A partner we worked with had some troubles with a live tile image not appearing, and the process of working them out helped us understand better how to debug live tile issues.

First of all, make sure of two more global that affects tiles:

  • Live tiles don't appear in the Visual Studio simulator for Windows Store apps (though I believe they do on the phone emulator). Run locally or on a real device.
  • Make sure that live tiles for your app on the Start screen are not disabled (right-click to check).
  • Some live tiles won't look right if you've turned off system animations in PC Settings > Ease of Access > Other Options > Play Animations.

Second, the tile updater is quite sensitive to properly-formed XML. If you have any kind of glitch, the update payload will be ignored and you'll be left scratching your head. Here are some things that can trip you up:

  • The XML lacks the <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?> header.
  • There is a space or linefeed before the <?xml> header.
  • The XML isn't properly formed (e.g. missing closing tags) or doesn't follow the Tile schema.
  • The elements you indicate for a tile template doesn't match the template itself.
  • You have a mismatch between the indicated template and the version number in the <visual> element.
  • You are using accidentally using <img> tags rather than <image> in the XML. Tile templates are not HTML: they use <image>.

If you think your XML is good but it's not working, try simplifying it to include only a single tile size payload, and try them one at a time. That can narrow down where an issue might be. Also use App Tiles and Badges sample as a reference point, specifically scenario 6 that lets you build payloads.

Next, a tile update can have proper XML but its image references might be invalid. If you're using http[s] references, double-check those links in a browser. If you're using the baseUri attribute anywhere in your XML, do that combining manually and check the URIs. Also check image references with any URI parameters that are added with the addImageQuery attributes. See "Using Local and Web Images" in Chapter 16 of my free ebook (page 897) for details.

Other allowed reference URI schemas are ms-appx:/// and ms-appdata:///local. You cannot use ms-appx-web:/// or ms-appdata:///[temp | roaming] — doing so will cause the update to be ignored.

Thirdly, remember that tile images must be 1024 pixels or less in both dimensions, and must be less than 200KB in size. This means potentially resampling an image to make it smaller, and it especially means being aware of the image format and quality as that significantly affects the size. Here's how I wrote about this issue in my book, page 899:

Sidebar: PNG vs. JPEG Image Sizes

When considering tile images for the larger 140% and 180% scales, the encoding you use for your images can make a big difference and keep them below the 200K size limit. As we saw in “Branding Your App 101” in Chapter 3, a wide tile at 180% is 558×270 pixels, a medium is 270×270 pixels, and a large is 558×558 pixels. With the wide and large tile sizes, a typical photographic PNG at this size will easily exceed 200K. I encountered this when first adding tile support to Here My Am! for this chapter, where it makes a smaller version of the current photo in the local appdata folder and uses ms-appdata:///local URIs in the tile XML payload. Originally the app was capturing PNG files that were too large, so I borrowed code from scenario 11 of the App tiles and badges sample, as we’ve been working with here, to create a smaller PNG from the img element using a temporary canvas and the blob APIs. This worked fine for a 270×270 medium tile image (a 180% scale that can be downsized), but for 558×270 and 558×558 the file was too large. So I borrowed code from scenario 3 of the Simple Imaging sample to directly transcode the StorageFile for the current image into a JPEG, where the compression is much better and we don’t need to use the canvas. For this second edition’s example I just capture JPEGs to begin with, which are already small enough, but I’ve preserved the code anyway for reference. You can find it in the transcodeImageFile function in pages/home/home.js, a routine that we’ll also rewrite in Chapter 18 using C# in a WinRT component. 


Such considerations are certainly important for services that handle the addImageQuery parameters for scale. For larger image sizes, it’s probably wise to stick with the JPEG format to avoid going over the 200K limit. 

 

The 200KB limit turned out to be the issue with the partner–all the images referenced in the live tile were larger than 200KB and therefore ignored. More specifically, the images were saved as PNGs, which again for photographic images produces larger file sizes than JPG. In this partner's case, even the 150×150 tile image was too large; if it had happened to be smaller, the partner would have seen it appear but not images for the other sizes, which might have revealed the problem more quickly.

What confused the process of tracking down this problem is that an invalid image will cause that particular tile update (for that size) to be ignore in toto, meaning that the text won't appear with an invalid image. This is a reasonable behavior because otherwise end users would see oddball tile updates with text but blank spots where images should be. Personally I'd love to see a debug option in the system that you could turn on so some kind of placeholder image would appear, or an error message if a tile update is invalid.

The other thing that can be confusing is that the system will always download an image from a valid URI, and then check whether it's too large to display. This makes some sense as it's difficult to know from a URI whether the image is too big or such. The system could do a round-trip to the network to check the size first and not download it, but it doesn't work that way: it will download, and then ignore the image. This means that just watching fiddler traces or such isn't deterministic in checking image validity.

If you have a service, by the way, that dynamically generates images for periodic tile updates, then it's possible to have some variance in image sizes that are being supplied in tile updates. For debugging, make sure your service is logging requests and the dimensions and file size of every image returned. Then you can see whether any images exceeded the allowable limits.


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