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C++ support from Windows Phone 8

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Windows Phone 8 SDK adds two new sets of APIs to develop applications using native code. This article will explain how to use C++ under Windows Phone and some general directions that any C++ developer should know when targeting the platform.

Note.pngNote: This is a community entry in the Windows Phone 8 Wiki Competition 2012Q4

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Article Metadata
Tested withCompatibility
Platform(s): Windows Phone 8.0
Windows Phone 8
Keywords: windows phone, c++, managed, direct 3D, natif
Created: yan_ (07 Nov 2012)
Last edited: yan_ (22 Nov 2012)



Windows Phone 8 SDK adds two new sets of APIs to develop applications using native code. This article will explain how to use C++ under Windows Phone and some general directions that any C++ developer should know when targeting the platform.

WP api.png

WIndows Phoen 8 SDK API is divided into three part. These APIs are complementary :

  • .Net gives interaction with Windows phone functionality like live tiles, send sms, ...
  • Windows Phone runtime is a intermediate API which gives access to low level functionality like voice Command, voip,...
  • Native code gives access to low level API like socket, Direct X, ...

For more information read :Windows Phone API reference

.Net (C# & VB)

.Net API is the original Windows Phone framework. It lets you to develop GUI with XAML technologies, access principal functionality (live tiles, tasks, send Mail, sms, ...) and XNA. It's actually the most important framework to develop Windows Phone application. To develop with this framework you can use C# or VB. You can find .net reference documentation here :

Note : XNA is always supported, but only to develop Windows Phone 7 application. It's replaced by Direct3D with Windows Phone 8 .

Windows Phone runtime (c# ,VB & C++/CX)

This API have two functionalities :

This API is based on COM-like technology. Like COM is not user-friendly, Microsoft have created Visual C++ Language Reference (C++/CX) to Consume this API with C++ and create WinPRT components. This extension adds to C++ managed concept like garbage collector, properties, delegate, event.... To be consumed by manged code, class developed in C++/Cx generate metadata. In fact, VS translate this class to a COM-like Objet and generate binary.

To develop in C++ you will always use this extension somewhere because it's your C++ code which is consumed by managed API and not the other way round.

Native (C++)

Visual studio 2012 have a really good support of C++ language and its recent normalization. For windows phone, these links are good entries to find supported features :

C++11 adds a lot of really good concepts and features. Too learn more and update your abilities, you should read this link : Modern C++.

Native API is developed in C++ and divided into libraries :

In few cases, you must use directly COM Object :

Native application

To launch an application, Windows phone need an "entry point" it may consume. To perform it, your "entry point" will be developed with C++/CX and C++ main function is replaced by a C++/CX version :

int main(Platform::Array<Platform::String^>^)
auto factory= ref new myFactory();
return 0;
ref class myFactory sealed : Windows::ApplicationModel::Core::IFrameworkViewSource
virtual Windows::ApplicationModel::Core::IFrameworkView^ CreateView()
return ref new myView();

IFrameworkView is the display provider use to make Direct3D rendering. Interface function are :

void myView::Initialize(CoreApplicationView^ applicationView)
applicationView->Activated +=
ref new TypedEventHandler<CoreApplicationView^, IActivatedEventArgs^>(this, &myView::OnActivated);
//handle suspending and resuming application states.
CoreApplication::Suspending +=
ref new EventHandler<SuspendingEventArgs^>(this, &myView::OnSuspending);
CoreApplication::Resuming +=
ref new EventHandler<Platform::Object^>(this, &myView::OnResuming);
  • Load : load and activate external resources. This function is called before Run().
  • SetWindow : sets the current CoreWindow. Use it to handle application display event like close, visibility change, mono-touch event, ...
void myView::SetWindow(CoreWindow^ window)
window->VisibilityChanged +=
ref new TypedEventHandler<CoreWindow^, VisibilityChangedEventArgs^>(this, &myView::OnVisibilityChanged);
window->Closed +=
ref new TypedEventHandler<CoreWindow^, CoreWindowEventArgs^>(this, &myView::OnWindowClosed);
window->PointerPressed +=
ref new TypedEventHandler<CoreWindow^, PointerEventArgs^>(this, &myView::OnPointerPressed);
window->PointerMoved +=
ref new TypedEventHandler<CoreWindow^, PointerEventArgs^>(this, &myView::OnPointerMoved);
window->PointerReleased +=
ref new TypedEventHandler<CoreWindow^, PointerEventArgs^>(this, &myView::OnPointerReleased);
  • Uninitialize : uninitializes ressources.
  • Run : start your view. Your must implement an application event-loop here.
void myView::Run()
//reference time.
BasicTimer^ timer = ref new BasicTimer();
while (!m_windowClosed)//while application is not closed
if (m_windowVisible)// application is visible, update Direct3D rendering
CoreWindow::GetForCurrentThread()->Dispatcher->ProcessEvents(CoreProcessEventsOption::ProcessAllIfPresent);//process current system events
m_renderer->Update(timer->Total, timer->Delta); //update your render from time reference.
m_renderer->Render();// Direct3D rendering
m_renderer->Present(); // This call is synchronized to the display frame rate.
else // application is not visible
CoreWindow::GetForCurrentThread()->Dispatcher->ProcessEvents(CoreProcessEventsOption::ProcessOneAndAllPending); ;//process current system events and wait new events.

Native application have three importants points:

  • you can only use Direct3D for display data. Native API doesn't have API to build GUI.
  • you must execute system events.
  • You don't have access to .Net functionality. You can't use live tiles, send a SMS, ...

Without .Net functionality, native applications are not so cool and you are limited to Direct3D develop ... But remember, you can develop WinPRT components with C++/CX. So it's possible to encapsulate your c++ Code with C++/CX and consume it with managed code :p

Other wiki resources about Direct3D development:

Mixed application

You can develop mixed application where your managed code consume Windows Phone Runtime components. To develop with C++ Code, you must create a Windows Phone Runtime Component which interface C++ part with a public sealed C++/CX class . It's important to readC++ extension documentation to understand its specificities :

  • a C++/CX class/struct is declared with ref keyword
ref class myclass 
  • Allocation is performed by ref new.
  • C++/CX struct can be use like a POD.
  • Class instance is handled by ^ type ( is known as a "hat"). This type is a smart pointer with a counting reference like std::shared_ptr.
myclass ^ myClass = ref new myclass ();
  • Platform::String Class replace std::wstring. C++/CX String are Unicode.
  • C++/CX collections are compliant with STL.
  • Fundamental types are similar.
  • A property is similar to getter/setter in C++.
  • A delegate is a function object. It can encapsulate n C++/CX or managed code.
  • An event is a delegate collection which perform all delegate when event is raised.
  • sealed keyword : a sealed class or a sealed function can't be overridden.

To be consumed by managed code, C++/CX code generate a set of metadata. This generation depend on access modifier :

Modifier Meaning Emitted to metadata?
private The default accessibility. Same meaning as in standard C++. No
protected Same meaning as in standard C++, both within the app or component and in metadata. Yes
public Same meaning as in standard C++. Yes
public protected –or- protected public Protected accessibility in metadata, public within the app or component. Yes
protected private or private protected Not visible in metadata; protected accessibility within the app or component. No
internal or private public The member is public within the app or component, but is not visible in metadata. No

Metadata are generated only for specific C++/CX objects. A C++/CX class can declare C++ object only if the member/function have a private or internal access. Your public Class/Struct must be sealed because Managed code can't override it.

//C++/CX class declaration which can be consumed by managed code
public ref class MyClass sealed
private : // C++ object can be used
std::string aString:
std::vector<uint32_t> aFunction();
public : //object and function are accessible by managed coe. if a c++ object is used, error is generated.
property Platform::String ^ anotherString;
Windows::Foundation::Collections::IVector<uint32> ^anotherFunction();

Public access is very strict, and only specific C++/CX objects can be used  :

These Objects must be defined with these types :

Once your components is referenced by your managed application, you can consume it like other Managed object. It's so possible to bind public properties with XAML and connect to public events.

You can find interesting explanation here :

Warning : Windows phone implement a subset of the Windows 8 C++/CX namespace. Few object are not accessible.


Windows Phone Runtime API doesn't implement collections class. To transfer collection between managed and native code, a set of collections Interface are defined. These interface have Equivalent in managed. For example IVector besome an IList in C#.

C++/CX collections use C++ parts and can't be consumed directly by managed Code. Like these classes implement a Windows Phone Runtime interface, you can cast these to be consumed through the interface

Windows::Foundation::Collections::IVector<int>^ Class1::GetInts()
auto vec = ref new Platform::Collections::Vector<int>();
return vec;// implicit cast to Windows Phone Runtime interface. Managed code can consume collection returned.

Remarque : STL collection can be converted to its C++/CX equivalent. When you convert a temporary collection, You can use std::move to avoid unnecessary internal copy

Windows::Foundation::Collections::IVector<int>^ Class1::GetInts()
st::vector<int> vec;
for(int i = 0; i < 10; i++)
// Implicit conversion to IVector
return ref new Platform::Collections::Vector<int>(std::move(vec));


You can't debug managed code and native code in same times. To selected which debugger you want use :

  1. open project properties
  2. open debug tab and select debugger mode

Debugger selection.png

Direct 3D

Managed code can't access directly to Direct 3D. You must develop a WInPRT component which consume Direct3D with C++ code. You component must implement two interface :

Direct3D rendering can be display by two XAML controls:

Reference links

Ressources about C++ Direct3D developpement on Windon sPhone  :

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