Automate UWP submissions using Cake

Finally we can automate uwp submissions using Cake!

This blog post has been in the makings for about a year now. But due to some technical store issues, it was delayed for a while. But no fear, the time has finally come here!

While working on several UWP apps for the Microsoft store, I found the deployment part very tedious. Especially building the 3 (x86, x64 and ARM) packages with the native toolchain were taking a long time (about 20 minutes).

I had a few ultimate goals while developing UWP apps:

  1. Get rid of the native compilation
  2. Automate the store submission

This pipeline (image taken from the build configuration in Continua CI) was the ultimate goal:

image

Getting rid of native compilation

Luckily for me, I didn’t have to do a lot of research on this front. Oren Novotny took care of this for the community by investigating this.

To summarize his hard work, you will need to use the following property values:

Property Value
UapAppxPackageBuildMode CI
AppxBundlePlatforms x86|x64|ARM
AppxBundle Always

Automate the store deployment

Next up was to automate the deployment to the store. I wanted to be able to trigger a build and only had to check the newly created deployment in the Windows Microsoft Store to submit it. For me, a logical first step was to take a look at Cake, which is an open-source tool (with lots of add-ons) for automating builds. There are several things that need automation in the deployment process:

  1. Determine the version number – GitVersion
  2. Update the version number in the appxmanifest
  3. Build the app for each target platform (x86, x64 and ARM), but without the slow native compilation
  4. Create a submission in the Microsoft Store (based on the previous one) and upload the new packages

Determine the version number

To determine the version number of the app, you can simply tag a specific commit with the version number and use GitVersion. I won’t go into too much details for this blog post.

Update the version number in the appxmanifest

At this stage, we have the version number and need to update it. Since this is UWP, updating the AssemblyInfo isn’t sufficient. To overcome this in Cake, one can use the MagicChunks add-on for Cake:

Building the app

Below is the code to build the app using Cake without native compilation:

Submitting the app

Unfortunately, due to the level of popularity of the Microsoft Store, there was no add-on yet for submissions. But now there is the Cake.WindowsAppStore add-in, making it very easy to submit the app to the store. The following values are required:

  • Windows Store App Id
  • Windows Store Client Id
  • Windows Store Client Secret
  • Windows Store Tenant ID

Check the official guide on Microsoft Docs on how to obtain these prerequisites.

Below is the Cake task for the submission:

Conclusion

Achievement unlocked! After over 200 manual submissions, I can finally publish app updates automatically via a build server with an acceptable build duration (45 seconds instead of 5 minutes):

All scripts described in this blog post are open source and can be found at https://github.com/GeertvanHorrik/UwpSubmissionsUsingCake

References

Building Git repositories containing sub modules with Continua CI

Today I wanted to add a repository to the build server that contains submodules. The submodules are required because I prefer to share code via shared projects so they will always be compiled for the right platform as you can read here.

When you add a repository to a project or configuration in Continua CI, you can add authentication. However, the sub modules won’t use the same authentication which means that the submodule can never be retrieved. To solve this issue, use the steps below.

Create separate build server account (optional)

I prefer to create a read-only account for build servers so it can never screw anything up. For private projects I use Bitbucket so I created a new buildserver account and added it to the team with read-only access.

Create _netrc file on the server

The _netrc file can be used to provide default credentials to a server when they aren’t provided on the actual repository. I prefer to keep everything together so I followed the following steps:

  1. Create directory C:\Continua\Auth
  2. Create a %HOME% system variable pointing to this path (I prefer using a shared path for %HOME% so it is accessible to all users)
  3. Create the _netrc file (note that there is no extension) with the following content:

machine [host]
login [buildserveraccount]
password [password]

for example:

machine bitbucket.org
login mybuildserveraccount
password mypassword

Now Continua CI will be able to pull the submodules as well.

Introducing ContinuaInit – initialize your build server variables

I am using Continua CI as a continuous integration server. One of the things I always do is to try and mainsteam all the configurations so I know what is happening for each product. However, I always found myself doing a lot of if/else to determine the state of a build:

image

The advantage of these variables is that I can implement logic inside a configuration based on whether the build is a CI build and whether it is an official build. My goal was to replace this whole tree by a single call to an executable that contains rules to determine variables and init them all.

The result is ContinuaInit. You can replace the whole tree by the Execute Program action and call ContinuaInit.exe. That will result in a much cleaner initialization:

image

What initialization is supported?

For now, it supports the following rules:

PublishType

If the branch is master, the PublishType will be set to Official. Otherwise the PublishType will be set to Nightly.

IsOfficialBuild

true if the branch master, otherwise false

IsCiBuild

true if the branch does not equal master, otherwise false

DisplayVersion

Will be set to the version provided by the command line. Then it will apply one of the following values:

nightly => when nightly build

ci => when CI build

How can you get it?

ContinuaInit is available on both NuGet and Chocolatey.