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What's New in ACT 6.0

With Windows 8, we've also released a new version of the Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit—ACT version 6.0. ACT 6.0 represents one of the biggest changes we've made to the toolkit in years so I wanted to take a moment to talk about some of those changes and how ACT can help you with moving to a new version of Windows.

Windows ADK Integration

The first thing to note is that ACT is now integrated into the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit, a free collection of tools to help you customize, assess, and deploy the Windows operating system. This means that, when you download the kit, you'll have access to additional tools that can help ease your migration to a newer version of Windows, pre- and post-deployment, such as the User State Migration Tool (USMT), Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT), and Windows Performance Toolkit (WPT).

Compatibility Monitor

ACT 5.6 relied on predictive issue detection and shimming applications as they ran in their original Windows XP environments. With ACT 6.0, we encourage a different approach, one more in line with what has been proven to be successful at reducing the total time to deployment. First, understand what you have by collecting an inventory with the Inventory Collector and identify which applications are important. Then, decide which applications need to be tested and test those applications in a production-like environment with the operating system you will be deploying (Windows 7 or Windows 8) using the Compatibility Monitor to collect results and user feedback. If your applications are working and there aren't show-stopping issues, then as far as compatibility is concerned, you're there! There is no need to fix every last detail of every application before moving on with your deployment.

  • Issue detection – The Compatibility Monitor makes use of the Program Compatibility Assistant (PCA) to detect the most common compatibility issues, ensuring that the issues detected are actionable and of high confidence.
  • Immediately available "repro" steps – When you or your users test an application while running the Compatibility Monitor, all actions (such as button clicks) are logged. When an issue is detected, the previous 50 actions are saved and attached to the issue as a ready-made set of repro steps. It's worth noting that this logging does not include personally identifiable information (PII) like screenshots or keystrokes, but provides enough information to help understand what the user was doing.
  • User feedback – At any time, you can submit a compatibility rating for any application on the machine and send feedback about a problem including a step-by-step recording or screenshot of the problem.
  • Custom feedback – If your feedback isn't related to a particular application installed on the machine, you can elect to send general feedback. You can also provide feedback for an application even if that application isn't found by ACT's inventory.
  • Conclusion – The Compatibility Monitor includes the Standard User Analyzer and Compatibility Administrator tools found in previous versions of ACT so that all testing can happen in one place.

Using the Compatibility Monitor is straightforward for you and your end users. As shown below, once you launch the tool, the four key tasks—start monitoring, give compatibility feedback, launch advanced tools, and get help— are easily accessible.

Compatibility Monitor

Setting up and using the Compatibility Monitor is also simple. Installed from a Microsoft Installer Package (MSI) generated from within the Application Compatibility Manager, the tool is designed to be used on any machine running Windows 7 or Windows 8, be it a dedicated testing machine or the machine of an early adopter willing to try out the newest version of Windows.

Improved Inventory and Rationalization

Inventory collection is much simpler in ACT 6.0. Just install the Inventory Collector MSI and, in a few minutes, it will produce a CAB file with the results and uninstall itself. This means you don't need to worry about interactions with installed applications or scheduling issues. Additionally, we've switched the heuristic used by the Inventory Collector to match the one used by other teams within Windows compatibility. This means less noise in the inventory and more compatibility data from vendors. We've also made noticeable strides in the amount of time it takes for logs to be processed into the database, resulting in a 5-10x improvement in processing speed.

When viewing a collected inventory, you'll notice another key change. In the Application Compatibility Manager applications report, each minor version of an application is no longer viewed separately. For example, instead of 50 rows of Adobe Reader X minor versions, you'll see just one row for Adobe Reader X with the minor versions visible by double-clicking for more information. This grouping reduces the total number of applications listed by 30-40% in our tests, which is very significant for large inventories.

Other Changes from ACT 5.6

ACT 5.6 relied on predictive issue detection and shimming applications as they ran in their original Windows XP environments. With ACT 6.0, we encourage a different approach, one more in line with what has been proven to be successful at reducing the total time to deployment. First, understand what you have by collecting an inventory with the Inventory Collector and identify which applications are important. Then, decide which applications need to be tested and test those applications in a production-like environment of Windows 7 or Windows 8 using the Compatibility Monitor to collect results and user feedback. If your applications are working and there aren't show-stopping issues, then as far as compatibility is concerned, you're there! There is no need to fix every last detail of every application before moving on with your deployment.

We're hoping that the changes we've made save you time and effort. For detailed guidance on how to use ACT 6.0, bookmark the ACT Technical Reference Guide for Windows 8. Of course, there's always more we can do with the toolkit so if you have comments or questions or suggestions, feel free to reach out to me and my team at actfeedback@microsoft.com.

Top Tasks

About the Author

Marc Sweetgall photoAs a Program Manager in the Application Compatibility and Device Compatibility team of Windows. Marc is responsible for the Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) and the web service that provides the compatibility data for the toolkit.

Find news about ACT along with other compatibility-related updates on Chris "The App Compat Guy" Jackson's blog.

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