RAD Studio, Windows 10 Anniversary Update and Centennial


Windows 10 Anniversary Update shipped yesterday. This is the first mayor update to Windows 10, which shipped roughly one year ago. This new edition has many new features, mostly customer facing like the new support for Cortana. There is also, however, a new SDK that ships with it.
RAD Studio offers extensive support for Windows 10, offering new VCL controls that offer the Windows 10 UX, support for calling the new WinRT APIs, and integration of features based on those APIs into components (like the notification and the contracts components). The IDE also offers support for Windows 10 specific styles for both VCL and FireMonkey.
Among the many new features there is one of particular interest to Delphi and C++Builder developers: the Windows Desktop Bridge, also known as Project Centennial. This is a way to “convert” existing WinAPI applications into first-class UWP (Universal Windows Platform) applications, that can be executed “safely” on Windows 10 and distributed on the Windows 10 store (although this is still not enabled, as far as I can tell). These applications are natively compiled or .NET ones, and can still use older APIs and frameworks (WinAPI, MFC, VCL, WinForms, Silverlight, etc).
Creating a Centennial APPX
There are two ways to create the APPX files for the Centennial bridge. One is to use a converter from Microsoft, which will compare a vanilla image of the OS with that obtained after running the application installer, and capturing a differences among the two. This becomes the set of files to be packaged.
The second approach is to do the conversion process manually, as described on https://msdn.microsoft.com/windows/uwp/porting/desktop-to-uwp-manual-conversion. This is what I’ve done to convert a pretty simple Delphi applications into an APPX. First you need to call the makeappx utility, passing to a file with the list of files to embed (the executable, the graphical assets, and XML configuration file. and more) and as second parameter the output file:

makeappx.exe” pack /f mapfile /p myrssclient.appx
The other steps involve creating a certificate and using it to sign the APPX file with your credentials. So the real input to the process is the AppManifest.XML file and the list of files. The manifest has developer and application information, the logo, and a few more configuration settings. The list of files can be as simple as mine was:

“RssClient.exe” “RssClient.exe”
“logo44x44.png” “logo44x44.png”
“logo150x150.png” “logo150x150.png”
“appxmanifest.xml” “AppxManifest.xml”

At this point I got my APPX file, I copied it into an Anniversary edition VM, and I was able to install it by opening the APPX as shown below:

If you follow the steps, the APPX get expanded into its own application folder and it is treated like a WinRT application, more than a traditional WinAPI ones. This is the installation folder structure (with the virtual file system under it):

The application is also added a a tile (with its logo) and can be started from there.
Next step is wait for Microsoft to enable distribution via the Windows 10 Store, that should allow most Delphi and C++Builder applications to be distributed and sold to large numbers of users, like it happens on the mobile platforms. Stay tuned.

PS. I’ll cover more details in a coming “Windows 10 Anniversary Edition” Embarcadero webinar, later this month and we are planning to add specific support to simplify APPX deployment to the IDE in Berlin 10.1 Update 2, along with other new Windows 10 related features.

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