Windows Phone App Studio Beta Updated

Windows Phone App Studio Beta Updated

Still in beta, but now with more features

Microsoft has updated its Windows Phone App Studio Beta again, adding feedback-related new features to the web-based Windows Phone 8 app creation tool. Key among these features is support for something called "actions," that lets your app use other native apps on the phone.

If you're not familiar with it, Windows Phone App Studio Beta is a web-based app that helps you quickly and easily create content-rich and connected Windows Phone 8 apps right from the web. You can publish these apps as-is, or bring them into Visual Studio and make them more sophisticated. The tool is aimed at both seasoned and novice developers.

According to Microsoft, App Studio Beta has been a bit hit: Since its launch in August, the web app has seen 160,000 users create over 150,000 projects and build 65,000 apps. It was last updated in late September with SkyDrive integration and other requested features.

This week's update adds a number of new features that Microsoft says are a direct result of feedback via blogs, Twitter and email. They include:

Actions. Apps created with App Studio can now integrate with native phone functions. "Simply create a menu and your users can choose to open Nokia Maps, play music, make phone calls, and use other native apps – all without leaving your app," Emilio Salvador Prieto writes in a new post to the Windows Phone Developer Blog. "You can also define these actions in your collection schemas as either dynamic or static, and choose in the bindings whether to display a button on the details page to execute that action."

Improved app development workflow. Microsoft says it has "enhanced the code and projects that you create in Windows Phone App Studio Beta."

External data source caching. Your apps can now access dynamic data or RSS feeds even if the user's phone is not connected.

Visual Studio project optimization. App Studio now removes external references when they are not being used, significantly reducing project size and complexity.

Fast Resume support. Developers can now set a default language for easy publication in the Windows Phone Store.

FlipView. Thisnew view makes navigating between items in a data source easier.

Near Field Communication integration. You can use NFC from your app to share with other App Studio Beta users.

Windows Phone Ad SDK support. Developers with a pubCenter account can now add an ad control to their apps.

And while this feature isn't available yet, Microsoft also notes it is working toward integrating third-party SDKs in the future.

Check out App Studio Beta to learn more.

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