How to port your PC software to the Windows Store


With the release of the first PCs running , it’s time to reconsider how you package and distribute your code.

Up till now, Windows has been installer-agnostic, supporting many different ways of getting apps onto PCs: the familiar Microsoft installer, third-party tools, Xcopy, or running an executable file. Windows 10 S takes a different approach, locking PCs down to digitally signed apps, with controlled access to files, delivered by the Windows Store.

There’s a considerable advantage to using the Windows Store for software distribution of your applications in the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) .appx format. For one thing, it handles updates automatically, so you don’t need to write your own update code. It also supports differential updates, minimizing code downloads. But the Windows Store isn’t a Trojan horse to give Microsoft a cut of all your sales. Even in Windows 10 S, you can distribute .appx installers to Windows 10 users directly (aka “sideloading”) or via Microsoft’s Intune management tools—whether for commercial or internal distribution.

However, this change doesn’t mean traditional (Win32) desktop applications can’t run on Windows 10 S, nor does it mean you must rebuild them as UWP apps. Microsoft’s Windows Desktop Bridge tools can take existing your code and wrap it for Windows Store distribution to Windows 10 PCs (including those running the Windows Store-only Windows 10 S).

, one of a series of bridges between other platforms and Windows 10’s UWP APIs, the Desktop Bridge is a set of tools that take existing Win32 desktop applications and prepare them for distribution in the Windows Store. The process can be as simple as wrapping code in the Windows Store installer (as an .appx file) via the Desktop Converter or as complex as using UWP APIs in your code as part of a platform migration.

The Desktop Bridge approach does make things more complex, but you shouldn’t see that as a bad thing. You get better, more secure apps as result

Beyond ensuring that only digitally signed code can be installed on a Windows 10 S PC, Windows 10’s Windows Store installations take advantage of the latest Windows releases’ improved application security. Instead of giving your code full access to the system, UWP apps keep application state separate from system state, with a virtualized registry and a sandbox. It’s a very different way of working, a long way from the free-ranging access historically given to desktop applications.

Desktop Converter is the first step

Using the Desktop App Converter goes a long way to bridging the security gap, though not all the way. That’s why you ultimately want to refactor your applications as UWP ones. But in the meantime you can use Desktop Bridge’s various tools to make the move in stages.