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Visual Studio and Xamarin at Microsoft Build 2018

Just like last year, I was able to attend the Microsoft Build conference in Seattle. The three day event was action packed with loads of interesting, technical sessions and to give an idea of the vision of Microsoft. There were a couple of great Xamarin-related announcements that I wanted to share, which sadly were a lot less than last year.

Still, great Xamarin minds like Miguel, James, Mikayla and David took a spot on one of the stages at Build and shared their latest and greatest. I wanted to highlight a couple of things that got me most excited and is available for us today to create great Xamarin apps!


What’s new with Visual Studio for Mac by Mikayla Hutchinson

Visual Studio for Mac v7.0 went Generally Available during the keynote from Build last year. At this years conference, v7.5 has been launched in Stable after being available in Preview for a while. Sweet!

Mikayla went maximum purple for her talk at Build and shared some pretty cool stuff. I personally like the changes done in Xamarin.Forms development, now using the .NET Standard templates and IntelliSense being added to XAML development. Also, editing the Entitlements.plist for iOS development is now easier than ever. Simply open the file in the IDE and get to work! WiFi debugging is available for iOS development as well. Visual Studio for Mac also ships a new Android Device Manager so you won’t need to rely on the one shipped by Google.

Non-Xamarin specific functionality that has been added include ASP.NET Core development with Razor, JavaScript, and TypeScript Editor Support, Building Serverless solutions with Azure Functions as well as support for .editorconfig-files (My colleague Bas wrote about this too). Support for TFVC is available in Preview as well! More details can be found on the The Visual Studio Blog. Version 7.6 is already available in Preview if you want to get a look at even newer features.

Visual Studio for Mac is really working hard to get feature parity with it’s brother on Windows, but on the other hand it’s interesting to see the direction of Visual Studio Code. That IDE is getting more features as well through plugins, but hasn’t reached the level of VS yet.

Visual Studio and Xamarin: The future of app development by Miguel de Icaza

Originally this session was planned together with James, but for unknown reason only Miguel took the stage. His session was built around the complete Development Cycle for mobile development, which was interesting since it started being non technical at all.

One of the more technical bits was the announcement that the Android emulator now supports Hyper-V making it blazing fast and using it is much simpler. Miguel drew this simplification in a beautiful overview.

Another thing that was added, was the Android Designer (in Preview Release). It’s now possible to have a Split View, Drag and Drop and Completion of your *.AXML-files. I’m really looking forward to this since it can speed up development a lot.

Also, the ugly syntax for Xamarin.iOS development when using WeakReference<T> has become a lot cleaner now. Now simply use the [Weak]-attribute to specify this type of reference, which is essentially how this works in Objective-C as well using the __weak-attribute (or weak in Swift).

Miguel finished his presentation with some food for thought of other things people are working on. An example was Xamarin.Essentials which I’ll cover later as well. Other topics were Elmish and Ooui. In the last minute, Miguel talked about Xamarin.Forms Shell which goal is to make it simple and straightforward for new developers to get a complete app experience that is properly structured, uses the right elements, with very little effort and a clear path to being good by default. It’s currently still a draft, looking for feedback.

Cloud-connected apps with Visual Studio, Xamarin, and Azure by James Montemagno

James didn’t show any new stuff, but told the mobile developer story from start to end. Sadly, his demo had some hiccups on Android but that was due to a bug that was already fixed in a later version. He essentially walked us through the Geocontacts-app, an app to connect CDAs.

In order to create the app, he (obviously) used Xamarin and combined it with loads of interesting libraries. New for me were the MSAL (Microsoft Identity Client) and Markdig (Markdown processor) libraries.

The app also used Azure Functions, something that can be created using Visual Studio for Mac as well. James completed the app development cycle by using App Center to build, test and deploy the app.

What’s new in Xamarin.Forms 3.0 by David Ortinau

Loads of goodness has been dropped for Xamarin.Forms in their 3.0 release. David started his session with a recap from last year, but quickly switched to thanking the Community Contributions to Xamarin.Forms, as well as taking the time to focus on some Community Projects like Prism from Dan Siegel.

XAML standard was announced last year, but still isn’t fully used everywhere. David promised it will drop in Xamarin.Forms 3.1, which is expected within the upcoming 6 weeks. RTL-support is already available at this time.

David took us through the Conference Vision app (source), which is an absolute beauty of an app built with Xamarin.Forms 3.0. The app uses the new FlexLayout, as well as CSS and the Visual State Manager. I’ll cover these topics in upcoming blog posts.

If you want to learn more about the FlexLayout system, David created a sample app to do so. He also mentioned the F100 collaboration, which stands for a challenge to improve 100 little things in Xamarin.Forms. Since it’s Open Source, you can create a PR to add this functionality to Xamarin.Forms yourself!

David finished strong with a roadmap of the future for Xamarin.Forms. The {x:Bind} markup extension will be added later this year, but the vNext (3.1-pre1) is already available. vNext2 will include Gestures for Xamarin.Forms as well, which is something I’ll be really looking forward to.


Although I think there were a lot more interesting Xamarin announcements last year, the progress the teams shared are still pretty awesome for every Xamarin developer. What do you think and what direction would you like to see some change happening?

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