Looking to change programming direction

Aug 10, 2022
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Hello world!

I am a long-time novice/amateur self taught programmer. A long time ago I started learning C++ through necessity. It wasn't really C++ programming, more of a scripting inside an existing game SDK. I learned a lot through trial and error, some space examples here and there and eventually got things to work that I wanted to.
I then moved on to a few C++ .net forms applications and they worked well.
I eventually shifted from C++ and as a natural progression I developed in C# again using .NET forms.

I made lots of applications on this platform with a lot of success, although it is all self-taught and I have never focused on quality, really just the output. Having said that, I made some neat applications ranging from a program that joins up images into a video which I used for stop-animation, image conversion, tools that leverages SQL databases, tools that leverage a SOAP API, applications that scrape web pages and some other stuff that I needed.
I guess by way of introduction I am trying to say that I am not completely new to programming, but my "education" isn't formal and I have some pretty sloppy practices.

What I would really like to do now is create my first mobile application. I have always been bound either by working or extending an existing windows client application or starting from scratch - But only using windows forms.

I use visual studio community edition as my IDE so I installed the Xamarin packages and attempted to sniff my way around, hoping that it wouldn't be too much different. I found I could create a form based project, but it was nothing like what I was used to. Editting the layout of the application meant changing the code itself. I found this really frustrating and very over-whelming.

I suppose what I am looking for is advice on how to move from .net forms to mobile application programming. Is there anything out there that works similarly to windows forms projects that is more designer view driven for the interface? I would like to just use the tool bar to drag and drop in buttons, labels, text boxes etc, then using the designer view just double click the button and the code is generate for the button click event and I can insert my C# into that event.

Is something like this available or is it a whole new way of working and there is nothing like the designer view in windows forms for mobile projects? I'm just finding it really difficult to get passed the first hurdle. It's annoying, because I am confident I can get the button to connect to a database/make a beep sound/display an image or whatever the function is supposed to do, but for the life of me I have no idea how to get past my reliance on designer driven GUI's.

Can anyone help?
Jan 24, 2024
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It's great to hear about your programming journey and the diverse range of applications you've created. Transitioning from Windows Forms to mobile app development can indeed be a bit challenging, especially with the differences in UI design approaches. However, there are tools and frameworks that offer a similar design-driven experience for mobile development.
  1. Xamarin.Forms: Xamarin.Forms is a cross-platform framework for building native UIs for iOS, Android, and Windows with a single, shared codebase. While it doesn't have an exact replica of the Windows Forms designer, it does provide a XAML-based approach for designing UIs. In Xamarin.Forms, you can define your UI in XAML, similar to how you'd use markup in Windows Forms, and the code-behind can handle the logic.
    You can use Xamarin.Forms with Visual Studio, and it integrates well with the IDE. Xamarin.Forms also has a visual designer for XAML that allows you to drag and drop controls onto the design surface, making it somewhat familiar if you're used to visual design tools.
  2. Blazor Mobile Bindings: Blazor Mobile Bindings is another option, especially if you're comfortable with C# and Blazor. Blazor allows you to build interactive web applications using C# instead of JavaScript. With Blazor Mobile Bindings, you can leverage your C# skills to build mobile applications. It's a newer technology, and the tooling may not be as mature as Xamarin.Forms, but it's worth exploring.
  3. Uno Platform: Uno Platform enables you to create cross-platform applications with XAML and C#. It supports a UWP-like XAML designer experience and allows you to target multiple platforms, including iOS, Android, Windows, and WebAssembly. Uno Platform provides a familiar design-driven approach, making it easier to transition from Windows Forms.
When moving to mobile development, it's essential to understand the differences in platform conventions and UI paradigms. While a visual designer can help with the layout, it's also beneficial to understand the underlying structure of the UI and the specific capabilities of each platform.
Take some time to explore these options, experiment with simple projects, and refer to the documentation and community resources for guidance. Each of these frameworks has its strengths, and the choice might depend on your specific requirements and preferences. Good luck with your mobile app development journey!

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