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Getting Started with Windows Template Studio

Microsoft has for a long time been pioneering developer tooling with Visual Studio as the main backbone of the effort. The investment continues and is not likely to ever stop. For this reason, change is necessary and some tools will disappear as their use becomes less, and new ones will appear. This article was first published on gooroo.io

Developers are always looking for shortcuts to make their programming more efficient and let them focus on the fun bits. Deep down inside developers are lazy people that don’t want to do boring work. Repetitive work. About a year ago I finished a Pluralsight course on building your first Universal Windows App, which aimed to give developers a great shortcut for building apps for Windows 10. It took me three goes to finish the course (Microsoft kept moving the goal posts), but I was happy with the result. The course focused on using App Studio, which essentially is a code completion tool. A tool that generated really well structured and usable code, meant to be extended and built on top of. And now App Studio has received the death sentence. Slowly being moved to the drawer of broken dreams.

Instead we now have Windows Template Studio

Same same, but Different

Just like App Studio, the Windows Template Studio offers a wizard-like interface to creating UWP apps. However, where App Studio was a website where you downloaded your project at the end and opened it in Visual Studio to edit it further, Template Studio is a direct extension for Visual Studio. As it states on the GitHub page for the project:

The resulting UWP project is well-formed, readable code that incorporates the latest Windows 10 features while implementing proven patterns and best practices.

While the aim is the same, producing basic code fast, the approach is very different. Where App Studio would allow you to publish an app directly to the Store from the web interface, Template Studio does not. In fact Template Studio is a Visual Studio plugin and not a website at all. It is like Microsoft decided to jump straight to the developer experience.

Where to Start?

Obviously we need to get Windows Template Studio installed. Open up Visual Studio 2017, go to menu Tools -> Extensions and Updates, then search for Windows Template Studio and click Download.

Once the extension is installed, restart Visual Studio and choose the good old File -> New Project. Go to Templates -> Visual C# -> Windows Universal and you should see the Windows Template Studio project type.

A new wizard experience will open that allows you to choose on the available templates for your new UWP app. In this case we will use the Navigation Pane project. Select it and click Next.

The next part of the wizard is critical in getting the most out of the template. Now you have to choose the elements you want included in the project, elements that will be created and coded for you. It is important to have a good idea of what your app needs to do before you choose these features, as they are difficult to remove or add once you have created the project.

Once you have chosen your features, click Create and the templated project is created for you. You now have a full shell of an application that you can flesh out. You can plug in your own data services, your own graphs, build up a menu structure that makes sense to your application and in general add all your own data.

You can now press F5 to run the app and see what you get out of the box with 5 minutes worth of work.

While Windows Template Studio won’t give you a completed and perfect app, it takes away hours of plumbing and scaffolding in your app. Even more than that, you get a well formed and well architected app that you can both learn from if you are unsure of how to structure a UWP app, as well as build on to make it just the way you want it.

Go on. Build your first Windows 10 app. Go.