SmartPhone development quick start

Sat, March 26, 2005, 10:25 AM under MobileAndEmbedded
So you have experience developing .NET Compact Framework applications targeting your Pocket PC (2000/2002 or WM2003) or even custom Windows CE devices. Now you want to dabble with SmartPhone 2003 development, since CF supports that too (but not SP2002). Where do you start?

The first thing to do is install the SmartPhone SDK. This will give you a new Smart Device Project type and an emulator of course (you may also get the Second Edition Emulator. Usually you choose the Pocket PC platform, now you should choose Smartphone (the only omission from the "project type" list is the "Non-graphical Application", a.k.a. "Console Application" on the Windows CE platform).

So the new project is created. The first thing you note is that the form is small (182w x 239h). In reality, the area you can manipulate is 176x180 pixels since you'll have a border, title bar and menu area. The menu area is actually the space for two soft keys (more on those in a moment). The second limitation we observe is the toolbox; device controls are already much fewer than the desktop, but they are further halved in numbers for Smartphone projects [VS2003 toolbox][VS2005 toolbox]. Later, I'll say a couple of words for some of the 14 controls (datagrid doesn't work) we have at our disposal.

At this point, it is worth stating the obvious: the SP has no touch screen and all interaction is via hardware buttons. The emulator [vs2003][whidbey] gives us some clues. Let's have a closer look at the buttons moving from the top downwards:

There are 3 sections:
1. LCD area
-Two button directly below the screen (a.k.a. soft keys).

2. Middle/center of the phone
-Two phone keys. Green for call and red for hungup.
-Below the call button there is a "home" button.
-Below the hungup button is a "Back" button.
-Between the 4 buttons just described is the rocker [Left, Right, Top, Down and Enter/Action]

3. Lower end of the phone
-Typical 12-button keypad found on all phones

In theory you could hook into any of these buttons and do whatever you want, but it makes sense to remember that the device's primary use is as a phone and also that MSFT has some guidelines for SP applications (some of which are enforced by the CF at runtime). For example the 12-button keypad can be used only for data entry (e.g. on a textbox); the call/hungup buttons (with the green & red phone icons) should be left alone, as should the home button (house icon). The back button navigates to the previous form (or to the previous application, if you are on the main form).

So let's look at the remainder buttons in correlation to the CF controls.

+ The following controls have no user interaction (other than displaying info, of course):
Label, Panel, PictureBox, ProgressBar, Timer, ImageList, VScrollBar, HScrollBar

+ The following 3 controls should be the only control on a single line (other than non-interactive controls mentioned above, of course):

- CheckBox
Up/Down move to the previous/next control on the form. Left/Right/Enter toggle the state.

- ComboBox
Up/Down move to the previous/next control on the form. Left/Right navigate through items in the combobox list. Enter brings up a full screen list of the items for selecting by scrolling with Up/Down.

- TextBox
Up/Down move to the previous/next control on the form. Left/Right moves the caret in the textbox. The Back button erases a character. If the textbox is Multiline=true, Enter brings up a full screen textbox (with scrollbars, if needed):

+ The following two controls must be the only (interactive) control on the form (there is no automatic way for them to pass focus to another control):
- ListView
Up/Down moves through the listview items. Left/Right scrolls horizontally, if there is a scrollbar visible. Enter generates the ItemActivate event.

- TreeView (must be the *only* control on the form)
Up/Down moves through the visible treenode items. Left/Right scrolls horizontally, if there is a scrollbar visible. Enter expands/collapses a treenode.

+ Given the absence of buttons, the two soft keys are the main mechanism of performing actions. The following control is how we drive the two soft keys:
- MainMenu
When placed on a form, the two buttons directly under the screen become applicable. The mainmenu can only have two top-level menuitems, the Text of which is rendered on the screen buttons. The left root menuitem cannot have any child menuitems of its own and thus acts more like a button. The right root menu can have menuitems and hence may function as the normal menus we are accustomed to.

It is always good to cut code in order to understand a new platform, but I suggest you familiarise yourself with the platform philosophy before embarking on a project. Even if you are an experienced PPC developer, Smartphone is a new platform (in terms of UI - you can always use existing CF dlls without recompilation). I hope the above serves as a basis for understanding the philosophy and approach you should take for Smartphone development.

Other useful links for the newbie Smartphone developer:
Keys, menus, faq, msdn article, sp with cf primer, smartphone developer ng