Metro Mail Design and Integration with Windows 8; Exposing .NET Tasks as WinRT Asynchronous Operations

"Hundreds of thousands of users have been using the "App Preview" of Mail on a daily basis since the Windows 8 Release Preview," Microsoft stated. "We've also been updating it along the way through the new Windows Store with more updates planned."The Mail app deeply integrating into the operating system to make it easier to […]

Exploring Metro Mail App features in Windows 8 Release Preview

"Hundreds of thousands of users have been using the "App Preview" of Mail on a daily basis since the Windows 8 Release Preview," Microsoft stated. "We've also been updating it along the way through the new Windows Store with more updates planned."

The Mail app deeply integrating into the operating system to make it easier to share, print, and stay up-to-date on your email.

In a Windows 8 blog post, Jeremy Epling, lead program manager on the Windows Live team, discusses the background of the Mail app and talk about the design and features, especially relative to Metro style design principles.

"In the Consumer Preview version of Windows 8, the Mail app just showed messages and a reading pane. While, in the Release Preview, the Mail app has been altered now to show three panels, with an account panel that is available on the left side," he said.

He notes, that in the Release Preview, the message list spans from the top to the bottom of the app, doesn't show a message preview, and uses a smaller font than before. At a resolution of 1366x768, this allows you to see 14 messages instead of the 8.5 messages you could see in Consumer Preview.

And, the reading pane makes it fast and fluid to switch between messages -- optimized to be 640px wide so it can fit newsletters, receipts, and other commercial mail without showing a horizontal scrollbar.

The email writing screen is composed of two panes, side-by-side, so that you have more room to write your message. The touch keyboard limits the amount of vertical space available, so it didn't make sense to put the To, Cc, and other information above the body of the email.

"To make it easier to format messages, Mail automatically shows the formatting commands when you select text in the message pane. After you apply formatting, the commands go away so you have more room to focus on what you're writing," he said.

Metro Mail App in Windows 8: Message Composing Pane

The Mail app can also be "snapped" to the side of another Windows 8 app, that allow the user to do other tasks as well as see a list of messages in the snapped state, allowing to switch email accounts and folders alongwith performing delete, move, or respond directly from the snapped Mail pane.

The Mail app let you print by just opening the Devices charm and select the printer you want to print it with, and it integrates with the Share contract so that you can easily share to Mail from any app.

Mail also supports sharing text, links, and pictures. If the app provides a public URL, Mail automatically grabs a picture, title, and description from the webpage. Using Mail from the Share charm looks and behaves the same as the when you compose a new message in the Mail app, so all your formatting keyboard shortcuts still work, like CTRL+B for bold.

It also support creating secondary Live tiles for any email folder and account and pinning them to the Windows 8 start screen. "You can also create a secondary tile for any email folder or account, and pin that to the Start screen to see live updates of new mail in just that folder or account. This is very convenient if you use server rules to automatically move email to another folder," Epling explained.

Mail app in suspended mode, still wake up the email sync engine when new email arrives (push) or when a timer fires (polling). Mail has account-specific settings, so that you can choose the configuration that works best for each account on your device. By default, all accounts will download new email "as items arrive" (push), but you can configure that to happen every 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, or manually.

To prevent out-of-control data usage, he said, "we try to use the minimal amount of data necessary while still delivering a great experience. To this, we only download the last 2 weeks of email by default, unless you specifically configure it that way for any given account." Also, this provides a much faster first download, so you can start acting on your messages more quickly.

In other blog post, Stephen Toub, eplore how to with some assistance from the .NET Base Class Libraries (BCL), use keywords to develop asynchronous operations that are then exposed via WinRT for other components built in other languages to consume.