Tag Archives: First Experience

First Experiences – VS App Center

Background

Recently I was tasked with creating a mobile app for an internal company need. Normally I’d default to web applications with responsive UI for different devices but in this case there was a core requirement to support push notifications. The timeline was “as soon as possible” and that included picking a platform (two leading choices were Cordova/Ionic and Xamarin), learning the toolchain, integrating push notifications, ensuring it works even after being wrapped in a security product (Citrix XenMobile MDX Toolkit – I still don’t know which of these words is the most important in this case so I include them all).

App Technology Stack

Since I’m more comfortable with C# compared to web frameworks I started with Xamarin. I’ve attended some user group talks that used Xamarin and knew Xamarin Forms was probably the right starting point. I only had to support iOS but Android was a nice to have since we have many users with Android devices.

Visual Studio App Center

After trying a few different options based on previous knowledge (Azure Notification Hubs, Azure App Services) and things discovered (Google Firebase for Android and iOS) to various degrees of success, I stumbled on Visual Studio App Center. I initially started my searching in early February 2018. App Center had only been announced during the Connect(); 2017 conference a few months prior in November. Because it was so new under that name it was not as high in search results when looking for push notifications with Xamarin. That’s really unfortunate because App Center is an integrated offering of previous solutions that already have great support and adoption.

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First Experiences – Xamarin Development

Background

I was recently tasked with building a mobile app for my company that received push notifications and directed users to internal resources (via XenMobile SecureWeb). I have looked at mobile apps at various points in the past and tried Xamarin, Cordova, Ionic and even native Swift and Java. I struggled to get anything of value implemented so I never went further. That left me starting from scratch to figure out how I’d satisfy the requirement.

I had passively been attending Greg Shackles’ NYC Mobile .NET User Group and had some idea that Xamarin Forms was probably my best bet for a cross platform solution. I am not particularly fond of XAML but the application itself intentionally had almost no UI so that was not a concern.

My exploration meandered a bit while I tried things I knew about (Azure App Services, Azure Notification Hubs) and then things I leaned about by extension (Firebase) before finally settling on exactly what I needed: Visual Studio App Center. It’s a lightweight solution that offers analytics, crash reporting and push notifications. The configuration was straightforward for Push notifications and just worked.

With App Center I had the infrastructure set up and configured and could focus on the functionality of the app. The rest of this is all about my experience using the tooling to build and test that application on iOS and Android devices.

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