How Windows 8 Works

Tools and Tips for Apps

Getting an app in the Windows Store is the goal for every Windows 8 developer.
Getting an app in the Windows Store is the goal for every Windows 8 developer.
Courtesy Microsoft

As anyone who has watched the infamous YouTube clip of Steve Ballmer rallying an audience at a conference several years ago knows, Microsoft values developers. The company created a suite of tools and resources for anyone interested in building apps for Windows 8.

There are three main pathways developers can take when building an app. The first option is to design apps using hypertext markup language 5 (HTML5), Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and JavaScript. These are the same tools you'd use to create a dynamic Web page. This is a good choice for developers who want to port a Web site experience into an app.

The second method is to build an app using a more traditional programming language. Programmers who want to jump into Windows 8 app development can build their apps with C++, C# or Visual Basic. These languages allow developers to create Silverlight, .NET and Windows Presentation Foundation applications.

The third method requires developers to build an app using DirectX, a suite of interfaces useful for creating multimedia applications. On the back end, developers will build their apps using C++ and HLSL.

Any developer who wants to submit an app to the Windows Store needs to download Windows 8 and the suite of developer tools Microsoft makes available for free. These include Microsoft Visual Studio and the software development kit (SDK) for Windows 8. The developer will also need to apply for a developer license, which is free.

There are several guides -- both created by Microsoft and by third parties -- that explain how to create an app and give plenty of tips and tricks. Microsoft built some guidelines directly into Windows 8, including a grid layout that lets app developers arrange the graphics and text in their apps so that the app is both attractive and functional.

Microsoft conducted research with focus groups to learn how people interact with touch-screen interfaces, including tablets. They looked for patterns to determine where to locate controls and commands. The company makes the research available to app developers to help them design apps optimized for Windows 8.

Once a developer has built and tested an app, it's time to submit it to the Windows Store. Microsoft conducts its own tests to make sure apps work properly. Assuming everything checks out and the app doesn't violate any of Microsoft's policies, it will appear in the Windows Store as an available download.

App developers have options for monetizing their apps. They can charge a fee for the app, include in-app purchases or use advertising to generate revenue. As part of the app developer's agreement with Microsoft, which every developer must agree to before their apps will appear in the store, Microsoft gets 30 percent of the revenue generated by an app. If an app generates at least $25,000 in revenue Microsoft will drop the fee to 20 percent [source: Microsoft].