Updated November 22, 2013
As a developer, you know that there is no need to start from scratch, nor is there any reason to reinvent the wheel. In this article you are presented with 25 tools that you can use to make your Windows Store App development a lot easier. This is just a starting list of tools I have found that seem worthwhile. If you have seen other tools that are good, feel free to comment after this article; however, keep your comments short so you don't get it deleted as spam!
Twenty-five is a lot of tools, so I've broken these into a number of categories:
- Libraries & Controls
The following are a few development tools or related products that you can use to develop Windows 8.x Store apps or improve upon your already existing Windows 8.x apps.
1. Visual Studio 2012 / 2013
2. Ignite UI
- Data Chart
- Geospatial Mapping
- Data Grid
- Hierarchical Data Grid
- OLAP / Multi-Dimensional Pivot Grid
- Date Picker
- Combo Box
- HTML Editor
- PDF & XPS
- Dialog Window
- File Upload
- Video Player
- Mobile Controls for Phone Apps
4. Sencha Touch
Sencha Touch Bundle is an HTML5 product suite that allows developers to design, develop and deploy apps to mobile or desktop from one integrated environment. The bundle includes Charting controls as well as Grid controls, which seems to be the most popular categories for all development suites, except Visual Studio. The reason I mention this here is because of ease of use. If you want the same control-suites, but with a bit less effort, Sencha Touch is definitely the way to go!
TheAppBuilder ( from JamPot ) is one of the first tools that offered cross-platform development and support. With TheAppBuilder you can develop apps for Android, iOS, HTML 5 and Windows 8.x. It is quite straightforward to use as most of the work gets done by TheAppBuilder itself, because of the fact that you do not need major coding or design skills. Download it here.
6. XAML Spy
Windows 8.x Store apps' designs are made up of XAML, which is why XAML Spy is vital to any developer. XAML Spy is basically a visual runtime inspector for technologies such as Windows Phone 8.x, Windows Store 8.x, Silverlight and WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) Apps. What this means is: XAML Spy can be used to gain access to all aspects of running XAML apps. XAML Spy can also monitor events in running XAML apps, extract XAML code from running XAML apps, and view statistics of running XAML apps. XAML Spy can be used as a Visual Studio extension, or as a standalone application.
ZipApp is supported by Nokia and Microsoft and is a very easy to use online Windows Store app creator. It contains many templates and application resources that make the creation of any Windows Store app fun and easy. You Register a name for your app and start designing the features. It is literally a two minute process, and once completed, it allows you to download your app so that you can further customize it with a tool such as Visual Studio, or upload it directly to the Windows Store.
The following few SDKs are just some of the majestic software development kits available. With this list I will try to address several concerns about payments and security, as well as attempt to show you what can be done with a Windows 8 Store app. The list is as follows:
Another awesome and very useful SDK from QualComm is the Adreno SDK. This SDK includes Gaming & Graphics Optimization libraries and samples for working with OpenGL ES, DirectX, OpenCL, and OpenSL API’s on Windows 8.x. You can download the SDK for Windows 8.x here.
AllJoyn provides a universal software framework. In layman's terms this means that AllJoyn allows developers to create a proximal network of interconnected PCs, mobile devices home media devices and car devices. Through AllJoyn developers can communicate with all these devices through one program. Everything is connected, and therefore any information is obtainable. AllJoyn is Open Source, so it is free. The AllJoyn SDK and documentation for Windows 8.x can be found here.
FastCV (Computer Vision) from QualComm turns your device's camera into much more than a camera! FastCV enables you to add new exciting features into your Windows Store camera-based apps such as: face detection, gesture recognition, augmented reality and text recognition and tracking. You can download the FastCV for free here.
11. Parse Windows 8 SDK
Securing data has always been a pain to many a developer. It is just so much work! Enter Parse SDK for Windows 8.x. With the Parse SDK for Windows 8.x you can securely store your data and manage users with .NET (intertwined with LINQ) code present in the SDK. There is more to the Parse SDK. You can also Query your structured data, geolocations and photos. You can download it here.
12. PayPal Windows 8 Checkout
We all know what PayPal is and what it does, hence this little gem's inclusion in this list. The PayPal Windows 8.x Checkout SDK helps you integrate the PayPal functionality into your Windows 8.x Store apps. You can find the SDK and documentation of usage for Windows 8.x here.
Libraries & Controls
The following list of controls and libraries will make your Windows 8.x development life a lot easier. These differ slightly from SDKs as these only supply the controls or libraries you can add to Visual Studio. Some of them are free; some provide a free Trial so that you can decide later if you really want to purchase them. Let's have a closer look.
The following libraries and controls assist in making even better Windows 8 Store apps.
13. Component One Studio for WinRT XAML
Component One Studio for WinRT XAML is designed with Touch-First experiences in mind. You can focus on your business logic, instead of reinventing the wheel with the help of Component One Studio for WinRT. These controls are built with the Windows Store in mind and support the Modern UI design and interaction guidelines specified by Microsoft. These controls include: PdfViewer, FlexGrid, Chart, Calendar, TabControl, TileView, TreeView, Zip and Layout Panels.
14. DevExpress Windows 8 XAML Controls
DevExpress has been around a very, very long time. With a trusted name, user's already know what to expect from them! With the use of their Windows 8 XAML Controls, you can create Windows 8.x solutions that deliver for the end-users needs. They provide high performance controls that utilizes the full power of Windows 8.x so that you can concentrate on the business logic. Download it here.
15. Infragistics NetAdvantage for Windows UI
Infragistics NetAdvantage for Windows UI is quite a mouthful, but, their controls suite is just as jam packed full of cool controls you can use to make your Windows 8.x Store app creation easier. Some of the controls include: Data Chart, Grid, Calendar, Barcode, Currency Input, Masked Input and the Persistence Framework. A list of available controls for the libraries follows:
- Hierarchical Grid
- Pie Chart
- Date Editor
- Date Picker
- Currency Editor
- Numeric Editor
- Masked Editor
- Text Editor
- Grid (CTP)
- Currency Input
- DateTime Input
- Masked Input
- Numeric Input
- Excel Framework (CTP)
- Persistence Framework (CTP)
16. Telerik RadControls for Windows 8 XAML
Telerik controls for Windows 8 XAML includes AutoCompleteBox, Chart, Gauge, DataStorage, Grid, Pagination, HubTile and TimePicker to name only a few. These libraries are built in full compliance with the Windows Store UI requirements. This makes acceptance in the Windows Store much easier. Their libraries are very quick, fluent and very hip. Telerik has always been one of my favorite sources of components and libraries and with every new tool they produce, they just get better and better. Download the tools here.
For the gamers out there, we did not forget about you! These game studios will help you make awesome 2D and even greater 3D games. All of these that I mention here are very easy to use and affordable. They are as follows:
MonoGame is the Open Source equivalent to Microsoft's XNA Framework found on CodePlex. CodePlex has to be the best place to find any Open Source code. I have made use of a lot of their products in the past and it is always of high quality. With MonoGame however, XNA development is not limited to only Microsoft; it can be ported to iOS, Android, Mac OS X, Linux and Windows 8. It is 100% free and you can start creating your game now. There are a lot of examples and documentation available on the MonoGame site. Download MonoGame here.
18. Platformer Game Starter Kit
Platformer Game Starter Kit for Windows 8.x lets you build games for the Windows 8.x Store easily. The starter kit includes the source code as well as free game art to use. All you need is Visual Studio and the Platformer Game Starter Kit. They provide free assistance in getting your game submitted to the Windows 8.x Store, which is invaluable to any programmer. Very easy to use, and nice to work with. Download the Platformer Game Starter Kit here.
19. Scirra Construct2
Construct 2 from Scirra is a game maker not only for the Windows 8.x Store, but also for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Mac, BlackBerry, Facebook, Chrome Web Store and Firefox Marketplace that enables game creation even if you have never coded in your life. There are over 70 visual Effects and it is fully extendible. Because of its multi-platform nature, Construct 2 is one of the best game maker studios you will ever find. Now, everyone can create amazing games. Download a free version here.
SharpDX is an open-source project encompassing DirectX and the .NET Platform. This enables you to create high performance 2D and 3D graphics for all Windows Platforms. All you have to do is to download the code and start building your apps using high-performance graphics. There is a ton of documentation available. Download it here.
The Unity Game Engine is probably the best game engine around for mobile app developers. It supports iOS, Blackberry, Android, Windows Store and Windows Phone! It, according to them, is a powerful rendering engine fully integrated with a complete set of intuitive tools and rapid workflows to create interactive 3D content; easy multiplatform publishing; thousands of quality, ready-made assets in the Asset Store and a knowledge-sharing Community.
22. Yoyo Game Maker Studio
GameMaker Studio allows novice and seasoned game developers to create cross-platform games very quickly and is very affordable. You can export your games into multiple platforms, your quality and performance is great, plus there are a lot of developer services (such as monetizing your game) available. Oh, and did I mention how simple it is to use? Download it here now and have a look at all the other available options.
Add-ins are simple tools you can incorporate into Visual Studio. They aid in the development process of Windows 8.x Store games. These fit in nicely with Visual Studio, to make Windows 8 Store app creation even more fun and easy. They are as follows:
23. ComponentArt Data Visualization for Visual Studio
ComponentArt Data Visualization for Visual Studio is, as the name suggests, an add-in for Visual Studio 2012 and 2013. All controls are based on the new WinRT API and optimized for touch input and mobile CPUs. These controls include: Chart, Gauges, DataGrids, Maps, Navigators and Calculators. Download it here.
24. Visual Web GUI
With Visual Web GUI from Gizmox, you can create HTML5 apps totally from scratch, or reconfigure your code to pure HTML5. The reason I added this entry here is again, ease of use. HTML 5 is relatively new to programmers, but if they can realize how easy it is, there will be millions more HTML 5 apps on the Windows 8.x Store. HTML 5 is also compatible with most mobile devices and Operating Systems. Download the add-in here.
25. Windows App Certification Kit
The Windows App Certification Kit comes installed with Visual Studio. It aids in getting your apps ready for the Windows 8.x Store. This little tool helps tremendously as it can be quite frustrating getting everything perfect for the Windows 8.x Store. In an article published on the 5th of August, I wrote in detail about the Windows App Certification Kit, feel free to check it out here. If however, you fall asleep at the sound of my voice, you could read Microsoft's documentation here.
The above tools aren't the only ones available. These were just hand-picked because of what they can do. There are of course thousands more resources out there to help you build Windows Store apps. If you feel that my list doesn't do justice to any tool you find, please let me know. Maybe your suggestion will make the list when we update it!
Editor's Note: This article was written by an independent author. The intent was to provide a list of resources you could use in developing your applications.