Windows App Studio gets huge February update, includes in-app searches, grouped layouts and more

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Microsoft’s Windows App Studio has been around for roughly two years as a beta project collecting telemetry and metrics on customer usage. As a tool that afforded anyone the opportunity to create a Windows Phone app regardless of developer skill sets, the Windows App Studio is still a relatively important access point for Microsoft’s mobile strategy. With the service recently coming out of beta and becoming accessible to the general public, Microsoft is set to add as many new features and user-requested add-ins as quickly as possible.

As of February 22, 2016, Microsoft announced an update release to its Windows App Studio that is feature-packed with tweaks to layouts, in-app searches, and more. Customers of the Windows App Studio can look forward to:

Grouped layout

Windows App Studio now supports grouping data based on a data point.  This feature lets users represent their in groups based on certain criteria.  This could be used when displaying a list of products grouped by brand or other data point.  It can also be used to group things based on date or time.  For example when used for the events template, this lets the user create an agenda or schedule.  This feature introduces a lot more flexibility into how you can display your data.

Date & Date/Time data type

We introduced two new data types for our collections: Date and Date/Time (Date + Time w/ minutes precision).  This allows you to append date and time info to any collection entry, which in turn enables a lot more experiences such as organizing information by time.  To support this feature, there is a new date/time picker, new calendar formatting options, and new calendar actions so the end user can add events to their personal calendars. In addition to the collections data source, Date and DateTime data types can be used among all the data sources of Windows App Studio that have date times fields (RSS, WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), allowing you to take advantage of the DateTime formats and use these data sources with the new Grouped Layout.

Date format

Search within app

With this release, we’re delivering a long-requested feature: enabling search within an app generated in Windows App Studio.  This lets users search through an app to find specific content, which is particularly helpful when there is a lot of data.

Search within

Collection Favorites

Now your end-users can have the option to save any data from your collections as their favorites into a favorites section.  If you enable this for their users, as they browse your collections they can mark certain entries as their favorites to save for easy browsing later.

Service improvements

In this release cycle, we also improved the back end of the App Studio service to make your experience smoother.  This included updating the app generation model to use VS2015 Update 1 (which means developers can target more devices) and improved and updated how-to documentation.

On top of the feature improvements coming to the Windows App Studio, Microsoft is also kicking off a showcase contest to highlight the most creative Windows app made using the App Studio. Microsoft will select what it describes as the “best Windows 10 apps that are published to the store.”  The six “best Windows 10 apps” will be displayed and featured on the Studio’s homepage. As far a momentary reward or other contest details, Microsoft is still working those out and encourages app developers to visit its forums and User Voice sections for the finalization of the contest rules. Microsoft has a long road ahead to reigniting developer interest in the platform, but every small step is a good one.