Category Archives: Build 2014–Observations

Build 2014–Observations


Universal projects in Visual Studio: Developers can create universal projects that share code between Windows Store applications and Windows Phone applications. Microsoft unified the platform so that you can build one application and let you target all the devices in the Windows ecosystem. With this update to Visual Studio, developers can now just open a new project, write their code once and then compile it for Windows Phone 8.1 or as a desktop or tablet app. This, gives developers a single set of tools that spans devices and the cloud.


Because Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 share the same Windows Runtime, Visual Studio now allows developers to create universal Windows projects that enable developers to build apps that support all Windows devices from a single Visual Studio project and share most of their code. Download release candidate (RC) for Visual Studio 2013 Update 2 from

Developers who have built apps for Windows 8.1 will find it fairly easy to reuse their work and bring tailored experiences to Windows Phone 8.1. Windows Phone 8 developers can use the same code, and also access new features, when they develop for Windows Phone 8.1.

The update also includes some new diagnostic tools for Windows Phone developers. Specifically, developers can now more easily track memory usage and the combined UI responsiveness, energy consumption and CPU utilization.

.NET native code compilation: There is now support for.NET native code compilation for Windows and Windows Phone. .NET was always a very productive language to program in, but it didn’t always deliver the performance we were looking for. With the .NET native ahead-of-time compiler, developers will see faster startup times, lower memory usage and overall better performance, Microsoft promises. This new feature is currently in preview and allows developers to target both the X64 and ARM platforms.

Cortana: Microsoft unveiled Windows Phone 8.1 and introduced Cortana, a personal digital assistant. Powered by Bing, Cortana gets to know you and gets better over time by asking questions based on your behavior and checking in with you before she assumes you’re interested in something. Windows Phone developers can now also integrate their apps with Microsoft’s new personal assistant.

Other new features that make Windows Phone 8.1 smartphones even more personal include Action Center, which complements Live Tiles by showing new activities and notifications at a glance; and Senses, a suite of features that takes the work out of managing data use, storage space and battery life.

Even Cortana delivers developer extensibility. Cortana brings a significant evolution of the speech technology developed by Windows and Bing, which first appeared in Windows Phone 8. In Windows Phone 8.1 we expose new enhancements to the Speech API that developers can use to integrate their apps with the Cortana family of services. Developers can now leverage speech recognition and voice commands to denote a series of actions triggered by heuristically derived scenarios that are surfaced through the Cortana speech recognition service. Fewer steps and more types of natural verbal exchanges open more apps. All of this is delivered through a simple API so developers who use Windows Phone 8 speech features today can plug into Cortana with little additional effort.

When I started using Visual Studio 2013, I noticed that some numbers kept appearing at the top left and top right corners of the Window when I ran the app in Debug mode.  Something like this:

VS2013 Digits

The same sort of thing on the right top side too (not shown in the screen shot).   I could see that the values changed when I moved the mouse in a way that affected the controls on screen, but they clearly weren’t changes in mouse position.

It turns out that the display is showing the current frame counter rate.  And while this might be handy when you’re testing or fine tuning an app, it isn’t something I’d want to see all the time.

So if you want to turn this off, go to the App.xaml.vb file, find the OnLaunched event handler and change the setting for EnableFrameRateCounter from True to False, as shown below:

If Debug