Friday, February 25, 2005

Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit 4.0

Application compatibilty is a major issue for almost all desktop deployments. To put it simply, if you don't have compatible applicaitons, you don't have a deployment. There are a few major areas where application compatibility can be an issue: Setup, and kernel mode drivers beign two of many. Far too many setup applications are baddly written to look to see if the OS is windows 95, and fail to install if not (even thought the app will happily run on XP!). These and loads of other issues can be remediated, but it does take time and effort.

However, some issues can not be easily fixed or even fixed at all. For example, applications that come with .VXD kernel mode drivers (for win9x). These do not work in the NT versions of Windows. In such a case, you either stick with Winoows 9x (possibly running your App within a virtual machine running 9x), or get a newer version of the applicaiton or the driver for one that runs on 2000/XP/2003.

Application comptability has been a major focus of MS for some time, and they've done some great work, to some degre behind the scenes - application compatibity is an OS feature and is used often without you even knowing it - automatically fixing applications. as a result of this work, MS has also produced Application Compatibility Toolkit, which contains tools and documentation to assist you in remediating most, if not all compatibilitly issues. Many issues can be remediated by using the toolkit. The toolkit enables you to apply individual fixes to an application and test the results. Once you fix the application, you can create custom application compatibility database (an SDB file). By using sdbinst.exe, you install that sdb to your system and from then on, every time the application runs, it gets properly dealt with at run time. It's dead cool stuff - and I suspect most users, and most admins are blissfully unaware of it!

A revised version of the application compatibility toolkit, version 4.0, is in the works - and should be due anytime soon. MS is now adveretising the TechNet Support WebCast: How to use Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit 4.0 to manage application compatibility on Microsoft Windows. If you are doing deployment, I'd advise taking a look at this webcast.

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