Microsoft Ships Centennial Desktop App Converter Preview

Posted on April 8, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Dev, Windows 10 with 0 Comments

Microsoft Ships Centennial Desktop App Converter Preview

Microsoft this week shipped a preview version of its Desktop App Converter, previously called Project Centennial. This app helps developers convert classic desktop applications to packaged UWP (Universal Windows Platform) apps for Windows 10 and then extend them with unique Windows 10/UWP features.

Note: There are two caveats to understand. First, this tool only works on the Windows 10 Anniversary Update (Redstone) Preview build 14316 and up. And you must be running Windows 10 Enterprise. It will not work with Windows 10 Home or Pro. (Update: Microsoft tells me that you can in fact use this with Windows 10 Pro. There was a typo on their site. –Paul)

The Desktop App Converter Preview is one of four so-called bridges that Microsoft announced last year. This one, originally codenamed Project Centennial, is designed to bring classic desktop applications—Win32, /.NET/Windows Forms and WPF—into the 21st century by wrapping them into an AppX package that is easily and cleanly installed and uninstalled, and can (potentially) be deployed in the Windows Store. (Though that last bit is not a requirement, and app submissions will be heavily tested by Microsoft to ensure they are reliable, safe, and take advantage of unique Windows 10/UWP features.)

That last bit is what makes Centennial apps so special: Not only can developers package their classic apps more cleanly than in the old-fashioned MSI/EXE days, but they can also add UWP features to their apps, making them look and behave more like “real” Windows 10 apps. That means they can have “at a glance” live tiles, perform background tasks, deliver notifications, and more. The Desktop App Converter Preview is therefore perfect for legacy apps that are never going to be rewritten by scratch because of time/complexity reasons.

As Rafael pointed out when he converted his own desktop application to Centennial last week, converting a desktop application to a UWP app package is relatively straightforward and even quick, but there are limitations. (For example, the app can’t run with elevated security privileges, because standard users cannot install and use these packages.)

You can learn more about the Centennial Desktop App Converter Preview from the MSDN web site. And you can download this tool from the Microsoft Downloads site.


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