June 26, 2022
  • June 26, 2022

How to Convert Legacy Windows Apps to Windows 10 UWP

By on May 15, 2018 0

Platform transitions are difficult, moving from silicon to silicon or OS to OS. But there is one thing that is more difficult: switching from one SDK to another. Microsoft is in the midst of a massive transition away from more than a decade of Win32 code and its various layers of user experience to modern WinRT and the Universal Windows Platform (UWP).

It’s a huge project, with billions of Windows PCs and installations of all versions, and with code built using raw Win32, with WinForms, and with WPF. Bringing everything to UWP overnight is an impossible requirement for an industry that is focused on supporting legacy line-of-business software with only incremental upgrades. And while Microsoft’s desktop bridge allows for some integration with Windows 10 features, it doesn’t bring them back to software written for Windows 7 or take advantage of new UI components that don’t have equivalent in older Windows SDKs.

Improved UWP desktop UI

With much of the core UWP platform delivery work complete, Microsoft is now working on ways to backport its features to older SDKs, with the goal of bringing what it calls “modern apps” closer to the desktop apps. Part of this process is a new set of UWP controls it’s more desktop-focused, along with ways to integrate these controls into older code, and with new deployment models that make it easier to deploy new versions of older apps.

UWP’s window layout inherits much of its control design and spacing from the first Windows 8 WinRT tablet. With Windows 10’s focus on desktop apps, this has led to apps with a lot of wasted screen real estate. What might have worked well on a single screen on an 8-inch tablet doesn’t work on a 28-inch monitor, let alone a 15-inch laptop. If you compare Windows 10’s built-in Mail app with Outlook 2016, you see how much information is lost in UWP layouts.

With the fall 2018 release of Windows 10 version 1809, a new standard UWP view increases information density by 15%. It’s not a huge change, but enough to add a few more emails to the Mail List view. And that’s not the only option; there’s also a compact view for UWP controls that lets you add even more information to a screen. You still have full touch and pen capabilities in less dense UWP layouts, but at the same time, you can start replicating layouts that were possible in older Windows UIs.