Windows 10 may well have the most comprehensive software library of any platform in the world, but a trip to the new Windows Store can leave you with a very different picture. Even with the recent addition of Universal Apps that run on the desktop and mobile, developers still seem shy of writing dedicated apps for the Store. Well, now you can do it yourself, for free, and you don’t even need to know anything about coding. In this feature we’ll show you how, using the Windows App Studio.
Can I really create my own app without coding?
Yes, you most certainly can. Let’s be realistic though, this isn’t going to be a super complex, whizz-bang app that sets the world alight – those usually do require a bit more knowledge. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. After all, if you can’t find something that pulls together information about your favourite band, sports team, or even your own content, then why not have a go at building it yourself?
How to use the Windows App Studio
The Windows App Studio is a web-based system that doesn’t require the installation of any software on your machine. The online nature also means that you can access your app from any PC with an internet connection. Head over to the Windows App Studio site, and after you’ve logged in with your Microsoft account you’ll be able to make use of the free tools and get started straight away.
The first page you’ll see after you’ve logged in is entitled Start New, and has options at the top for creating apps specifically for Windows 10 and Windows 8.1. Obviously you’ll want to make sure the Windows 10 one is selected.
The main pane has options for the different types of template that you can use to build the app. There are two types available : App or Content. The first is used to create web-apps, which are essentially a redirect to an existing webpage or site. Alternatively, Content apps are actual mobile apps, that draw data from various sources and display it in a manner that you specify.
Within Content there are two three options to choose between: Empty App, My Favourite Band, and My App. Empty is just as it says, a completely blank shell into which you add sections and sources, then determine the general look and feel of the app. If this sounds a little too much like hard work then the two others are Predefined templates that still give you control over the content, but use previously generated apps as a starting point. Select one of these to begin.
Using the Editing Menu
Once you begin you’ll be asked to name your app, and then you’ll be taken to the editing menu. This is the main engine house of the App Studio. On the right is a preview of the app as it will appear on a mobile device, to see a desktop version just click on the full screen option below the panel. Any change you make to the app won’t automatically appear in the preview, instead you’ll need to click the Refresh button for them to be presented.
The bulk of the screen is taken up by the blue boxes that represent the content that will appear in your app. Each one can be edited by clicking on the Pen icon in the bottom left corner of each box. To add a new section double-click on the relevant grey box below, then add the required information to connect it to the source of your data. For example you can add a Podcast or Blog feed by selecting the RSS box then entering the URL and clicking Confirm.
Some of the details can look a little scary at first, as adding a Facebook or Twitter feed both require Creating a new API. Thankfully this isn’t as complicated as it sounds, and clicking on the How to Create section that appears next to the request for an API brings up detailed and understandable instructions.
For the most part Microsoft has done a good job of making the process as easy as possible, but the very nature of creating an app means that you’ll need to read the instructions to really understand what’s going on. On the Editing Menu you’ll see a list of options across the top of the page – My Project, How To, Start New, etc. – and it’s definitely worth clicking on How To, as it takes you step by step through the whole process.
Once you’re happy with the app, and have checked to see that each section works in the way you intended, all that’s left to do is click the Finish button on the Editing Menu. This takes you to the Generation page where you can decide on how you want to download the app.
There are three choices; Installable Package, which allows you to directly install the app on any Windows device; Publish Package, that gives you everything you need to submit it to the Windows Store; and Source Code package, for the more code-savvy users that want to edit the app in Visual Studio.
That’s it. Your Windows app is now complete and you are an app developer. Well done!