Portable

Being a developer in both Windows 8 and Windows Phone is an interesting life. Given the relative newness of both of these platforms, and the similarities in look and feel between them, you’d probably expect that the code can be shared easily between the platforms for the same app. Sadly, that’s not the case for more than about 60% of the code base. (I’m not even going to start on the presentation layer – XAML will always need to be *at least* tweaked to account for the different screen sizes)

The differences between the desktop and phone APIs can cause sleepless nights, as well as necessitating two separate versions of a code base with all the complexities that entails (fixing the same defect multiple times, for example).

Luckily there is a solution that can help us out greatly – Portable Class Libraries. These useful little additions to the platform allow you to write one assembly that can be consumed by Windows 8, Windows Phone, Silverlight or the full .NET framework. But there is a catch – supporting all these platforms comes at a cost of compatibility. The code you write in a WinForms app is likely to use different methods, located in different parts of the BCL to the same feature on the phone.

Fortunately, Microsoft have put a lot of time into portable class libraries, and done some lever under-the-hood work to redirect calls the the PCL versions of some tasks to their platform-specific counterparts. A great example of this is the PCL HttpClient (announcementNuGet package). This makes the task of getting content from the web a snap, and you don’t need to worry about which of the implementations of a web client to use in your assembly. Just use :

Note : If you are targetting .Net 4.0 or Windows Phone 7.x, make sure you also install the Microsoft.Bcl.Async package from NuGet, otherwise the solution won’t build.

So now, all you need to do is call the method as follows, and it will work across all your platforms.

Hopefully that one example will give you some insight into the power of the portable class library, and it’s ability to simplify your coding across the platforms. I will be posting a list of useful NuGet packages that extend the base PCL functionality soon, although there’s plenty of good stuff already in there to get you going.

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