Combining Two Apps into One at Box with the Universal Windows Platform

Windows

Windows
We recently interviewed
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about how they migrated their Windows 8 apps to
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, how the
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made the process simpler, and what features had the biggest impact on the project.

Box’s introduction to UWP


Box wanted to create a more flexible app that would make users happy no matter what device they were using. When the Box team learned about the UWP at the
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, they thought it was the best way to update their existing Windows apps. At the time, they were maintaining two codebases and two UIs; and when it came to testing, every function had to be tested for each target device.

“By combining the two apps in Windows 10 as a universal Windows app, it decreased our engineering overhead, and increased our velocity for future iterations. We’re really excited about this.” – Lois Wang, Senior Product Manager at Box. She provided us with screenshots of the app in action.

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The developers at Box combined their Windows 8 desktop app with their matching Silverlight Windows Phone app. To
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UWP, they only needed to
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and then combine the core logic into one app.

An amazing developer experience


Box was delighted when the UWP also turned out to be
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. “Compared to our previous experience building Windows apps, Windows 10 apps are a lot easier and faster to build. Also, the Dev Center takes care of the deployment,” said Lois.

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where developers can publish their app and invite selected customers to download the beta, while keeping it hidden from the live Store. With Windows 10, those users are automatically upgraded to the production version when available. Box’s Enterprise users appreciate the convenience of the Windows Store, a user-friendly way to deploy the app to corporate end users. “And to us, this makes deployment a much simplified story.
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reduces the burden for us to create installers. Most of the devs who are familiar with the business logic are not experts with the installers. That’s a huge overhead that we can avoid,” said Lois.

Migrating to Windows 10


Developing on the Universal Windows Platform also saved Box a significant amount of time. The first step in the
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was to deprecate any code no longer supported, for example, the Silverlight code. One of their goals was to offer a
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, so they converted custom controls to
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. Since the Box team didn’t have to create the controls from scratch that accelerated development. Box used the
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on their small screen UI, and they used the
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control on the main landing page for Box content. By taking advantage of the many assets and controls available readymade through Windows 10, they shortened the coding process and finished the project faster. Here’s a screenshot of the Box app displaying the user’s most recent files.

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The last step was to create the new code necessary to use a
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of the
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. Windows users are accustomed to
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, and need the ability to resize windows to show other apps sharing the screen with the Box app. In this view of the
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, it is sharing the screen with Microsoft Word.

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Windows 10 interoperability


The
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inspired the Box team during their conversion. Previously, they created and maintained custom code to interact smoothly with content creation apps, for example
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or
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. By using
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and
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, Box simplified their app and achieved better
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.

Here are their three favorite
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features.

  1. The Cached File Updater contract


    Using the
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    feature eliminated a significant amount of custom code. With a few lines of code, the Box app can share content with another app, and when users finished updating, they can save changes directly back to Box through the
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    . This means that a user can work on a remote file that the app maintains in its repository as though that file were local. In the Windows 8 desktop and phone apps, Box needed workarounds for the same functionality.
    • The File Picker contract


      By using
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      , the Box developers created a consistent way for users to open and save their files. The File Picker works with the Cached File Updater for live synchronization with a repository in the cloud.
    • The Share contract


      Box used the
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      so their users could share content with other UWP apps that employ it. App-to-app communication supports sharing and receiving data, copy & paste, and drag & drop.
Wrapping up


Using the universal Windows Platform, Box increased interoperability with other apps, and optimized users’ workflow. The Box app helps you securely access and work on content, collaborate, and automate your workflows. Visit the
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to start building your app on Box, visit the
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. The
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is now available for download from the Windows Store.

Useful resources include:


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