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Managing Application Compatibility for Windows Vista

In a perfect world, IT professionals wouldn’t have to worry about application compatibility issues: everybody would already have embraced the latest versions of Visual Studio (2008) and the .NET Framework (3.5), and all code would run on Vista seamlessly and unhindered. Yeah, right! In the real world, however, all kinds of interesting code still runs, and needs to keep running, be it orphaned, legacy, unsupported, or whatever other trouble-making adjectives might apply to same. All of this conspires to make Application Compatibility a real concern for Windows Vista administrators, if not something of a “dirty word” to that doughty community. In my next series of upcoming blogs, I intend to dig into this subject from a number of different points of view, and examine some important tools and resources available to Vista admins to help them tackle and handle the sometimes tricky tasks of assessing, testing, and where possible, forcing applications to work properly on Vista desktops.

To kick off this discussion, I want to point at a Web page in the Microsoft Technet Windows Client TechCenter. It’s entitled “Application Compatibility and User Account Control” and provides all kinds of tools, information, and material to help IT professionals and managers deal with application compatibility issues at all conceivable levels.

The key resources portion of this page itemizes some interesting elements, some of which I’ll cover in more detail in upcoming blogs:

You’ll also find some fascinating discussions of “software shims” (small bits of custom-crafted software designed to fit between (older) applications and (newer) operating systems) in a paper called Managing Shims in the Enterprise with an accompanying Stock Viewer Shim Demo Application.

As you deal with application compatibilty issues with Windows Vista, don’t forget its own built-in Program Compatibility wizard (you can launch this by typing
%systemroot%\System32\mshta.exe res://acprgwiz.dll/compatmode.hta
at the command line). This lets you select a program target, then choose from a list of other Windows versions that Vista can emulate (Windows 95, Windows NT 4.0 SP5, Windows 98/Me, Windows 2000, Windows XP SP2, and Windows Server 2003 SP1), select a display mode, run with administrator privileges, to see if it works as needed or not. Only if you exhaust the various possibilities that this Wizard offers without solving your compatibility problems, should you dig into the other topics I’ll cover in my upcoming blogs on more advanced applications compatibility topics and tools.

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