With any major new Windows release such as Vista, application compatibility becomes a critical concern for businesses and individuals considering an upgrade. No matter how much Microsoft promotes the new version, users aren't going to make the switch unless their applications continue to function seamlessly.
In turn, Microsoft has long offered an Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT), which checks what programs are installed on a system and detects any potential conflicts. The Redmond company is preparing version 5 of the software to be ready by the time Windows Vista ships later this year, and has included a number of new features.
ACT 5.0 most notably will have to take into account the limited user privileges in Windows Vista that are designed to keep the operating system core safe from malware. Internet Explorer 7 will also run in a protected mode, potentially disrupting applications that interact with the browser.
Microsoft has also provided a new user interface in ACT version 5.0, which is designed to centrally manage configuring and scheduling compatibility evaluations. A reporting functionality can be used to view problems with updates, applications, systems and even Web sites not working under IE7.
The updated toolkit additionally takes advantage of a "Compatibility Exchange" Web service. IT administrators can share compatibility data with each other via the site, and Microsoft will offer its own Windows Vista test data to customers. The company hopes to eliminate as many headaches as possible by providing such information well in advance of Vista's launch.
A beta version of Application Compatibility Toolkit 5.0 is currently open for sign-ups via Microsoft Connect. Customers can nominate themselves for the beta test by selecting the appropriate link under "Available Programs."