Can Microsoft’s Desktop App Converter Save the Windows Store?
Soon you will be able to download legacy software from the Windows Store.
We often talk converters here at MakeUseOf, and we always want the best : the most efficient, an excellent feature array, a sleek aesthetic, and hopefully (but not always!) free of charge. But how about a tool allowing developers to convert their desktop apps into a Universal Windows Platform (UWP) app? This could finally make the Windows Store useful !
At Build 2016, Microsoft previewed their Desktop App Converter, previously known as Project Centennial. With Windows 10 Anniversary build 14316, Microsoft has released a preview version of the tool. It won’t be long until you’ll see the first applications in the Windows Store!
What Is It?
Desktop App Converter is a core feature of Project Centennial, an ongoing push by Microsoft to bring classic Windows applications such as Win32 or .NET into the Universal Windows Platform ecosystem. The converter is designed to encourage developers to bring the applications to Windows 10, hopefully easing any potential teething problems along the way. Microsoft explained more in an official blog posted to the Windows Dev Centre:
Desktop App Converter is a pre-release tool that enables you to bring your existing desktop apps written for .NET 4.6.1 or Win32 to the Universal Windows Platform (UWP). You can run your desktop installers through the converter in an unattended (silent) mode and obtain an AppX package that you can install by using the Add-AppxPackage PowerShell cmdlet on your development machine.
Reports are positive. Legacy and desktop apps will not suddenly be updated into magnificent modern masterpieces, but the functionality gained through conversion will certainly be appealing to many developers.
Why Is This Important?
The release of the Desktop App Converter is important for several reasons, but mainly for the access and packing developers will now have access to. What does that mean?
Well, instead of a legacy app behaving how it would normally, a developer can now add UWP features to the packing, meaning support for Windows 10 features such as “at a glance” live tiles. The legacy or desktop applications can also perform a wider range of background tasks, deliver notifications, and will appear in battery saver menu options, as well as a host of other benefits.
It should, in theory, make legacy and desktop app installation and support that much easier, too. Applications wrapped with a UWP package can call upon a much wider range of UWP APIs, granting more access to the internal workings of Windows 10.
Furthermore, legacy or desktop apps can be converted to run on any Windows 10 device, provided the conversion uses the correct parameters. It could even feature on the Windows Store, making use of the official Microsoft licensing and update facilities.
Finally, UWP apps are safer than desktop apps because they are run in a sandbox. By converting their applications and offering them for download through the Windows Store, developers add a layer of security.
What Are the Requirements?
To run the Desktop App Converter, you’ll need Windows 10 Anniversary Update build 14316 (or later, when they arrive), and either a Pro or Enterprise license. As well as that, your computer must have the following minimum specs:
- A 64 bit (x64) processor
- Hardware assisted virtualization
- Second Level Address Translation (SLAT)
You’ll have to install the Desktop App Converter through an administrator PowerShell window .
After downloading the files, extract DesktopAppConverter.zip to a local folder.
Next, in the Cortana search bar type PowerShell, right-click, and select Run as Administrator. Once the window is open run the following command:
PS C:\> Set-ExecutionPolicy bypass
Confirm the changes with a Y, and press Enter. Now run the following command to set up the converter:
PS C:\> .\DesktopAppConverter.ps1 -Setup -BaseImage .\BaseImage-14316.wim
If the command prompts you to reboot, restart and run the command again.
For more installation information, along with how to run the Desktop App Converter once installed, how to actually deploy your converted and signed application, a list of Desktop App Converter caveats, and the current working list of Desktop App Converter PowerShell parameters, please see the official supporting blog post.
Desktop App Converter Moving Forward
At Build 2016, Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft Studios and the entire Microsoft Xbox division, illustrated the power of the Desktop App Converter by showcasing two converted games. The first was Age of Empires II, an absolute classic. While exciting, it is clearly an older and less demanding game. Nonetheless, it illustrated the Desktop App Converter’s prowess at converting and repackaging a legacy application for Windows 10.
Next came the showpiece. Spencer opened and ran a Microsoft converted version of The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, an infinitely more complex and more demanding game than AoE II. This reveal could pave the way for the mountains of legacy games struggling for support to make their way to Windows 10 , packaged for the Universal Windows Platform.
Not only that, but it also perfectly illustrates the power of the Desktop App Converter to give legacy applications that are unlikely to be rewritten a chance in the new ecosystem. Microsoft is understandably excited about this development, and its Channel 9 Developers community has already released a handful of videos to aid both developers and anyone else who would like to try the Desktop App Converter on their own applications.
Long Live the Windows Store
Like we said, this tool doesn’t mean everything developers convert will become an all-dancing, shiny, modern-art application. But it demonstrates Microsoft intent to bridge the gap between Windows generations and a commitment to improving the variety of applications available to Windows 10 users through the Windows Store.
Will you be converting any of your own apps? Or will you try and push some legacy games through the converter? Do you think we will see a boom in the Windows Store? Let us know below!