Since we released the Bing Map App SDK publicly in June, thousands of developers around the world have downloaded it and many have provided us with feedback on their experiences. One of the most frequent comments was that the debugging and testing aspect was, well, cumbersome. As a company that prides itself in its developer tools and its ability to make a developer’s job easier, we felt—no, we knew—we could do better.
I am excited to announce the culmination of work based on your feedback: support for one-click debugging of map apps from Visual Studio (aka “F5 debugging”). But wait, there’s more: we’ve also streamlined the entire developer workflow, improving the user interface for the Map App Test Tool and Bing Maps Account Center so you can take the output of your build and submit it directly to our tools and portal without any intermediate steps. These improvements significantly increase developer productivity; what used to take dozens of clicks to complete can now be done in just one. And they’re now available as part of the updated Bing Map App SDK (registration required with Microsoft Connect).
At the core of this update is a new version of the Bing Map App template, the “starter project” for creating your map app (from the File menu, click New, then Project…, and then look under Visual C# Silverlight). Unlike the previous SDK release, the template now packages your map app into a special XAP archive, which can be passed directly to the Map App Test Tool via a permalink or the user interface. This archive contains your map app binaries, along with the metadata and icon necessary to create your card in the map app gallery.
This new template also creates a companion web project, which is automatically added to your solution. Don’t fear—you don’t need to write any more code to make it work—it’s configured out-of-the-box for the project you just created. When you press F5 to start debugging, the web project launches the Visual Studio Development Web server to host your XAP locally. It then launches your default browser under a debugger with a permalink that tells the Map App Test Tool to load your map app from your local machine, and voilà, your map app is now running on Bing Maps under a debugger! (Note: this feature only loads map apps from your local machine.)
Once you’ve tested your app and are ready to share it with the world, head over to the Bing Maps Account Center to submit it for review. On the Submit a map app page, simply select the Custom map app XAP option, select your XAP from your build output directory (make sure to submit only Release builds!), accept the submission addendum, and click Submit.
You’ll be prompted to confirm the metadata associated with your map app; this is read directly from the metadata.xml file included in your project (see prior screenshot for a sample). If you wish to make any changes, simply edit the file in Visual Studio and rebuild your XAP. You can also preview what your card will look like by opening the gallery after pressing F5. When you need to update your map app (including any of its metadata), just follow the same process and upload your new XAP.
We’ve also incorporated the Coin Search sample into the SDK, and updated both samples to support the new one-click debugging functionality. We hope you find these changes provide a significant efficiency gain in your workflow, and let you focus more on building great map experiences. If you have any questions on this new feature, such as how to migrate your existing map app projects to use it, head on over to the Map App Development forum for help. More importantly, please keep the feedback coming!
Dan Polivy – Senior Program Manager, Bing Maps