After hovering around the top slot for a good few weeks (and a brief spell as a ‘paid’ app) I was very pleased to see that ‘learn Piano’ has the top spot this week in Lifestyle Apps.
Recent updates to the App include support for ‘Play To’, enabling lessons to be streamed to a nearby TV and the ability to download additional lessons via an in app purchase.
The App is currently in its ninth release (wow) with many more enhancements in planning – hopefully will help it to stay near (or on) the top of the heap!
Using the PlayTo functionality within a media application is a great way to enhance your media related app – but the methodology for the user to invoke the PlayTo feature in Windows 8 relies on a full working knowledge of the Charms bar (The user needs to select a device from the devices charm as he is about to play a video).
So in order to highlight this great feature I have added a new button on my Apps’ application bar that also invokes the PlayTo device menu:
NB If you don’t want to modify your StandardStyles.XAML – which is generally regarded as bad practice then you can add this mark-up to the XAML of your App.XAML file where it will also be automagically ‘found’!
The mark-up matches the mark-up for the existing “Play” button with only the text changing (to ‘Play To’)
And the button in your media page then calls the following method which invokes the ‘PlayTo’ Devices menu:
So after a very flat and uninspiring period after the launch of Windows 8 looking at my own stats today it is clear that things have started to change over the last Month or so – with a steep increase in downloads (which now total in excess of 37,000)
Hopefully this increase will continue a pace over the coming year.
Interestingly a similar graph for my Windows Phone Apps shows a much steadier increase over the same period:
Windows 8 Hardware
At the weekend I had the fortune to visit the ‘gadget show live’ event in Birmingham and was particularly impressed with the variety and quality of the Windows 8 devices that were on display (I particularly liked this Sony device that was equally usable in a tablet and laptop/desktop configuration and powerful enough for almost any scenario)
It was nice to be able to get hands on with all these devices in one place. (It did make me think that our PC retailers are not doing as effective a job as they might).
Although to my knowledge there isn’t a publically available API for the Windows store there is a little known method to invoke the store from any machine running Windows 8.
The basis for this method is the intrinsic support for the stores own HTTP protocols on Windows 8. At the moment this seems to work on al the major browsers (ie, Chrome, Firefox and Safari.
Example 1: Search for a Publisher
Type the following into your browsers address bar to find all the aps I currently have published in the store:
Example 2: Search for a Subject
Lets say that I am a sailor and want to learn the rudiments of how to tie various sailing related knots (humour me):
Example 3: Bringing up a specific App
Lets say I am a developer and want to bring up the store with my own apps page. I have already checked the Browser’s user agent to ensure the user is running on Windows 8 (useragent string contains ‘Windows NT 6.2’)
I also know my apps own unique GUID which I can get by logging in to http://appdev.microsoft.com and checking the GUID used in a standard http link:
Example 4 Checking the store for updates:
Here is a list of the parameters presently supported by this protocol:
NB There is also some rudimentary documentation for this protocol from Microsoft here
Using protocols in your own Apps
You can use http protocols in your own apps. For example my own App ‘Presenters Assistant’ uses it to invoke itself after someone shares some text with it.
To try this, download the App, then type the following into your browsers address bar:
scroll://This is an example of some text to scroll
(Watch out for my next blog post about how to do this)