Monday, October 15, 2012

Software compatibility with Windows 8

One of my clients, a local private school, runs Windows XP on its PCs. I am planning an upgrade to either Windows 7 or Windows 8, with the latter being more likely.

I've installed the 90-day Windows 8 Enterprise Evaluation in VirtualBox to test compatibility with software that my client, a local private school, uses. I want to share the list with you in case you're considering upgrading and worry about compatibility. The list I tested should cover the majority of users.

Software that appears to work without any issues
Software with minor issues
  •  Inkscape 0.48.3.1. The installer took much longer than normal, but the program itself appears to work fine.
  • 7-Zip 9.20. I cannot create file associations to 7-Zip within the application. Selecting extensions and clicking Apply doesn't seem to create associations. (This is a problem also on Windows 7.) One way to open archives within 7-Zip is to open 7-Zip first, then to browse to the file within 7-Zip's built-in file browser. Also, there is no 7-Zip context menu, despite the option being checked.
Software that's incompatible
  • Fortres Grand' Clean Slate 6.5 build 3319. The installer pops up two error messages: "Error retrieving StorageType" followed by "Error retrieving StorageInfo" and gives up.  I emailed Fortres Grand about it. This is most likely an easy fix that I expect to see in the next minor release.
Discoveries and surprises
  •  Windows 8 does not permit Firefox to set itself as the default browser without the user confirming this choice within the operating system's Defaults window. On one hand it smells of Microsoft making it more difficult to switch away from Internet Explorer as the default browser, reminding me of the antitrust issues in the late '90s. On the other hand, it's nice that applications cannot willy-nilly change defaults without going through the proper channel and user interaction.
  • The new Start menu (with live tiles) prominently displays stuff that's not relevant for me, such as Maps, SkyDrive, Weather, and other apps that came with Windows. Stuff I installed myself is off-screen, requiring me to scroll to the right to view it. The discovery: if you know what you want, just start typing. Just like in the Windows 7 start menu, all programs that match your substring will jump out. No scrolling needed. You can also remove the tiles you don't plan to use by right-clicking them, freeing up space for ones you will.
  • For Java support inside a browser, install Java Runtime Environment 32-bit even if you're running on the 64-bit version of Windows. This is because both Firefox and Internet Explorer run as a 32-bit process, so they don't see the 64-bit Java. Windows 7 offered Internet Explorer in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions (selectable in the Start menu), but I don't see the same selection on Windows 8.