Saturday, December 21, 2013


Note: to read the full technical breakdown on developing Shrtr for Windows Phone, see my code blog post.

I made several forays in the past into Windows Phone development. I actually like the platform, and the development tools. Having experienced iOS (XCode) and Android (Eclipse) development environments, Visual Studio looks like it's in a completely different league. I think Microsoft made some major marketing mistakes promoting the platform, but they're getting better, with a lot of community outreach, developers' resources, and hackathons.

Last year I got myself a Nokia Lumia 710, and started hacking in WP7. 5 minutes later, Microsoft announced WP8, along with the enraging tidbit that my brand new phone will not be supported (why? they claim hardware compatibility, I claim greed). I was pissed off, so off to eBay it went, and off to Android development I went.

A year later, I just had to try again, so I got the very well reviewed Lumia 620 (in blue), and looked for an incentive to develop anything. It came in the shape of an invite to a DVLUP hack day at Nokia HQ in Sunnyvale. I became aware of DVLUP, the Nokia developers community, at the AT&T summit I attended last year. This year, they promised a new Nokia 620 (yay! another one), to any developer who builds a WP app, and publishes it to the Windows Phone store within 2 weeks. The challenge was on!

I've already been toying with an app that uses URL shortening services, to allow you posting/sending/sharing manageable URLs (rather than the jumble of random characters URLs have become lately). Since my girlfriend is doing a lot of URL sharing as part of her marketing job, I validated the need, and set to work.

You can find all the nitty-gritty technical details, and dev challenges, in my code blog post, but suffice it to say, I had the app ready within a week. I had to wait another week, or so, for Microsoft to approve the app for the store. In the meantime, I got the domain, and deployed the server side of the app. After successfully publishing the app, I had to wait for 2 more days for the DVLUP site to recognize the app, and attribute it to me. With the help of Paras from Nokia, I managed to accomplish the task in time, and the new Lumia is on its way to me!

I actually think I'll gift a 620 to my mom. She's been begging for a "smart phone" for a while. I believe Windows Phone is the best starter mobile OS - the UI can be turned to Hebrew (or any other language) completely, it has a very simple navigation paradigm - the tiles are big, readable, and self explanatory.  And frankly, you can't "break" anything in it. I'll try it, and report back on my mom's experiences.

Finally, due to the design decisions I took while developing the app, I ended up with the app logic on the server side, allowing me to develop an Android app (to be released later) and a Chrome extension, both using the same URL shortening services. You can download the WP app and the Chrome extension at Leave me some feedback and comments. Feel free to ask for your favorite shortening service, or feature. I can't promise I'll get all of them, but I'll try.

Final note: as can be plainly witnessed from bot the extension and the app's UI, I lack in the graphical design department. If anyone out there feels they can elevate the state of my UI (in either HTML/CSS or XAML), please let me know.

Download links

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