Testing Applications for Vista Compatibility, Part 3

by [Published on 11 March 2008 / Last Updated on 11 March 2008]

How to collect an inventory of the applications running on your network workstations.

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

In the previous part of this article series, I showed you how to install and configure the Application Compatibility Toolkit. In this article, I will continue the discussion by showing you how to use the Application Compatibility Toolkit to inventory your network workstations, and perform application compatibility testing on the inventory that you collect.

Now that you have installed and configured the Application Compatibility Toolkit, it’s time to test for application compatibility. The first step in doing so is to deploy an agent whose job it is to collect an application inventory from each workstation.

Begin the process by opening the Application Compatibility Manager (Found on the Start | All Programs | Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit menu). When the Application Compatibility Manager opens, select the Overview command from the Go menu. Upon doing so, you will see the screen shown in Figure A.


Figure A:
This is the Application Compatibility Manager Overview screen

As you can see in the figure, there are three basic steps in testing application compatibility. The first step is collecting an application inventory. The second step is analyzing the inventory once it has been collected. The final step is to test and mitigate applications that have been listed as being incompatible.

Collecting an Application Inventory

As I mentioned earlier, collecting an application inventory involves deploying an agent to the workstations whose applications you want to test. The interesting thing about the agent deployment process is that there isn’t a default agent that you can deploy. Instead, the Application Compatibility Manager asks you for some basic information, and then creates an agent that is custom tailored to your individual needs.

Begin the process by clicking the Collect button. Upon doing so, you will see the dialog box shown in Figure B. As you can see in the figure, you must begin by assigning a name to the agent deployment package. You can call the package anything that you want, just be sure to remember the name.


Figure B:
You must provide some basic information before the agent can be created

The next section asks you why you are evaluating application compatibility. In this case, we are evaluating compatibility with the goal of upgrading to Windows Vista. Therefore, you can just leave the default option selected.

The third section simply asks you when you want the agent to begin monitoring applications, and how long the monitoring process should last for. Unless you have a compelling reason for changing it, I recommend going with the default option of starting the collection process as soon as possible after the installation. The monitoring duration and the frequency at which the collected information is uploaded should be set to meet your individual needs. I recommend monitoring for at least a full day.

The last thing that this dialog box asks you for is the output location for the collected data. Again, just go with the defaults.

Once you have filled in the various options, click the Save icon, and the agent deployment package will be created. You can use any method you want to deploy the agent. You can install it manually, or you can use a group policy setting, logon script, SMS server, etc. to deploy it.

The package installs silently, and has no user interface. The easiest way to confirm that it has been installed on a workstation is to check the Add / Remove Programs applet in the control panel for the existence of Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit data collectors.

Even if you told the Application Compatibility Toolkit that you wanted the data collection process to occur immediately, it can take a little while for the process to begin. You can view the collection results by clicking the Analyze link, found in the bottom, left corner of the window.

Analyzing the Data

Assuming that the analysis has completed successfully, you should see a screen similar to the one that’s shown in Figure C. Notice that this screen tells you how many computers have been inventoried. If you aren’t seeing the expected number of computers displayed, there are three things that you can try. You could try waiting a little bit longer, refreshing the console display, or checking the rights to the share that will collect the inventory data. Unless workstations have permission to write data to this share, the collection process will fail.


Figure C:
When you click the Analyze button, you will see a data collection summary

As you look at this screen, you will probably notice a couple of things. First, the screen provides compatibility information for both applications, and for hardware devices. For right now though, I will be limiting my discussion to application compatibility.

The other thing that you might notice is that although 61 applications have been inventoried, there is no compatibility information listed for any of them.

If you look at the left side of the screen, you will see that this screen includes a Quick Reports tree. Click the Applications report found in the Windows Vista Reports section. When you do, you will see a screen similar to the one that’s shown in Figure D.


Figure D:
The Windows Vista Applications reports lists the collected application inventory

At first glance it appears that Microsoft doesn’t give you any compatibility information for the applications that have been inventoried. In actuality though, Microsoft does provide application compatibility information for some applications. For example, if you look at the listing for ATI Smart, in Figure D, you can see that there is 1 active issue.

The bottom line is that it is impossible for Microsoft to test every application in existence. Microsoft has tested a huge number of applications for Vista compatibility. If fact, the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor tool that I showed you in the first part of this article series tells you exactly which applications are and are not Vista compatible.

For enterprise customers though, Microsoft chose to take a different approach. Microsoft does not list any of the applications as being Vista compatible; not even their own. You might have noticed that one of the applications that was inventoried was Microsoft Office 2007. Even Microsoft Office isn’t listed as being Vista compatible though.

What Microsoft has done instead is to list known compatibility issues when they exist. Therefore, if an application doesn’t have any issues listed, it means that the application may possibly be Vista compatible in its current form, or it could be an application that Microsoft has not yet tested. Either way, Microsoft has designed the Application Compatibility Toolkit in a way that encourages you to do further testing on your own.

Conclusion

In this article, I have shown you how to compile an inventory of the applications that are running on your network workstations. In the next article in the series, I will continue the discussion by showing you how to view the issues that Microsoft has made note of within the Application Compatibility Manager. I will also show you how to use the Application Compatibility Manager to make your own notes regarding an application’s compatibility with Windows Vista.

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

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