Friday, January 06, 2012

Tile Tasks, the shortcut app for Windows Phone

Shortcuts are often very helpfull. Specially on a slow device like my iPhone 3GS, it would be very helpful to have some shortcuts to make a call, send a sms or toggle airplane mode on and off instead to tap thru all this menues. If I hopefully get my Nokia Lumia 900 soon, I do not want to miss this functionality again and I built Tile Tasks. The functionality today includes:
- Quick dial your friends phone number
- Send a sms with a default text
- Send an email with default subject and body
- Navigate to an internet address
- Add a Webcam to your tile
- Shortcut Airplane mode
- Shortcut WiFi
- Shortcut Bluetooth
- Shortcut Cellular

And here what it looks like to build a shortcut for a call, an email and a website link with a webcam image as tile background that will be updated every hour.

The generated tiles have frontside and backside information and gives the user quick access to many functionalities. The example tiles looks like this.

Like always in my posts, what about the technical stuff? Was there anything exciting? Plenty of them. One of the intersting and new stuff was to show the webcam image on the tile and update them periodicaly.

There are different options to do that. I've chosen the simplest and used the ShellTileSchedule class. My methode looks as simple as this:
private static void createTileSchedule(ShellTile tile, Uri link)

  var tileSchedule = new ShellTileSchedule(tile)
    Recurrence = UpdateRecurrence.Interval,
    Interval = UpdateInterval.EveryHour,
    StartTime = DateTime.Now,
    RemoteImageUri = link

The parameter tile is the tile where you like to add the webcam image as background. It can be the primary or a secondary tile. The link is the absolut address to a webcam image. Supported are jpg and png files, note that you can only provide a RemoteImageUri. Therefore you must provide an online and available URI that represents an image to download and display. You can’t reference URI from your local application. The image size can NOT exceed 80KB, and download time can NOT exceed 60 sec.

Is there anything else to deal with? Oh yes! The ShellTileSchedule class is very easy to use but has some big disadvantages. For me the most importants are:

1. You can’t get the status of the ShellTileSchedule. Even worse is the fact that the schedule might be stopped because for whatever reason (ex. phone is on Airplane Mode) and the tile background wount be refreshed.
2. You have to wait at least 1 hour before the tile is updated for the first time.

Here is an excelent article from Mark Monster that addresses this points. And here are some good informations from Microsoft about Tile Notifications (Chapter 3).

And after all, if you think you will like the app and it is helpfull for you, please get it here.

No comments: