Tag Archives: ideas

The Napkin Disrupted: Meet Ink to Code, a Microsoft Garage Project – Microsoft Garage

Urban legend has it that some of the greatest ideas in history started with a napkin. The Gettysburg Address, the poem that gave way to the U.S. National Anthem, and the premise of the Harry Potter series—each were reportedly born into the world through the medium of sketches on scrap paper—and when app creators put pen to paper for their ideas, this is often a canvas of choice. While rapid prototyping with the napkin and the whiteboard holds its charms, less charming is the prospect of translating quick sketches into working code.

Last summer, a group of Garage interns tackled this problem by creating a prototype of their own: meet Ink to Code, a Microsoft Garage project, now available in the United States and Canada. Ink to Code is a Windows app that enables developers to draw wire frame sketches and export them into Visual Studio, expediting the process of prototyping Universal Windows Platform (UWP) and Android user interfaces.

The Garage Internship takes a unique, entrepreneurial spin on the traditional big tech model; rather than embedding with a full-time organization, students work in groups of 5-6 as a distinct team, building their own, standalone project. Microsoft product groups vie for intern teams to work on proposed projects by pitching opportunities to interns at the start of the internship. This summer at the Microsoft New England Research and Development facility (fondly known as NERD) located in Cambridge, MA, 6 interns found their passion in the pitch for Ink to Code and signed up to work with the Xamarin team sponsoring the idea. 5 more interns studying at MIT joined the Garage team to continue working on the project.

Building a Better Napkin

Ink to Code Guide Feature Screenshot
Ink to Code captures sketches of basic visual elements and translates them into the beginnings of an app in Visual Studio

The sponsoring team and interns were both motivated by a desire to modernize the brainstorming and prototyping process from using napkin and white board sketches, to an experience that is more automated and cohesive with the Visual Studio suite. “We’ve all been in that situation as developers,” notes Alex Corrado, a Senior Software Engineer on the Xamarin Designer team, and one of the originators of the project. “Getting your ideas for a new app or feature onto paper is one of the fastest, most natural parts of the brainstorming. But then, you ultimately need to turn that sketch into code and sooner than you know it, 10, 20, 30 iterations of a sketch really add up.” The team turned to the Smart Ink built into UWP to preserve the natural desire to sketch, while bridging the gap between analog and digital with a companion app for Visual Studio. In the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, Smart Ink improves ink recognition with AI. The Ink to Code team leveraged this machine learning technology to save months on development time.

Ink to Code translates common design symbols into the beginnings of an app in Visual Studio. The first version supports basic app visual elements including labels, text fields, text paragraphs, images, and buttons. While Ink to Code can’t bring a full app vision to life, it significantly cuts down on creating the basic foundation of the app with the power of automation. Perhaps even more valuable is the way it enables developers and designers to collaborate differently. Ink to Code can be used as a more productive canvas in brainstorm meetings, or even more significantly, as a tool that can bridge the gap between collaborators with different levels of design or technical knowledge.

A Prototype for Prototypes

A core part of the Garage intern experience is conducting customer development and research, and the Ink to Code team worked with internal developers and designers to get feedback on their prototype. Today, the sponsoring Xamarin team releases the app to drastically expand the pool of feedback. Alex also shares, “Our goal is to hear from a wide variety of app creators, so we know what people like most and what we should add.”

“Developers are crazy diverse, and no experience could serve them 100% on day 1, but their feedback can help us get closer, faster,” adds George Matthews a Senior Program Manager in the Garage as well as a key originator of Ink to Code. The gut reaction of any app creator is to make sure your project is polished and perfect before shipping it, especially when releasing to an audience of your developer peers. The Ink to Code team is embracing the mindset of getting feedback early, and developing with the customer and for the customers.  George continues, “The feedback from our first customers will really help us stack rank our backlog.”

To check out Ink to Code and feed into the future direction of the project, download it at the Microsoft Store and share your thoughts via in-app feedback or UserVoice. Ink to Code is best with Visual Studio 2017.

Long-form content finds a home at Microsoft’s Story Labs | Special Edition Ragan’s PR Daily Awards

Website

Crew of content creators found stories, people and ideas to share.

Winner: Microsoft News Center

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Microsoft Story Labs epitomizes what a content-driven site can be. For that, it’s won first place in the “Website” category of PR Daily’s 2017 Content Marketing Awards.

Story Labs is all about long-form storytelling that doesn’t rub Microsoft in the reader’s face; rather, Microsoft’s technologies play a role in the stories but take a backseat to the stories themselves. 

Story Labs is a “boutique internal agency and creative SWAT team within the company’s communications/marketing division,” composed of journalists, designers, producers, animators, artists and photographers devoted to “finding the most interesting stories, people, and ideas from across the company and sharing them with the world through best-in-class storytelling.” 

Meandering through the site produces delightful surprises, such as an animated guide to blockchain, a look inside Microsoft’s Building 87 (which houses three futuristic hardware labs), a story on a Detroit wallpaper organization(which doesn’t mention Microsoft or any of its products, but shows one of the designers using a Microsoft computer in an image) and a visit with artist Hugh MacLeod (showcasing his illustrated guide to life at Microsoft). 

Anybody looking for a model content portal should check out this website.

Congratulations to Steve Wiens, Thomas Kohnstamm, Michael Wann and Doug Dawson. 

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Introducing Cortana in Skype—Microsoft’s intelligent assistant comes to your chat window | Skype Blogs

Conversation is central in our everyday lives. We chat to stay in touch, to share news and ideas that excite us, and to make plans for getting together with family and friends. But we often find ourselves in need of information—a fact to share, a place to meet, a movie time, or the perfect restaurant. Looking for information often requires interrupting the conversation, even if briefly, and switching apps to find what we’re looking for and bring it back into the conversation. But shouldn’t technology make our lives easier and truly bring the answers we need to our fingertips? At Skype we are certain about it, and it’s with this goal in mind, that we are bringing Cortana, Microsoft’s intelligent assistant, into Skype to help you in your everyday conversations.

With Cortana’s in-context assistance, it’s easier to keep your conversations going by having Cortana suggest useful information based on your chat, like restaurant options or movie reviews. And if you’re in a time crunch? Cortana also suggests smart replies, allowing you to respond to any message quickly and easily—without typing a thing.

Cortana can also help you organize your day—no need to leave your conversations. Cortana can detect when you’re talking about scheduling events or things you have to do and will recommend setting up a reminder, which you will receive on all your devices that have Cortana enabled. So, whether you’re talking about weekend plans or an important work appointment, nothing will slip through the cracks.

In addition to being your ‘behind-the-scenes’ assistant, Cortana is also a contact in Skype. So now, you can have natural conversations in one-on-one chats with Cortana—just like you would with your friends, family, and coworkers. Get answers to your burning questions, like the name of the lead actor in your favorite movie or what the weather outlook is for the weekend. You can also ask Cortana to check your flight status, give you a stock quote, or suggest the best restaurants in your area. With Cortana at your disposal, every day can be a bit more productive—and a lot more fun.

At Skype, we’re committed to making your Skype experience even better. With Cortana, we’ve added a powerful, intelligent assistant to help you with your everyday tasks right where you are and save you time.

Cortana in Skype will be gradually rolled out, starting today, to our Android and iOS customers in the United States. Your feedback is key to continue improving Cortana, so please visit our community page and let us know what you think or send us your recommendations. To learn more about how to start using Cortana and find other quick answers, please visit the FAQs.

Wanted – cheapish fanless(or at least quiet)laptop

Hi all,

Not totally sure what I am looking for so open to ideas, basically something I can code on my lap with, must be fanless with a decent spec, minimum requirements are:

8gb ram min (big json files in node.js)
backlit keyboard
ideally a 1080 screen

Location: Bovey Tracey, UK

______________________________________________________
This message is automatically inserted in all classifieds forum threads.
By replying to this thread you agree to abide by the trading rules detailed here.
Please be advised, all buyers and sellers should satisfy themselves that the other party is genuine by providing the following via private conversation to each other after negotiations are complete and prior to dispatching goods and making payment:

  • Landline telephone number. Make a call to check out the area code and number are correct, too
  • Name and address including postcode
  • Valid e-mail address

DO NOT proceed with a deal until you are completely satisfied with all details being correct. It’s in your best interest to check out these details yourself.

Wanted – cheapish fanless laptop

Hi all,

Not totally sure what I am looking for so open to ideas, basically something I can code on my lap with, must be fanless with a decent spec, minimum requirements are:

8gb ram min (big json files in node.js)
backlit keyboard
ideally a 1080 screen

Location: Bovey Tracey, UK

______________________________________________________
This message is automatically inserted in all classifieds forum threads.
By replying to this thread you agree to abide by the trading rules detailed here.
Please be advised, all buyers and sellers should satisfy themselves that the other party is genuine by providing the following via private conversation to each other after negotiations are complete and prior to dispatching goods and making payment:

  • Landline telephone number. Make a call to check out the area code and number are correct, too
  • Name and address including postcode
  • Valid e-mail address

DO NOT proceed with a deal until you are completely satisfied with all details being correct. It’s in your best interest to check out these details yourself.