll notice that this class does not show up. This is because it’s not used in XAML or by anything else that is used in XAML. Next try declaring this collection as a resource in XAML:

<Grid.Resources>
    <local:StringCollection x:Key="coll" />
</Grid.Resources>

Let’s jump back and look at the CreateXamlType method that magically  just got updated with a whole lot of more code:

private Windows.UI.Xaml.Markup.IXamlType CreateXamlType(string typeName)
{
    XamlMetadataSample.XamlMetadataSample_XamlTypeInfo.XamlSystemBaseType xamlType = null;
    XamlMetadataSample.XamlMetadataSample_XamlTypeInfo.XamlUserType userType;

    switch (typeName)
    {
    case "Object":
        xamlType = new XamlMetadataSample.XamlMetadataSample_XamlTypeInfo.XamlSystemBaseType(typeName, typeof(object));
        break;

    case "String":
        xamlType = new XamlMetadataSample.XamlMetadataSample_XamlTypeInfo.XamlSystemBaseType(typeName, typeof(string));
        break;

    case "Int32":
        xamlType = new XamlMetadataSample.XamlMetadataSample_XamlTypeInfo.XamlSystemBaseType(typeName, typeof(int));
        break;

    case "Windows.UI.Xaml.Controls.Page":
        xamlType = new XamlMetadataSample.XamlMetadataSample_XamlTypeInfo.XamlSystemBaseType(typeName, typeof(Windows.UI.Xaml.Controls.Page));
        break;

    case "Windows.UI.Xaml.Controls.UserControl":
        xamlType = new XamlMetadataSample.XamlMetadataSample_XamlTypeInfo.XamlSystemBaseType(typeName, typeof(Windows.UI.Xaml.Controls.UserControl));
        break;

    case "XamlMetadataSample.StringCollection":
        userType = new XamlMetadataSample.XamlMetadataSample_XamlTypeInfo.XamlUserType(this, typeName, typeof(XamlMetadataSample.StringCollection), GetXamlTypeByName("System.Collections.ObjectModel.ObservableCollection<String>"));
        userType.Activator = Activate_0_StringCollection;
        userType.CollectionAdd = VectorAdd_0_StringCollection;
        xamlType = userType;
        break;

    case "System.Collections.ObjectModel.ObservableCollection<String>":
        userType = new XamlMetadataSample.XamlMetadataSample_XamlTypeInfo.XamlUserType(this, typeName, typeof(ObservableCollection<string>), GetXamlTypeByName("System.Collections.ObjectModel.Collection<String>"));
        AddToMapOfTypeToStandardName(typeof(ObservableCollection<string>),
                                            "System.Collections.ObjectModel.ObservableCollection<String>");
        userType.Activator = Activate_1_ObservableCollection;
        userType.CollectionAdd = VectorAdd_1_ObservableCollection;
        xamlType = userType;
        break;

    case "System.Collections.ObjectModel.Collection<String>":
        userType = new XamlMetadataSample.XamlMetadataSample_XamlTypeInfo.XamlUserType(this, typeName, typeof(Collection<string>), GetXamlTypeByName("Object"));
        AddToMapOfTypeToStandardName(typeof(Collection<string>),
                                            "System.Collections.ObjectModel.Collection<String>");
        userType.Activator = Activate_2_Collection;
        userType.CollectionAdd = VectorAdd_2_Collection;
        userType.AddMemberName("Count");
        AddToMapOfTypeToStandardName(typeof(int),
                                            "Int32");
        xamlType = userType;
        break;

    case "XamlMetadataSample.MainPage":
        userType = new XamlMetadataSample.XamlMetadataSample_XamlTypeInfo.XamlUserType(this, typeName, typeof(XamlMetadataSample.MainPage), GetXamlTypeByName("Windows.UI.Xaml.Controls.Page"));
        userType.Activator = Activate_3_MainPage;
        xamlType = userType;
        break;

    }
    return xamlType;
}

What just happened? The compiler detected that you want to use your StringCollection class, so it creates type resolvers for this, and ANYTHING else it depends on, including base classes and types for all their properties which is why  you also see string, int, object etc show up.

Now let’s try something else. Remove the resource we added, and instead add the following property to MainPage.xaml.cs

public StringCollection MyCollection { get; set; }

CreateXamlType doesn’t change, but instead take a look at CreateXamlMember that changes from this:

private IXamlMember CreateXamlMember(string longMemberName)
{
    XamlMetadataSample.XamlMetadataSample_XamlTypeInfo.XamlMember xamlMember = null;
    // No Local Properties
    return xamlMember;
}

to this:

private IXamlMember CreateXamlMember(string longMemberName)
{
    XamlMetadataSample.XamlMetadataSample_XamlTypeInfo.XamlMember xamlMember = null;
    XamlMetadataSample.XamlMetadataSample_XamlTypeInfo.XamlUserType userType;

    switch (longMemberName)
    {
    case "XamlMetadataSample.MainPage.MyCollection":
        userType = (XamlMetadataSample.XamlMetadataSample_XamlTypeInfo.XamlUserType)GetXamlTypeByName("XamlMetadataSample.MainPage");
        xamlMember = new XamlMetadataSample.XamlMetadataSample_XamlTypeInfo.XamlMember(this, "MyCollection", "XamlMetadataSample.StringCollection");
        xamlMember.Getter = get_0_MainPage_MyCollection;
        xamlMember.Setter = set_0_MainPage_MyCollection;
        break;
    }
    return xamlMember;
}

So because our MainPage control now has a new property, this gets reflected by the auto-generated code.

What about 3rd party control libraries then? How do these get included? Well let’s take a look. First create a new Windows Store Class Library, and add a new “MyCustomControl” templated control to it. You’ll note that this new project will have its own auto-generated magic code in it’s obj folder and that works just the same way as explained on top. Basically anything you use in your Themes\Generic.xaml or any other XAML file is getting code generated for it. No surprises there. But let’s add a reference to this project to our test project, and see what will happen to the apps’s XamlTypeInfo.g.cs file. Suddenly a new property “XamlTypeInfoProvider.OtherProviders” is added:

private List<IXamlMetadataProvider> OtherProviders
{
    get
    {
        if(_otherProviders == null)
        {
            _otherProviders = new List<IXamlMetadataProvider>();
            IXamlMetadataProvider provider;
            provider = new MyControlLibrary.MyControlLibrary_XamlTypeInfo.XamlMetaDataProvider() as IXamlMetadataProvider;
            _otherProviders.Add(provider); 
        }
        return _otherProviders;
    }
}

So your app’s metadata provider automatically “merges” other project’s providers in this autogenerated code. Just for fun, let’s try and create a new class that implements IXamlMetadataProvider and add to our controls library, and see what happens:

public class MyCustomMetadataProvider : IXamlMetadataProvider
{
    public IXamlType GetXamlType(string fullName)
    {
        throw new NotImplementedException();
    }

    public IXamlType GetXamlType(Type type)
    {
        throw new NotImplementedException();
    }

    public XmlnsDefinition[] GetXmlnsDefinitions()
    {
        throw new NotImplementedException();
    }
}

And the OtherProviders property now suddenly looks like this:

private List<IXamlMetadataProvider> OtherProviders
{
    get
    {
        if(_otherProviders == null)
        {
            _otherProviders = new List<IXamlMetadataProvider>();
            IXamlMetadataProvider provider;
            provider = new MyControlLibrary.MyCustomMetadataProvider() as IXamlMetadataProvider;
            _otherProviders.Add(provider); 
            provider = new MyControlLibrary.MyControlLibrary_XamlTypeInfo.XamlMetaDataProvider() as IXamlMetadataProvider;
            _otherProviders.Add(provider); 
        }
        return _otherProviders;
    }
}

So the auto-generated code automatically detected that my custom library has a second metadata provider embedded, and injects it into this list as well as the auto-generated one. So it looks like we should be able to provide our own implementations, which I’ll get back to later.

So what have we found so far? That all types that’s being used directly or indirectly in XAML is getting type information generated, and properties on controls are getting metadata generated for those. Great you might think, but why would you need to know about this? Well the devil is in the details. Let me repeat the first finding again:

“All types that’s being used directly or indirectly in XAML is getting type information generated”

But what if I’m not using a type at compile time but only at runtime?” you might ask. That’s an excellent question and this is actually very likely to happen if your ViewModel or Model returns a type not used anywhere directly or indirectly in XAML to begin with, or if you were to use the XamlReader to parse XAML at runtime. This is also where Windows Store Xaml development starts to get really tricky very fast, and while there’s a way around this, it’s definitely not a straightforward one. And I’ll leave you hanging here to ponder on that, while I get working on Part 2 of this blogpost where I’ll get back to the custom IXamlMetadataProviders…

Building A Powerful Platform for Windows Store Mapping apps

When Microsoft announced WinRT at the Build conference in Anaheim, I instantly started researching and prototyping what this new platform could mean for the company I’m working for. The promise of integrating legacy native code with XAML and .NET seemed to finally be the exactly what I’ve been looking for. Also the tight integration between XAML and DirectX, something which is really complex to get working in WPF was intriguing, since we were often hitting the limit of what XAML could do.

We have a huge amount of native code that does a lot of advanced spatial analysis, advanced map rendering, spatial databases, etc. Even better was that most of it is written in a cross-platform way using C++ and was already running on Windows Classic, Linux, iOS, Android and several other platforms.

In hindsight I’m really amazed how quickly this work can go. Granted a lot of time was spent on researching, prototyping, ‘socializing the idea’ etc, but after we had the bases right, we were actually able to move very fast, and in less than 3 months create a whole new SDK geared for the Windows Store (albeit beta).

The things that made this go so fast was:

  1. We had lots of C++ code that was already written to be compiled cross-platform, so most of the development time was spent on exposing this via the WinRT interface and C++/CX.
  2. We chose to build a hybrid SDK based on both C++ and C#. This enabled us to port large amount of our existing C# code from our WPF and Silverlight SDKs. It also allowed us to not be limited by the inheritance limitations that WinRT has by simply creating .NET class libraries rather than WinRT class libraries, which in turn greatly simplifies the API for other developers.

Things that set us back:

  1. Our rendering engine only supported DirectX 9 and OpenGL. Windows Store apps require DirectX 11, which is quite different from v9, so a lot of work had to be done there, because we wanted to do it in a way that wasn’t being hurt by the least common denominator (ie. if DX11 supports a feature that DX9 or OpenGL doesn’t, it shouldn’t hold us back from using it). In the end, our map rendering engine became better because of it for all the platforms.
  2. The documentation on SurfaceImageSource (the glue behind DirectX and XAML) was very limited.
  3. Some time was spent on making sure the native code passes certification, although not too bad.

Several people both within the company, from Microsoft, MVPs etc has been extremely helpful getting us through those setbacks. Thank you! You know who you are (and yes I owe you beer :-)

So enough about that. Instead, I would really encourage you to go download our SDK. It’s actually free! Just go to our developers siteand hit the download button. You’ll be required to register/sign in – don’t worry – as far as I know we don’t spam :-)

Grab the download, install it, and create a new C# or VB.NET Windows Store app. Add a reference to the ArcGIS Runtime SDKs, set the build target to x86, x64 or ARM (AnyCPU won’t work since this has cool C++ code in its guts).

image

And now code away. There’s a few samples on how to get started with the API as well as a library reference on the developers site.  We know the documentation is a little slim at this point – we’re hard at work improving that. However we do have a getting started tutorial here: http://developers.arcgis.com/en/windows-store/guide/add-a-map-to-your-app.htm

In addition we have a set of samples in the form of a sample browser available today on GitHub: https://github.com/Esri/arcgis-samples-winstore

There’s also a toolkit with some controls here that you are encouraged to fork and contribute to: https://github.com/Esri/arcgis-toolkit-winstore

I did a short introduction to the API at our plenary about 4 mins into this video:

You can download the source code for the sample I built on stage on my github account here: https://github.com/dotMorten/WinStore-Routing-Sample

Go download and code away today, and ask questions and give us feedback in the forum.

Also please go read the official SDK release announcement here: http://blogs.esri.com/esri/arcgis/2013/03/25/arcgis-runtime-sdk-for-windows-store-apps-beta-is-available/