How to fix MSIX applications

Written by Bogdan Mitrache · December 21st, 2020

We can all agree that adopting new technology is not easy. In effect, it can be stressful for everyone.

Not only does it bring challenges for the engineering team to sort through, which slows down their usual delivery rate. It also distracts the management team from working hard on balancing the company’s daily IT requirements -- trying to find the time and budget to modernize its infrastructure and keep the business running.

Taking on MSIX is no different. You need the time to learn it, test it, and then create an adoption plan that suits your environment (because I bet you will adopt it sooner or later).

And, as with any Windows virtualization technology that we’ve used over the past decades, the road is sometimes bumpy. Not all apps were written according to Microsoft’s recommendations, some haven't even been updated in more than ten years . Getting them to play nice inside an MSIX container will require some negotiations.

The software packager life
The software packager life

When MSIX was introduced, Microsoft promised us extraordinary numbers regarding application compatibility.Still, in real life, not even Microsoft has access to all the custom-built apps that run inside our enterprises. According to Tim Mangan, during one of his recent E2EVC talks, only about 60% of the apps he tested work with MSIX.

The rest are either using specific APIs not supported by the new MSIX container or have application compatibility issues that require some workarounds.

This is where the Package Support Framework comes into play. This open-source framework released by Microsoft enables you to apply runtime fixups for issues that might appear when migrating to MSIX some legacy applications that you don’t have the source code for.

So far it sounds great. A solution to our problem. It shouldn’t be that hard to apply it and get back to our geeky fun projects. Well, if you plan on using just the free resources/tools that Microsoft released, you are in for a surprise.

The Advanced Installer team also has a surprise for you. If you have been following our MSIX journey, then you already know we are the leading third-party solution provider for MSIX packaging tools and the official Microsoft release partner for MSIX. We even wrote a book on MSIX - grab it now, it’s free.

What is Smart PSF?

As I said above, application compatibility is the biggest blocker for MSIX at the time. And our team is working very hard to make this roadblock invisible for you. At Microsoft Ignite, we released the first Package Support Framework (PSF) integration that allows you to add a fixup(shim) in your application in just a few clicks.

Today, we are taking this integration to a new level. We call it “Smart PSF”. In case you’re wondering, there is no AI (pun intended) involved, just a lot of experience and hard work.

Starting with Advanced Installer 17.8, the Smart PSF support from Advanced Installer will automatically apply fixups in your application, taking all the guess (debugging) work off your plate.

Let’s check it out in action.

We hope you’ll enjoy our early Christmas gift and share it with your friends. If you have any questions or some applications that give you headaches when packaging them as an MSIX, please email me at bogdan at advancedinstaller dot com.