Window 8.1 Universal MVVM app

This article will demonstrate usage of Universal app project for Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8 and also pointing out what to be put in shared code.

In recent Build 2014 event, Windows Universal App was one of the exciting feature that Microsoft rolled out to empower Windows Phone and Windows store apps development in unified way. This code sharing strategies between Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1 makes it pretty easier to develop for both platform and sharing most of the code and resource. This is pretty much similar to iOS development where you have Universal apps that runs on both iPhone and iPad. It is really “One Windows 8 and rule them all” approach and today we are going to develop our first Windows 8 Universal app!

Though this is my first Universal app, there is already first universal app in windows store called Halo: Spartan Assault in windows store as Microsoft has started accepting Universal apps for the store!

To get started, please download Visual Studio 2013 Update 2 from the following links based on your version of Visual Studio 2013.

Visual Studio Ultimate 2013 with Update 2 RC
Visual Studio Premium 2013 with Update 2 RC
Visual Studio Professional 2013 with Update 2 RC
Visual Studio Express 2013 for Windows with Update 2 RC

Please keep Visual Studio closed when you install this update and once you are done with install open Visual studio and under C# template, notice Universal Apps project template as shown in Figure 1.0.

Figure 1.0 Visual Studio 2013 Universal App template for C#

Let’s create an MVVM Universal app! Go ahead and create project of type Universal app and name it whatever you want.
When you see the solution created for you, you will notice three different projects created as per Figure 1.1. One is for Windows 8.1, one for Windows Phone 8 and one as shared project.

Figure 1.1 Universal project

In Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8, you can have your applications views which are meant to be for particular resolution and device such as surface and windows phone respectively.  The shared project is where you,

1. Write your common code such as ViewModels, Models.

2. Write partial classes that can be used in both the application project

3. Create user control and custom control that can be reused in both the project.

4. Put resources such as images, resource files such as styles, templates, localization etc

5. write code that does not fit entirely to specific platform by using #if directive

6. Should not put entire xaml page as shared control as space utilization is very limited on Windows phone 8 compared to Windows 8.1 apps that run on device such as Surface.

7. Should not put user control/custom control which uses controls that can’t be available on both platform such as maps.

Now put following piece of xaml markup in both the MainPage.

        <TextBlock FontSize="32" Text="{Binding Message}"></TextBlock>

Listing 1.0 TextBlock for MainPage

Add ViewModel class with following code in Shared project.

public class ViewModel : INotifyPropertyChanged
         private string message;
        public string Message
            get { return message; }
            set { message = value;

         public ViewModel()
             this.Message = "Hi from Universal App!";

         protected void RaisePropertyChanged(string propertyName)
             if (this.PropertyChanged != null)
                 this.PropertyChanged(this, new PropertyChangedEventArgs(propertyName));

        public event PropertyChangedEventHandler PropertyChanged;

Listing 1.1 ViewModel class

Note that Listing 1.1 shows very basic view model class where I am implementing INotifyPropertyChanged. As a good practice you would usually have base class implements this interface.

Now in both MainPage’s code behind, set DataContext to new instance of this ViewModel class as following.

this.DataContext = new ViewModel();

Listing 1.2 Setting DataContext for Both MainPage

Now just build solution and run each application project one by one and see that you are getting the message displayed. A very simple example of easy code sharing that Universal app template provides. Off course this is very basic MVVM app, I encouraged you to try out three things on your own:

1. Read my earlier article on the Windows 8.1 Localization here and try to implement common Localized resource file (resw) for both Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8 in Universal app project template.

2. The another exciting thing came out in Build 2014 in Visual Studio 2013 Update 2 is, you can code Windows Phone app in Html, Js and CSS! Try out David Zordan’s TypedMVVM, a MVVM framework developed upon TypeScript (TypeScript also made it’s RTM release as announced in Build 2014!) and WinJs at

3. MVVM Light toolkit has its framework ready for Universal app! Just follow this tutorial to get started with it for Universal apps

By jay nanavati   Popularity  (8873 Views)