Thursday, April 27, 2006

Free programming for the Pocket PC

Pocket PC,s are hot. Prices of Pocket PC's are falling, and with the car navigation as 'killer application' the number of users is increasing rapidly. So programming for the Windows Mobile platform is getting more important. And let's face it: it's fun two write programs that you without carrying a bulky laptop.

There are a few possibilities to write Pocket PC software. The 'easiest' way is to buy the the complete Visual Studio .NET suite. This has all the bells and whistles required to write Pocket PC applications in using Visual C or the .NET Compact Framework. Unfortunately it's also rather expensive...
Fortunately Microsoft also tries to promote the platform by giving away the free Embedded VisualC SDK. Though a little bit 'outdated' in appearance, it's a fully functional IDE , with compiler, debugger and emulator for writing MFC-based C++ code. So far I've written all my software using EVC 3 and 4 and it works quite satisfactory. It's probably still the most efficient way to write Pocket PC programs because the C++ language is very close to the Windows API. Unfortunately it's also difficult to master, and the learning curve is steep and long.

It should be easier to use the .NET Compact Framework, which is standard on Windows Mobile 2003 and higher. Unfortunately the only 'supported' way to write .NET CF programs is by using Visual Studio. So if you're not that rich you'll have to go the unsupported way:

Programming the .NET Compact Framework without Visual Studio

Although Microsoft insists that you can not compile .NET Compact Framework (.NET CF) applications without owning Visual Studio .NET, it is in fact possible. Check out Ward's article at on how to do this.

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