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Windows 10 Anniversary Update to add Project Centennial apps to Store, including Electron apps

The launch of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update on August 2 will include official support for releasing Win32 apps via the Windows Store with the Project Centennial Bridge tools. Microsoft has also released tools that will allow existing Electron apps to be compiled for use in the Windows Store.

This move was first revealed in Evernote's announcement on its plans to release the desktop Windows app in the Windows Store. Also, the official Electron website also confirms that apps made from its software tools can also be converted to work in the Windows Store.

Windows 10 "Anniversary Update" is able to run win32 .exe binaries by launching them together with a virtualized filesystem and registry. Both are created during compilation by running app and installer inside a Windows Container, allowing Windows to identify exactly which modifications to the operating system are done during installation. Pairing the executable with a virtual file system and a virtual registry allows Windows to enable one-click installation and uninstallation.In addition, the exe is launched inside the appx model - meaning that it can use many of the APIs available to the Universal Windows Platform. To gain even more capabilities, an Electron app can pair up with an invisible UWP background task launched together with the exe - sort of launched as a sidekick to run tasks in the background, receive push notifications, or to communicate with other UWP applications.

Electron App

Some of the apps that have been made with Electron tools include Slack, VSCode, Hive, WordPress and more.

It will be real interesting to see what happens on August 2nd and later and if we'll see even more Win32 apps in the Store. While such apps do nothing for Windows 10 Mobile, these projects are considered a foot in the UWP door and could get other companies to rethink a Universal app strategy down the road.

Centennial apps can have hooks into the OS like notifications and Live Tiles making them more modern than traditional Win32 variants with .exe installations. They also do not alter the registry, allow cleaner installations and offer better security for consumers. Like any Windows Store app Centennial apps can auto-update through the Store as well.

You can read about Microsoft's full plan for UWP and Bridges in their recent blog post "Choosing the path forward for existing desktop apps".

Thanks to Daniel Gary for the tip!

69 Comments
  • Wow
  • Windows 2020 came early
  • I wish I understood it a bit more.
  • Developers can take Win32 apps with .exe installers and put them in the Windows Store. However, they will act like Store apps and not .exe apps with desktop installations. Further, they get the benefits of UWP apps like Live Tiles and Notifications with one-click installation and auto-store updates.
  • Could someone grab old apps or games and make them centennial? For example a Halo PC game and make it a UWP? Or is it more complex than that and you have to add support for touch, etc..
  • You would need to code for touch events, but there are APIs to do that i believe. In fact, MS expects a lot of old games to come back to the Store via this method even if just mouse/keyboard. Age of Empires HD was demoed at Build using Centennial. For more modern games you have Islandwood for iOS apps/games.
  • Speaking of old games, I'd like to see Need For Speed Underground 2 in the Store at least :D
  • Lol! Me too. Loved the extensive car tuning options in the game.
    Although, the odds of happening that is nil.
  • If it came into the store, I'd buy it again. I still have it for Xbox.
  • Just to note that there are no specific touch APIs for apps that are converted to the Store, so it is extremely unlikely that the developer will add the touch support as there was nothing that was preventing him to do that before the conversion either. However, after publishing to the Store he may face user feedback and that might help for such a feature to appear in the future versions (though again it is not granted as he may faced user feedback already, not that users of the desktop apps have no touch devices).
  • No accommodation for touch is required.
  • Not really, there are two kinds of events: ''Click" and "Tapped", both work with mouse and touch so you don't need to write seperate code for touch and mouse.
  • No it will never be UWP in the meaning that it can be used on all devices. It will always be limited to the PC only. Those converted apps will have some possible new abilities to interact with the system like UWP apps (like notifications, background refresh etc) if a developer adds more of the code, but considering the touch they bring nothing new - the same support that was before is avaiable now, how and wheter those apps use that is up to them (spoiler: they mostly use it in a very bad way).
  • Certainly possible, yes. But little benefit as you wouldn't be able to publish said title. Could use it internally though, I suppose.
  • Damn, now that does.sound efficient, nice !!!
  • Installers are not supported. But you can sequence them using the Desktop App Converter tooling and get your Win32 app bundled into an AppX for Store distribution. They act, for all intents and purposes, like Win32 apps. They can access the registry, file system, talk to drivers, use COM objects -- the works. And also get to stick their fingers into the UWP side of things. It's awesome.
  • I guess there are some better hopes than with other bridges, but as they were all announced like something big and completely failed it is too early to celebrate anything. But as those apps are already Windows apps they might want to be on the Store, especially if there is a competition between several apps.
  • False. You're reacting as a consumer who follows in-depth tech news for developers yet has no idea what it all actually means. Developers have been actively working on and with Microsoft on Bridges, most of which have not launched yet due to their continued development. Centennial and Islandwood have not even launched yet, so calling them "completely failed" is beyond reproach. Consumers aka "normal people" literally have no idea what any of this stuff is nor frankly do they care. They want to see apps in the Store and when both new Bridges go full steam that is what will happen.
  • OK, I wasn't aware that Islandwood was not launched. I am not an Objective C developer, and anyone that was reading this site could only get impression as I did, including most of the people that comment on articles like that.
  • Agreed Daniel.
    That's why it's called project.
    A project must have the end. When it comes out of project phase, it won't be called project anymore.
  • "Centennial and Islandwood have not even launched yet, so calling them "completely failed" is beyond reproach." Astoria got canned before launch. It never released, can it be called "completely failed?"
  • Seriously?
  • And that means all other projects failed? Astoria didn't fail, it just was decided not to use it. As far as i know, there was a lot of privacy issues with Astoria, as android apps aren't encrypted like iOS apps are, which meant that anyone could just take the android app/game, compile it into UWP and then they have it for free. Which for obvious reasons, developers weren't happy about. MS, as expected, then cancelled it and focused on Islandwood and Centennial. I also heard that some phones were slightly slower due to the extra android subsystem. That's not a "Failure", that's a, MS tried it as a BETA and their results shown it was not suitable for many reasons. Astoria wasn't even close to being released, it was merely in its starting phase. How can you call that a failure? It's to be expected in Beta phases of anything. Ideas are tried and some work, some don't.
  • More likely because it was detrimental to performance, like android itself and java in general
  • It can be called a bad idea considering how it impacted the performance of the rest of the OS. Anything Android related should be avoided.
  • Will this bring back Windows Journal? I updated to the AU but now I'm not able to open any of my Windows Journal files anymore :(
  • https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/3162655
  • Good to know, I wasn't aware of this but a common thing I do is print to journal, sign stuff and then print it back to pdf :D *edit: common not as in often but when I need to have something signed or mocked up :D
  • If you download the new adobe reader dc you can add signature blocks now and its free.
  • Could you enlightened us as to how you use Journal? I've never tried it and wouldn't know it's features. What are the possibilities?
    ... Yes, I know, I'll go to BING and research it. Best Wishes
  • From a developer perspective, this is pretty big. Electron is the go to platform for x-plat desktop development, and Microsoft not only allowing, but actively supporting Electron apps is fantastic news.
  • I have limited knowledge here. This is good to know.
  • Another step forward. I hope someday soon UWP will be as feature rich as legacy, without the junk of course. Only then will we start getting great ports. The more APIs the better
  • I really doubt developers see the true potential of UWP. Windows 10 UWP is far more powerful and feature-rich with tons of newly added APIs than ever before. Some developers have taken advantage of it and released some really cool apps, like those media players (ACG player, AX-Lite, CCPlayer Pro), Saavn (music radio) etc., while others ain't ready to take the extra step and update those old, outdated W8/WP8.1 apps.
    Lack of APIs isn't an issue anymore.
  • I haven't updated my app fully to UWP because i'm doing other developments. So after i finish the last feature to WP8.1 i will move forward to W10. Side note: I develop in my spare time, so it's normal i take so long.
  • Baby steps. Of course I'll be more interested in the enhance and migrate steps of the roadmap. In the mean time I hope Microsoft comes up with a full featured, stellar and less resource intensive UWP alternative to file explorer. And also, start shelving of storage footprint and resource intensive background services in subsequent releases of full Windows 10. It's time we have full windows 10 installed and run on small 64GB emmc flash drives, low bandwidth RAMs and less powerful processors which usually are present in low end market. Also, I'd love for Microsoft to improve and/or focus on single core performance of the OS and UWP in general.
  • but explorer is windows (program manager), how can it be an app
  • I think the only way they could make the file manager portion an app, would be to seperate it from the core Windows Explorer. The best way (that I can think of) would be to remove the standard File Explorer and replace it with an app. But, I'm certain that would come with inherent risks/issues.
  • Many apps rely on the win32 file explorer, so yeah, it would be difficult and risky for them to make it a UWP app. But I think it's possible with some conversion tools, that translate the calls for the traditional file explorer into UWP and calling that app instead. But I'm not a developer at all, so maybe I'm utterly wrong :D
  • Honestly, I'd love to see Microsofts own software (Visual Studio, the full Office suite, etc.) eventually be available on the app store via Centinial. Mostly because I'd love to have a clean, untouched registry, as well as isolating all the "additional" installs (if you've ever installed Visual Studio, you know what I'm talking about). This would just be fantastic. :) 
  • I'm pretty positive they have plans for Office. I have heard all Microsoft apps will be UWP/Store apps eventually.
  • Yea, I figured as much, as well. Honestly, it wouldn't make sense for them not to, given that they are pushing everyone else to adopt it. But, given how complex Office, and some of their other applications are (especially Visual Studio), I imagine it will take quite some time. 
  • Well, I've been told Visual Studio is not a candidate for this technology. But that's okay. They have similar work already in progress to contain the mess that creates, which is fantastic. (See Visual Studio "15" w/ Preview Installer.)
  • You can already buy office from the store.
    But yeah you know how disconnected the office division is to Microsoft.
    They keep developing Outlook and the main company keep developing Outlook Express/Windows Mail/Mail
  • Actually, the split approach makes total sense. The apps (Mail, Word, Powerpoint, Excel, etc.) are free, and fairly basic. These are also touch-orirented solutions, as well as being designed for "causual" or "light" users (mostly). The full Office suite (Outlook, Projects, Excel, Word, Powerpoint, etc) are full-featured applications, which have been developed for MANY years, catering mostly to enterprise users, as well as education The things you can do in these tools (especially Excel), really don't make sense for touch-use, or full universal access (by which I mean, you probably wont find anyone trying to run macros or any compex equations in Excel on a phone). Lastly, as mentioned, the full suite is most prominently used by Enterprise customers, which are mostly still on Windows 7. Trust me, it takes an INSANELY long time for Enterprises to upgrade their systems (my company just finished switching to Windows 7, from XP, in 2014). Companies are more likely to keep Office up to date (my company updated to Office 365 last year specifically to "always be up to date"). Microsoft would risk losing customers (and ******* them off, too) by switching to only offering Office through the Store on Windows 10, without offering a standard win32 version for non-WIndows 10 users. 
  • I don't dispute the importance of Office Mobile.
    I was making a comparison that Microsoft as a company is split into two.
    Office and Windows.
    Microsoft Office and office mobile are developed in the office division. The problem is over the years the two divisions have not worked closely enough.
    Office interface was and is always different in feel to Windows.
    The one hand doesn't know where the finger is pointing. Outlook and Mail are competing products.
    I use both to pickup mail from the same accounts. Outlook for download to keep, email signature and calendar invites Mail for live tiles.
  • No registration has been possible with VS for quite a while. Don't ask how I know this. In fact, you can delete or rename HKCU\Software\Microsoft\VisualStudio\14.0 and when you restart VS it will reconstruct the registry. It had the ability to store the values in volitle keys so that they would be removed when VS was closed. The problem is that because of how VS is componentized if it were to reconstruct all the settings on startup it would take forever to find settings. There was an attempt to move the settings into text files, but because there are so many settings trying to load them was not very performant, and merging was even worse. As much as people hate the registry, it is much faster than other methods.
  • Wow, lots of articles popping up about Anniversary Update. I wonder why....hmmm...
  • Only thing that matters to me now is that Cortana is required for search. Inexcusable invasion of privacy that I have little tolerance for. No number of new apps, not even Pokemon Go, can make that OK.
  • You can fire up Chrome and use Google Now all you like.
  • I wasnt aware of this until now. Un f*cking believable.  
  • What about those of us with no Cortana. No search at all or more private one?
  • You don't need Cortana on for search to work, worked fine for me, and honestly there is no invasion of privacy, the only information gathered is telementry data, which isnt private or personal data, and if you mean telling Cortana things about you to help with searches? You have to manually add things, and that data isn't used by Microsoft, so........
  • Come on surface phone!
  • I see a good future with everything now. As they are trying to make those legacy apps to work on the Surface phone with continuum it will be great! Windows mobile is making sense now. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • This is really exciting stuff.
  • Let see...
  • That is really awesome!! I think that Microsoft should make Windows 10 Mobile phones with continuum capabilities to run those apps too
  • That's what I was thinking also. Just allow win32 ARM compiles and, viola, we got ourselves the universe of win32 apps on Continuum.
  • Exacly! That is what everybody wants and needs! Business consumers will love that and we fans also!
  • Now... Island wood...
  • Awesome! Wonder how these Win32 apps would work with the notification area. Would they have support for quick toggles? Would they be able to manipulate system settings like Windows Firewall? Or would that have to be forever Win32?
  • Kind of pointless if can't use WIN32 apps on phone via Continuum.
  • Eventually I think this could work, these are so many avenues to make it possible... We just have to be cool. =[
  • Given that Electron apps run on Node and are basically web apps, it may be possible to do a smarter installer that does make an app true UWP.  At least for basic apps.  Time will tell.
  • how about bringing back APK support??
  • Folks would just be playing fancy games and not being productive. Although they could also use business apps not available for burning platform.
  • The reality however is new as well as updates of old Apps are ONLY published for iOS and Android rarely for win10mobile. Even business apps (banks, twitter...) have either no app for win10mobile or only a limited version where not all the features are implementec. And I have the impression it is getting worse. After 3 winphones my next phone willl certainly have another OS as I have the impression that even MSFT has given up.
  • IMO my favourite.....