Nick's .NET Travels

Continually looking for the yellow brick road so I can catch me a wizard....

Getting Started: MvvmCross with Xamarin Forms

Over the past 6-12 months we’ve seen dramatic changes in Xamarin Forms and the support within Visual Studio. The most recent update, which I covered in my previous post, included a number of new features for cross platform developers. However, despite these updates, getting started with cross platform development is still quite complex. In this post I wanted to take the opportunity to reiterate how to start a new Xamarin Forms project. From there I’ll cover adding in MvvmCross and discuss the importance of having a framework that will make development that much easier (for the record MvvmCross isn’t the only option, there are plenty of great alternatives such as Prism and FreshMvvm).

Part 1: Getting Started with Xamarin Forms

Before getting started, make sure you’ve run the Visual Studio Installer and have upgraded to the latest stable release of Visual Studio. The team at Microsoft have been putting a lot of focus on stability and performance, so upgrading to the latest version does help (still not perfect but a marked improvement over this time last year!). Upgrading Visual Studio continually can be a bit of a pain, especially since Microsoft haven’t quite worked out how to automatically download updates in the background for VS – meaning that you have to stop whatever you’re doing whilst the updates download and then install. Recommendation is to run the installer periodically at the end of your day, or when you’re heading to a long meeting; hopefully the installation is complete by the time you return.

Now that you’re all up to date, let’s create a new solution by selecting the Cross-Platform App (Xamarin Forms) template from the New Project dialog. Note that if you don’t see this template, you may have to adjust the workloads you selected in the VS Installer so that you have all the cross-platform development components selected.

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After clicking OK you should be presented with a second dialog that allows you to specify parameters for how your cross platform project should be setup. As you can see from the image, I recommend always selecting all three platforms (even if you’re only planning on targeting one or two of them initially); In this case we’re going with Xamarin.Forms with a simple Blank App; The last option I’m particularly passionate about – do NOT select Shared Project – for the good of your project, the team and general good programming practice, please select the .NET Standard option for Code Sharing Strategy. At time of writing the .NET Standard option is only available in the preview build of Visual Studio; the stable build uses a Portable Class Library, which is still preferable over using a Shared Project.

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This time clicking OK will create a new solution.

Unexpected Error when Creating Solution

Unfortunately, at time of writing this post there is also a bug in the current cross platform template that results in the following error:

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If you see this error, a quick Google will yield the following bugzilla issue (https://bugzilla.xamarin.com/show_bug.cgi?id=60995) which describes the issue, along with how to fix it yourself – you just need to edit the Android csproj file and remove the " from around the TargetFrameworkVersion ie:

replace:

<TargetFrameworkVersion>"v8.0"</TargetFrameworkVersion>

with
<TargetFrameworkVersion>v8.0</TargetFrameworkVersion>

After fixing up the csproj file you’ll need to add the existing projects into the solution file.

Assuming you didn’t run into any issues creating the solution, or you were able to fix up the Android csproj file, you should be able to build and run each of the head projects:

UWP

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Note: When building the UWP project I was seeing a build warning stating “warning APPX0108: The certificate specified has expired.” which I thought was a bit odd since I had just created the project and normally the certificate that is used for debug builds is created alongside the new project. Double-clicking the package.appxmanifest and switching to the Packaging tab I see that the Publisher display name isn’t set correctly – I’m guessing at this point that the cross platform template contains an existing certificate, instead of creating one each time. You can easily fix this by changing the publisher display name, clicking Choose Certificate and then from the dropdown select “Create test certificate”.

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Now when you build the project you won’t see this warning – I’m guessing this is also a bug in the preview version of the cross platform template.

Android

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For Android I’m using the Google Android Emulator that can now be installed using the Visual Studio Installer. This is significantly better than it used to be, and the images are much more recent than those for the Visual Studio Android Emulator which has been deprecated now.

iOS

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For iOS, as I’m working from a Windows laptop, I use the Remote Simulator which works really well and means I don’t need to continually VNC to my MacMini or have to deploy to a real device.

Again there was an issue with the iOS template in that the MinimumOSVersion was set to “11.2” instead of just 11.2 in the Info.plist file.

<key>MinimumOSVersion</key>
<string>11.2</string>

Correcting the MinimumOSVersion will allow your application to run on a device or emulator.


Now that we’ve validated that all the platforms run, it’s time to make sure they’re setup correctly ready for us to add in Mvvmcross and to set the foundation of our application. Android and iOS should be setup correctly, although you may want to double-check to make sure Android is set to use the latest platform version (see Application tab of the Android project properties); UWP defaults to using the Fall Creators Update (FCU) as the minimum version, which is way to recent for applications wanting to target the widest set of customers. Our preferences is to set this back to the November Update

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Note however, that this does preclude your application from using .NET Standard 2.0 libraries, as these are not compatible with UWP projects prior to the FCU. Unfortunately the .NET Standard library that holds the Xamarin Forms views for the solution is set to .NET Standard 2.0 by default. This is completely unnecessary, so it can be reduced back to 1.4 (or below, depending on your preferences)

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Next, we want to make sure we’re using the latest NuGet packages – right-click on the solution node in Solution Explorer and select Manage NuGet Packages for Solution

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After upgrading all the NuGet packages, double-check to make sure all platforms build and run. Now’s a great time to check your solution in to your repository of choice (Note: make sure you check in the pfx file that is part of the UWP solution. You’ll probably have to manually add this file to your repository as most repositories ignore pfx files by default).

Update: Part 2 is now available.

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