Windows Mobile 6.5 SDK Overview

Windows Mobile 6.5 SDK Overview

The first thing to note about the newly released Windows Mobile 6.5 SDK is that it effectively comes in two parts.  If you want to build applications for both the professional (ie touch screen devices) and standard you need to get both versions of the sdk. This way you will get all the emulator images.

For all those who have started working with Visual Studio 2010 the news is not great. As you are not doubt aware from the beta versions there is currently no support within VS 2010 for doing mobile development.  This SDK release does not change this, you will continue to have to use Visual Studio 2008 for doing Windows Mobile development, with the exclusion of widgets, which you can do as a web site in VS 2010 and manually package it up for deployment.

Post install I thought I’d take a look at the readme file to see what’s changed in this SDK. Doh! Someone forgot to check this as the title reads “Windows Mobile 6 SDK Refresh”.  The contents seem to make the title which made me think that I’d installed the wrong SDK but no, there’s a Start Menu item for “Windows Mobile 6.5 SDK” so I’m guessing that I didn’t get it wrong.

Following the readme “fail” I decided to launch Visual Studio 2008 to see whether I could spot the differences myself. From the New Project dialog (below) you can see that there is a new node “Widgets for Windows Mobile”.  Given my recent set of blog posts on building Windows Mobile widgets I was really eager to see what this would entail.

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After selecting the SimpleWidget option I was presented with a basic web site layout containing sub folders for css and script files. Personally I would have liked to see another sub folder for images.

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Looked like a good starting point so I thought I’d try running it. Before doing so I went to start up a Windows Mobile 6.5 emulator image. I ran up the Device Emulator Manager only to discover that none of the 6.5 professional images (that were all there from when I’d install the 6.5 emulator image pack released last year) were there. Thinking I must be missing something I installed the Standard edition of the 6.5 SDK. This only made matters worse, now I have no Windows Mobile 6 or 6.5 images.

Thinking that something must have gone wrong I uninstalled both 6.5 SDKs and rebooted my machine. After installing the Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional SDK the professional emulator images reappeared (phew!) and I returned to my SimpleWidget project. I noticed that the device toolbar wasn’t enabled, so the widget project doesn’t understand, or wants to use a device/emulator to debug with after all. This got me thinking about what the debug experience was going to be. I pressed F5 to debug and wow, I got the following debugger experience within IE:

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After enabling the ActiveX control I got the following output – looks very similar to what I’d expect on the device. Unfortunately the ActiveX prompt appears every time you start the debugger.  The simple work around to this issue is to not stop the debugger.  Because you are effectively working with a mini web site you can change content (ie htm, css, js) and just refresh the browser to see your changes.

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What’s cool is that you can do the following:

  • Set breakpoints and then walk through your code inspecting variables.

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  • Use the “hide” (which changes to “show” when clicked) button to mimic the widget going into the background.  The onshow and onhide events get invoked.
  • Change the resolution and orientation of your widget to see what it would look like in different perspectives. Changing resolution is particularly important as you need to cater for these devices differently otherwise your widget will be either unusable or look childish.
  • You can change most of the System State properties to see what effect it has on your device. See my post on System State (aka Notification Broker) and Device Information for more information on working with this information.
  • Even the menus are simulated:

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Of course, whilst this is convenient for development, you must and I repeat must test your widgets on real devices.

Returning to Visual Studio, I took a further look at the widget project itself. If you go to Properties on the project you get the following:

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I’m not entirely sure what all the parameters mean yet but I’m sure they’re in the help files somewhere (actually, no it appears not. The help files seem to be the standard WM6 SDK files). What does interest me is the Output Path parameter. If I navigate there I notice three files: the first two, Harness.html and Harness.js are what make the debugger happen, the last, SimpleWidget1.widget is of course the widget file which you can copy and install on your device or emulator to see how it runs on your device.

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I must admit I expected to see a manifest file editor as part of the project properties. Not seeing it there I thought I’d double-click the config.xml files (which of course is the manifest file for a widget). Wow – notice the nice editor it displays, rather than a basic xml editor.

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My only criticism here is that the team haven’t really thought this through.  For a widget you would typically supply two icons if you are going to deploy to both professional and standard devices, one being a png, the other being an ico.

That’s enough about widgets. Let’s take a quick look at the emulator.  Notice that this isn’t the 6.5 we’re used to see in the emulator.  In fact if you look in the second image you’ll see that this is build 23090 which is around the build number that everyone has been talking about for Windows Mobile 6.5.3.

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In brief you’ll notice that the start and ok/X buttons are at the bottom of the screen. A number of the menus are now graphical.  The notification area drops down to be a graphical set of links and the tabs are no longer tabs, they’re more of a scrolling system (left-right) at the top of the page. These are all moves to better support touch input and going forward capacitive screens.

I’m sure there’s plenty more in the Windows Mobile 6.5 SDK that I haven’t discovered yet. Other than the major FAIL around the installation process (I would recommend uninstalling any previous WM6.5 emulators first) and the readme/help documentation I’m glad to see Microsoft starting to release new tools for us mobile developers.

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