Microsoft’s Desktop App Converter (Project Centennial) updated, supports autosigning, more

Microsoft has a number of tools to help developers port their apps from other platforms to the Windows 10 Universal Windows Platform or generally develop Universal Windows Apps. There’s the Windows Bridge for iOS (codenamed Project Islandwood), there’s the Xamarin cross-platform development tool, and recently Microsoft introduced a new toolkit for converting Chrome extension to Edge.

Today, Microsoft updated their Desktop App Convertor Preview, otherwise known as Project Centennial, which is intended to help developers make their Windows desktop apps (Win32 apps) available on the Windows Store. The update came via the Windows Developer Twitter account:

As Microsoft describes the Desktop App Converter:

Desktop App Converter is a pre-release tool that enables developers to bring their existing desktop apps written for .NET 4.6.1 or Win32 to the Universal Windows Platform. The developers can run their desktop installers through the converter in an unattended (silent) mode and obtain an AppX package that can be installed via the Add-AppXPackage PowerShell cmdlet on their development machine.

The converter runs the desktop installer in an isolated Windows environment using a clean base image provided in this download. It captures any registry and file system I/O made by the desktop installer and packages as part of the output. An AppX with package identity and an ability to call a vast range of WinRT APIs is outputted by the converter.

Here’s what’s new in today’s update

  • Added support for auto-signing the converted apps produced by DAC for testing purposes. Check out the –Sign flag to give it a try.
  • Added warnings if any of the COM registrations in the virtual registry hive are not supported within the packaged AppX.
  • Added support for auto-detecting app dependancies on VC++ libraries and then converting them in to AppX manifest dependencies. Note that in order to sideload and test apps using VC++ runtime, you’ll need to download the VCLib framework packages as outlined in the blog post Using Visual C++ Runtime in a Centennial project. Locate the packages under the folder Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SDKs\Windows Kits\10\ExtensionSDKs\Microsoft.VCLibs.Desktop on your machine, navigate to the version you depend on (e.g., 11.0, 12.0, 14.0), and double click on the appropriate architecture package (x64, x86) to install it.
  • Updated the manifest schema to align with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update (10.0.14393.0).
  • Several bug fixes and improved output layout.

If you’re a developer, you should give the Desktop App Converter a try. Let us know in the comments how it’s working out for you.

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Have you used Project Centennial to package a Win32 application for the Windows Store?