Windows 8:

Windows Desktop App vs Windows Store App: What's Difference?

In the Microsoft Windows 8 operating system you can run two different types of apps: a Windows Desktop app and a Windows Store app.
So what is the difference? We will explain it in this article, and also discuss if there is any reason to still create a traditional desktop application for Windows.
n Windows Desktop App
A Windows Desktop app is traditional Windows application with a new name. It is run on the traditional desktop and uses either native Win32 / COM API or Microsoft .NET Framework API for it's communication with the system. Software developed for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 will be categorized as a Windows Desktop app when running in Windows 8. Examples of Windows Desktop apps are Microsoft Word 2010 and Microsoft Excel 2010.
n Windows Store App
A Windows Store app (former "Metro-style app") is a new type of application that only runs on Windows 8 devices. A Windows Store app resembles the apps that are run on smartphones. Windows Store app has a single, chromeless window that fills the entire screen by default, and can interact with touchscreens in an easy way. The user interface is very different compared to traditional desktop apps user interfaces, and without a touchscreen they can sometimes be more difficult to use than a desktop app. The biggest advantage of a Windows Store app is when it's used on a tablet computer or on a laptop computer with touch sensitive screen - then it can use its full potential.
Should I convert my Windows Desktop app to a Windows Store app?
If you have older legacy software, that is well-tested and used by many customers, there is no really reason to convert the application to a Windows Store app. It can still be used on traditional computers with Windows 8 installed. One exception can be if you have created a small application that can be easily converted to a Windows Store app and that you think can be useful on tablet computers. Then there may be a good reason to create a Windows Store app version of the software. But if this not is the case for you, you may consider to instead creating a Windows Store app that co-operates with your current desktop software; for example an app that presents some selected data or a summary report.
Are there any benefits of creating a traditional Windows Desktop app today?
Yes, there are a lot benefits here. Firstly, the most users still have Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7, so by creating a traditional desktop application you will reach them. And as mentioned, the application will also work in Windows 8. So you will reach all users with desktop and laptop computers with the same software.

A well-optimized desktop application, for example created in C++, is also significant faster than a Windows Store app. And if you plan to create a complex program with lots of functions, then the simplified user interface of Windows Store apps may not be enough. A desktop application is also the only option if you want to create an application that uses hardware in a special way. One practical example is our product USB AutoRun Creator that gives AutoRun capabilities to USB flash drives. This product can not be converted to a Windows Store app.
Are there any risks of creating a traditional Windows Desktop app today?
It is hard to predict the future, but cloud-based software are getting more and more common, so more user's will prefer cloud-based solutions in the future. But it depends of what type of software that you develop. Some software can not be placed in the cloud in an easy way (for example the USB AutoRun Creator product mentioned above), so they will continue to be distributed as a desktop software, for many more years.
Can a Windows Desktop app be touch based?
Yes, they can. There is an API in Windows 8 (named Windows Touch API) that can be used to make a traditional desktop app touchscreen aware. There is also a sensor API in Windows 8 that gives native support for sensors, for example devices that can measure temperature or location.
Can same setup tool be used to install a Windows Store app and a Windows Desktop app?
No, different methods are required. A Windows Desktop app can be installed in Windows 8 by using a traditional setup tool (like our Visual Installer) but a Windows Store app requires a completely different installation method for its installation, which is described in this article on our web site. For more information about how to install a Windows Desktop app (a traditional desktop application) on Windows 8, read this article on our web site.
Can I sell a Windows Desktop app via Windows Store?
Yes, it is possible. You can sell both Windows Store apps and Desktop apps via Windows Store. More information is available in the blog post Listing your desktop app in the Store on MSDN Blogs.

See also:
How to install a desktop app in Windows 8
How to install a Windows Store app in Windows 8
Related products:
SamLogic Visual Installer
Do you want to read more articles and tips?
If you want to read more articles and tips about Windows and related topics you can follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or subscribe on our newsletter. You can also read our blog.
Visit our Facebook page Follow us on Twitter Visit our video channel on YouTube
Other articles
More articles are available from the article index page.

The information in this article is also valid for Windows 8.1.

Related Articles


Article written by: Mika Larramo