Windows Phone 7 App Development

Silverlight Metro Theme

with 3 comments

The WP7 currently has a tiny market share so writing apps to target both the WP7 and the desktop using the same code base makes a great deal of sense to me.  Especially for tools such as Master Key which has as much validity (if not more) on the desktop as it does on my phone.

I picked up a copy of the Metro Theme from a project on Codeplex and copied one of the Master Key XMLA pages over.  It worked pretty well but in the end I’m left in the position of having to do a great deal of work to make the page fit into a browser window rather than the phone.

There are a number of issues.  Firstly the fonts and lines used to render on the WP7 screen look huge when viewed in normal Windows resolution; secondly the theme is incomplete and has missing features.  While all this can be fixed by modifying the theme it’s a lot of work.

Secondly, and obviously, the browser environment is significantly different to that of the WP7. The hardware back and close buttons have to be provided in Silverlight and handled in the browser. From a browser UX point of view these buttons would typically be at the top of the screen.  Handling ‘back’ is less of a problem as the browser supports this. However the browser also provides ‘forwards’ as well and the user can also pick an item from the navigation history and jump directly there, neither of which are possible in WP7.

Having experimented with directly porting the WP7 app and finding it a less than compelling outcome I searched around for the Silverlight theme to use.  After some experimentation I picked up a Window 7 theme that the Silverlight dev team released (see Tim Heuer’s blog and have used this as the basis for the Windows version.

The project template also provides a navigation framework which is really useful and this integrates into the browser navigation history providing back/forward support.

It was pretty simple to take a WP7 page and convert it to Win7, for the most part the XAML simply pasted directly and only needed to be lightly manipulated to fit.  Over the space of a couple of days I had pretty much replicated the App, however…

However, it was apparent pretty quickly that the integration into the browser navigation was not going to work, the history just kept getting bigger and worse I could jump forward when it was illogical to do so.  I spent a lot of time trying to make it work but in the end it was just too confusing from a UX point of view.  I switched it off and suddenly the navigation became a whole lot more logical as the framework is tabbed


The ApplicationBar in WP7 is a great little control and works really well on the phone.  It’s location at the bottom of the screen near to the where your fingers lay makes for a great UX. 

I considered briefly writing a version of this for Silverlight but decided against it as the more normal windows layout is better and the Ribbon interface is clean and well accepted.

In the end I decided that the simplest approach was to revert from having ApplicationBar based button back to a more traditional approach with the buttons embedded into the UI.  This is perfectly valid when there are so few buttons required to make the App work.

It was apparent as soon as I started to think about a Silverlight version of Master Key that combining the item selection and its content into a single page would be the best approach; so for WP7 the user is shown the Vault Entries as a list:


And when an item in the list is selected is is displayed on a separate screen:


This works really well – the UI is easy to use and quite clear in its intent.

Combining the two screens and modifying the UI slightly gives this screen:


Master Key on WP7 relies on the phone timeout kicking in to prevent unauthorised access, on my phone it’s set to a minute after which it will tombstone and the user has to re-enter the password to regain access to the information when the app is reactivated. 

In the browser environment this has to be done within the page by running a timer that will prevent access if there is no activity.  I’ve added a progress bar at the bottom of the screen – after 30 seconds of inactivity the page will close and revert to the login screen. Job done!

The core functionality of Master Key for WP7 has moved without change to the Silverlight version.  I’ve not had to touch a line of code in the data access layer to make it work and this includes the WCF service code (though to be fair I added the service reference to the new project and it auto-generated the appropriate code).

You don’t need to be too eagle eyed to see that the two vaults are the same – I simply loaded the demo vault into both versions of the App from the web service.

So the end result is that I now have a WP7 and Windows version of Master Key and the vault files are interchangeable between the two.  Also I now have a good idea as to how much additional effort has to be put in to convert between the two platforms.  I have a bit of work still outstanding to be able to launch the desktop version from the MasterKey service but I don’t anticipate this taking a lot of time.

One thing – I am pretty frustrated with myself for using the Windows 7 theme rather than Cosmopolitan as this is the closest the the WP7 Metro theme.  I was hoping I could simply swap themes but this failed on my first attempt to replace the Windows 7 theme. I’ll have to spend some time working this out when I have a chance.


Written by metadevblog

July 13, 2011 at 10:50 am

Posted in Master Key, Silverlight, WCF, WP7

3 Responses

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  1. I was thinking of creating a metro style app – with live tiles etc for a webpage on my site. Thanks for the headsup on metro theme. It might come very handy

    Hermit Dave

    February 12, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    • When I wrote this entry there just wasn’t much around on Metro. It’s really good to see such frenzied activity from Microsoft on Windows 8 and the wider adoption of Metro as a UI. I’m looking foreward to getting to work on WinRT.


      February 13, 2012 at 7:33 pm

      • Yes i’d like to start on it some day. Unfortunately they both have have different dev environments and i can’t be asked to keep switching. One of these days i will reduce my WP dev and give RT a go.

        Hermit Dave

        February 13, 2012 at 8:03 pm

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