Using Background Agents in your Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) Apps

Wednesday Dec 28th 2011 by Vipul Vipul Patel
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Windows Phone 7.5 supports the ability to execute scheduled tasks and background agents. In this article, we explore how we can use background agents in our Windows Phone Mango applications.

Overview

Windows Phone 7.5, codenamed Mango, added around 500 new features over the first version of Windows Phone platform. One of the features is the ability to schedule tasks and execute them through background agents. They can execute even when the application is not running in the foreground.

There are two types of scheduled tasks one can use in a Windows Phone application.

  1. Periodic agents are tasks that run at regular intervals for a small amount of time. An example would be periodic data synchronization done by some social application like Facebook. This is implemented by PeriodicTask class.
  2. Resource-intensive agents are tasks that run for a longer period of time, (like weekly application updates being downloaded in the background). This is implemented by ResourceIntensiveTask class.

Before using Background agents in their application, one needs to understand that certain APIs are not allowed to be called from a background agent. APIs for Camera, VibrateController, Radio, BackgroundAudioPlayer, Sensors, etc. are not allowed to be back from a background agent, and hence cannot be executed by a scheduled task.

The most used APIs in a scheduled task are of type ShellToast and HttpWebRequest.

Hands-On

Create a Windows Phone project in Visual Studio. Add a new project to this solution of the type "Windows Phone Scheduled Task Agent" called WindowsPhoneScheduledTaskAgent.

Open up the ScheduledAgent.cs file that is auto-generated by the Visual Studio Editor.

In the OnInvoke Method, add the following code.

protected override void OnInvoke(ScheduledTask task)
        {
            //TODO: Add code to perform your task in background
            ShellToast backgroundToast = new ShellToast();
            backgroundToast.Title = "Scheduled Task";
            backgroundToast.Content = "Running...";
            backgroundToast.Show();
            ScheduledActionService.LaunchForTest(task.Name, TimeSpan.FromSeconds(10));
 
 
            NotifyComplete();
        }

Now, in our main project file, add a button control (called buttonAddPeriodicTask) to the MainPage.xaml. Add a PeriodicTask variable to the class.

PeriodicTask myPeriodicTask;

Now In the buttonAddPeriodicTask's click event, add the following code

private void buttonAddPeriodicTask_Click(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)
        {
            myPeriodicTask = ScheduledActionService.Find("My periodic task") as PeriodicTask;
            if (myPeriodicTask != null)
            {
                ScheduledActionService.Remove("My periodic task");
            }
            myPeriodicTask = new PeriodicTask("My periodic task");
            myPeriodicTask.Description = "This demonstrates a periodic task.";

            ScheduledActionService.Add(myPeriodicTask);
            stackPanel1.DataContext = myPeriodicTask;
            ScheduledActionService.LaunchForTest("My periodic task", TimeSpan.FromSeconds(10));
 
        }

Compile and execute the project. If you are having issues compiling, you can download a working sample of code from here.

Click the
Figure 1: Click the "Add periodic task" button

Click the "Add periodic task" button and then in a couple of seconds, click the "Windows" button to go to the home screen.

You will notice that after around 20 seconds, you will notice a notification at the topic of the screen as displayed below.

Notification from the scheduled task
Figure 2: Notification from the scheduled task

This is the notification from the scheduled task that appeared, indicating that the scheduled task has run.

If you are using PeriodicTask, as in our demo, you should see the notification appear every 20 seconds until the phone is rebooted or the emulator is shutdown.

Summary

In this article, we learned how to use background agents to run scheduled tasks in Windows Phone 7.5 applications. I hope you have found this information useful.

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