Windows 7 Application Compatibility Toolkit 5.5: Interview with Jeremy Chapman

Hello again from Redmond. Let’s talk compatibility – a big component of any operating system deployment project is knowing what applications, hardware and devices your users have and whether they will work on the new OS. With Windows 7 approaching fast, Windows Senior Community Manager Stephen Rose sat down with Jeremy again and discussed the latest with the Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) 5.5.

Stephen: Hi Jeremy, what have you been up to lately?

Jeremy: I’ve been traveling quite a bit over the last few weeks. We met with top industry bloggers and journalists in New York and San Francisco a few weeks back, then we had the MVP Summit in Redmond, and then it was off to Belgium for TechDays. I’m just catching up now.

Stephen: Wow, welcome back. So tell me about the Application Compatibility Toolkit 5.5. What’s new?

Jeremy: The Application Compatibility Toolkit 5.5 is a tremendous resource to inventory your applications, hardware, and devices; evaluate compatibility of applications and Websites; and even fix applications using Compatibility Fixes or “shims.” What’s new is that we now support pre-RTM versions of Windows 7 with ACT.

Stephen: How much different are Windows 7 compatibility evaluators compared to ACT 5.0 for Windows Vista?

Jeremy: Well, the good news is that they are nearly identical. ACT 5.5 uses the exact same compatibility evaluation checks as the Windows Vista evaluators, but now we detect for calls to Windows Mail aka Outlook Express. Windows Mail was deprecated from Windows 7, but on the organization/business side, we don’t see many customers using Windows Mail and the CoStartOutlookExpress API fails gracefully, so the impact of that removal should be very low. If you do encounter any issues, the fix is to get Windows Live Mail or another e-mail client.

Stephen: That’s it? It is Windows Vista evaluation plus the check for the CoStartOutlookExpress API?

Jeremy: Yes. To be fair, there are other things that can lead to compatibility issues for applications and drivers, like the change to the minor OS version numbers and the version of Internet Explorer. As pointed out on the Engineering 7 Blog, every effort was made to fulfill the goal that applications written for Windows Vista continue to work on Windows 7. If you want the deep details about Windows 7 application compatibility, check out the Application Quality Cookbook on MSDN.

Stephen: Yes, the Windows 7 resources keep growing. So what else is new in ACT 5.5?

Jeremy: We made the process of sending and receiving files to the application compatibility web service much more transparent in ACT 5.5. Now you can tell exactly what are sending through to the web service from your application inventory. This is the fastest way to sync application data with the same data used in the Windows Compatibility Center. This is what you see now when using the “Send and Receive” function of ACT 5.5:

Sync Confirmation Screen

And you can review all data before sending within an ACT-populated TXT audit file:

Txt file output prior to sync

Stephen: So if you see something you don’t want to send, you can cancel out of the process. Nice.

Jeremy: You can also remove applications from the list by clicking on your application in Application Compatibility Manager and using the Action : Set Send and Receive Status control:

 Send and Receive Status windows

Stephen: So I know ACT as the tool that uses an agent to collect application information and report that up to a central database. Does it do anything else?

Jeremy: Now in ACT 5.5 you can label your Data Collection Packages (DCP), so if you inventory the finance department one day and sales department the next with different DCPs, then you can sort your database by the DCP label you assigned. Beyond applications, ACT also reports back detailed hardware and device information. In many cases, you can find out if a driver is in-box with Windows or available via Windows Update. ACT also finds all of your attached devices, printers, displays and so on and reports back against those.

Device Report

Stephen: So it goes beyond straight applications. What about web apps?

Jeremy: The Internet Explorer Compatibility Test Tool in ACT will also detect potential Website issues with Internet Explorer 8 for your Line-of-Business applications and recommend ways to fix the web applications as well:

Issue Detail

Stephen: That’s pretty powerful. So it scans the applications, hardware, devices and even the Websites users are hitting and reports back compatibility findings wherever it can. Hey, thanks for taking the time to introduce ACT and everything it can do. It’s available for anyone to download from the Microsoft Download Center.

Jeremy: One last thing… We will have a version 6.0 of the tool coinciding with Windows 7’s release. ACT 5.5 is a point release, but expect to see more enhancements and coverage in ACT 6.0.

Stephen: Looking forward to it. As always, for the latest on compatibility, visit and check out the Application Compatibility and UAC zone. Thanks again, Jeremy.