Windows 7 Compatibility Testing (Part 6)

by [Published on 22 July 2010 / Last Updated on 22 July 2010]

This article continues the discussion of Windows 7 compatibility testing by examining feedback from application vendors and the IT community.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

Introduction

In my previous article, I talked about the process of prioritizing your applications in preparation for the compatibility testing process. In this article, I want to continue my discussion by turning my attention to the actual testing process.

The Testing Methodology

Before you actually begin testing your applications for compatibility, you need to come up with a testing methodology. In other words, how do you plan on performing the tests, and what constitutes a success or a failure? While determining whether or not an application is Windows 7 compatible probably sounds like child’s play, things are not always as easy as they may seem.

That’s because not every application is going to work or not work. Back when Vista was first released, I decided that I needed to try out all of the applications that I regularly use to find out if they were Vista compatible or not. What I found was that some applications initially seemed to be compatible, but that there were certain features that didn’t work properly in Vista. It is entirely possible that the same thing could happen during a transition to Windows 7. In my own organization for example, I found that my scanner worked fine with Windows 7, but that some of the features that I use the most often were inaccessible under Windows 7 because of a driver compatibility issue.

Unless you have a small army of IT professionals whose sole job it is to test every single feature of every application, it is unrealistic to expect that your compatibility testing is going to be completely comprehensive. Many applications simply have too many features to try them all out. Even if you have the time to try everything, your IT staff may lack the expertise to thoroughly test every feature of every application. For example, Microsoft Office contains countless features. Even though I use Microsoft Office every day, and have even written books on Outlook and Publisher, I seriously doubt that I could perform a comprehensive compatibility test without getting some guidance from Microsoft.

So how can you really find out if your applications will work with Windows 7 or not? Get some help from those who know more about the application than you do. I’m not telling you to pawn the entire compatibility testing process off on a high priced consultant. There is a better solution.

As you will recall, we started off by downloading the Microsoft Application Compatibility Manager, and using it to compile an inventory of the applications that are being used throughout the organization. Once collected, this tool presents a list of the applications in a way that allows you to keep track of the compatibility information for each individual application.

If you look at Figure A for example, you can see an inventory that I compiled from one of the computers on my network. You can tell that the list came from a single computer because the Computers column displays the number of computers on which each application is installed.


Figure A: The Microsoft Application Compatibility Manager helps you to keep track of your compatibility testing

As you look at the image above, the first thing that you will undoubtedly notice is that the tool lists the name and version of each inventoried application, as well as the application vendor. Beyond that though, there are several columns that you can populate with compatibility information for each application. For example, Microsoft provides space for your own assessment, the application vendor’s assessment, and the community assessment.

Although most of these columns are presently empty, it doesn’t mean that you have to go to the Internet and see what the vendor and the IT community have to say about each application (although that is certainly an option). That’s because even though your collection of applications might be unique, there are other people in the world who are running some of the same applications that are being used in your organization. Better still, some of these people have already worked through the application compatibility testing process.

If you look at the toolbar shown in the image above, you will notice a button labeled Send and Receive. When you click this button, the Microsoft Application Compatibility Manager will transmit your application inventory to Microsoft. Upon doing so, any available Windows 7 compatibility information will be returned, as shown in Figure B.


Figure B: Microsoft allows you to download compatibility information for your applications

As you can see in the figure above, Microsoft has returned quite a bit of compatibility information for my application set. You will notice however, that compatibility information isn’t available for every single application. Of course some of my applications tend to be a bit obscure.

Once you have downloaded the application compatibility information from Microsoft, the first thing that I recommend looking at is the Vendor Assessment column. As the name implies, this column tells you what the vendor has to say about their own application. There are three different symbols shown in the Vendor Assessment column in the figure above. The yellow triangle indicates that the application works with Windows 7, but that there are some minor issues. The green circle with the check mark indicates that the vendor says that the application is Windows 7 compatible. The symbol consisting of the letter C and a couple of green check marks indicates that the application has qualified for Windows 7 logo testing, which essentially means that Microsoft guarantees that the application will work with Windows 7.

The Community Assessment section works similarly to the Vendor Assessment section, except that the results are based on what others have concluded regarding the application’s compatibility. When you click the Send and Receive button, the Microsoft Application Compatibility Manager does more than download compatibility information. It also uploads any assessments that you have made regarding an application’s compatibility (I will talk about your assessment later in the series). This information is then added to the Community Assessment.

The biggest thing that you need to keep in mind regarding the Community Assessment is that it can be a helpful guide, but it cannot be completely trusted. For example, check out the listing for Microsoft Virtual PC 207 SP1 in the figure above. The vendor assessment indicates that the application is compatible with Windows 7. Virtual PC 2007 is a Microsoft product, so what this is telling you is that Microsoft says that their product works with Windows 7. In my opinion, this is a pretty strong statement.

With that in mind, check out the Community Assessment column. Ten people agree with Microsoft that Virtual PC 2007 SP1 works with Windows 7. Two people think that it has issues, and four people say that it doesn’t work at all. So who do you believe? I think that I would have to side with Microsoft on this one. Even so, such mixed information underscores the need to do your own compatibility testing.

Conclusion

As you can see, Microsoft provides a great deal of information on how well various applications work with Windows 7. Even so, it is a good idea to use this information as a testing guideline, rather than a definitive statement. I will show you some techniques for verifying the information that is reported by the Microsoft Application Compatibility Manager in Part 7.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

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