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Building Mobile, Touch-Oriented Business Apps with the HTML Client in Visual Studio LightSwitch 2012

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In this four-part series, Alessandro Del Sole, author of Microsoft Visual Studio LightSwitch Unleashed, introduces the new HTML client in Visual Studio LightSwitch 2012. Part 1 discusses how to use the HTML client to create a line of business apps that can run on any device, including tablets and mobile phones.

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With today's incredible diffusion of mobile devices running different operating systems, the need for cross-platform and cross-device applications is significant. This requirement affects line-of-business applications; many companies have desktop clients built for Windows while they simultaneously have mobile devices running iOS or Android, enabling employees to handle data both inside and outside the office. One of the biggest concerns for developers building applications with Microsoft Visual Studio LightSwitch has been the possibility of running their apps on multiple platforms and devices. The Silverlight plug-in from Microsoft is still an optimal choice for desktop workstations, but it can't run on many mobile devices such as Windows RT tablets, iPad tablets, and Android devices.

With both cross-platform and cross-device situations in mind, Microsoft's LightSwitch team in Redmond has been very busy over the last two years, focusing on the development of a new HTML client that could solve problems of portability across devices and of usability with touchscreens. The new HTML client in Visual Studio LightSwitch 2012 allows us to run a LightSwitch application on any device with a browser supporting the HTML5 standard. Figure 1 provides an example, showing a LightSwitch application running on an iPad.

Figure 1 LightSwitch app running on an iPad.

LightSwitch apps can now run on iPad tablets, Android devices, iPhone and Windows Phone mobile phones, and Windows 8 devices (including RT). In all cases, the touch-oriented user interface looks the same, providing users with an easy way to interact with data. Now that the HTML client has been released, programmers have a companion client for the Silverlight client, which can run on any device with a web browser supporting the HTML5 standard.

The HTML client makes it easy to develop mobile applications with a well-known simplified approach, as you'll see shortly. This new client has a very appealing touch-oriented user interface that's designed to be comfortable on mobile devices. Behind the scenes, the HTML client uses JavaScript code and the jQuery and jQuery Mobile libraries to generate the client side of the application.

In this first article in this series, I'll provide a general overview of the HTML client and the approach you use to create rich mobile applications with Visual Studio LightSwitch. Part 2 of this series will show how to supply important customizations, such as writing JavaScript code, modifying styles in the user interface, adding functionalities to screens, and so on. Parts 3 and 4 will describe how to deploy your mobile applications to the cloud with Windows Azure and Office 365, respectively.

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