“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Many a longtime Windows user has invoked this philosophy to justify their refusal to upgrade.
But in today’s IT environment, the concept of what “broke” means has evolved. The fact that some application you’ve been using for years still opens still looks the same, and still mostly works isn’t enough. For each day that passes, your legacy program or service increases its liability in terms of security and compatibility with the modern world.
With Windows 8, Microsoft tried to change the mindset. Rather than old workhorse applications that never changed, Windows 8 pushed a steady stream of updates that continually patched security holes, improved stability, and expanded features. We accept this on our mobile platforms (see: the constantly updated iOS apps you get from the App Store), but expanding this approach to the desktop environment was new at the time. Windows 8’s wild unpopularity proved that the world wasn’t quite ready for that. But Windows 8 successfully laid the groundwork for the Windows-as-a-service model that distinguishes Windows 10. Microsoft—and the rest of the major software developers—are marching users toward modernity whether they like it or not.
There are pros and cons to this approach, not to mention a few casualties. It seems like every month we are tolling the death knell for once-beloved applications or services. Some of these are controversial and untimely. But others are not. In this article, we are going to talk about the ones that are not.
We are declaring the following applications and services dead. And it’s about time.
Applications and Technologies We Need to Say Goodbye to Once and For All
Technologies built into Windows and those available from third-party developers had a good run over the past 20 years. But if we want to move forward, we need to make some small sacrifices. Yes, it’s true, not all of us will be able to participate in this transition, but for those who can, there is really no need to procrastinate. Universal apps originally made their debut in Windows 8 as modern apps.
Universal apps originally made their debut in Windows 8 as modern apps. The universal app model itself has significantly matured up to this point; I personally believe, it’s time for us to embrace many of these apps for everyday use. There are some users who still believe if the app doesn’t have XYZ like its win32 ancestor, it’s just not good enough.
Let’s be realistic here: Do you really need to have kitchen sink apps in 2017?
For instance, take an app like Windows Live Photo Gallery versus the built-in Photos app in Windows 10. Both do a good job at the fundamentals—you can view photos, make light edits, and share your photo.
Now, there are users who expect to find a feature for feature parity between both apps before they consider either one good enough. The reality is that just might not happen. In fact, in today’s world, the kitchen sink experience you are looking for might be better off found in two or more apps instead of one. That’s not to say some unique features only available in Photo Gallery won’t eventually show up in Photos. It’s just that evaluating software based on a checklist of features is not the way to look at it.
This takes us to some of the apps I still see users asking for or trying to find ways to keep alive on a forward-thinking platform such as Windows 10.
Internet Explorer 11
Microsoft made it perfectly clear: Internet Explorer 11 is dead. The once-popular web browser that came bundled with Windows since the mid-90s has imprinted a special kind of affection among a particular group of users. I personally hung on to Internet Explorer for a while after Windows 10 was released. Edge, no matter what anyone said, was not mature enough for me to move to it full time.
Microsoft Edge has come a long way since 2015 and the folks behind it continue to develop the browser at an ambitious pace. Although it took a long time for the Edge team to realize, the web browser needs to be maintained separately from Windows 10. That’s why updates will now be regularly released starting with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. Instead of having to wait for a new release of Windows 10 to get new features, users will get them directly from the Store. Edge has also improved in usability in many areas. Features like extensions, improved download manager, tab management and unique functionality such as Cortana search make it a decent web browser.
I personally have never been big on extensions even in the IE days. I’ve pretty much used the browser out of the box as-is. With the rise of Chrome, extensions certainly have become the best way to augment a web browser. Edge’s list of extensions is slowly maturing, but there are some solid ones available that should get most users up and running. It will take time for many of the more obscure ones available for Chrome or Firefox to eventually show up.
There are other token reasons for holding out on Edge, some of which don’t quite stand up to logic. Flash support, for instance, is one of the biggest. Seriously, if Adobe’s Flash support is a reason why you are still using IE, then you really haven’t tried Edge, because it’s supported. Modern browsers such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera have been slowly winding down their support for Flash as well. If a lack of Flash support is a dealbreaker, then you may soon be left with very few options.
Sure, LOB apps dependent on Microsoft’s old ActiveX browser technology is one thing. For an everyday user just wanting to watch some animation, play a game or view YouTube, there really is no excuse to keep using Internet Explorer in 2017. Really, it’s time to move on.
Media Player and Media Center
Windows 10’s out of box apps for media playback were so-so in version 1507, but they’ve made significant improvements in stability and features. The Groove Music app has a lot of features in it but I’m more of a casual user. I own an iPhone, so, I am more invested in iTunes (which is coming to the Windows Store by the way). Media Player is one of the legacy apps that has maintained a long history with Windows going back as far as the early 90s.
Much of its necessity is linked to technologies like optical drives and media player devices. Starting with Windows 8, Microsoft removed support for native DVD playback. Microsoft tried to ease the transition by providing an optional DVD Player app you have to buy from the store. I personally prefer the popular VLC Player – available both as a desktop and UWP app – to watch my movies, whether they are DVDs or digital downloads. I am sure there many alternatives out there users can look into, but if Media Player or Windows Media Center is a reason why you haven’t embraced Windows 10 fully, then it’s time take a serious second look at what’s out there.
Steve Jobs described Flash as a bag of hurt when Adobe had intentions of bringing the dynamic web browser technology to smartphones. Not only would Flash become a hurt for mobile, but the desktop too. Previously a pre-eminent conduit for web ads, Flash was also used to build small games that were quick and easy to load. In fact, YouTube was built on Flash during its early days but has since encoded all videos to support the new HTML5 video standard. HTML5, for those who don’t know, is the infrastructure language for creating modern web pages that come built-in with a rich set of standards to support multimedia formats.
Flash has deservedly earned a reputation for its poor security. While the technology is fading fast, it is still widely used on many web pages. I believe it needs to be put in the rearview mirror faster. Even though there are websites that rely on Flash, there is no reason to keep it on all the time. In fact, modern web browsers like Microsoft Edge and Chrome keep it off by default.
A web site requiring Flash will instead prompt users to enable it on demand if needed. HTML5, Google’s WebM standard, and VP9 are really the future of web video. It’s time to embrace it and put old web technology like Flash to rest. Once a great platform for legacy mediums like enhanced CDs and web ads, Flash has seen its best days.
Another bag of hurt, Java has maintained its relevance mostly in industrial/enterprise applications that are cross-platform. The idea—based on the concept of write once, run anywhere—is good in theory. The Java virtual machine, once a requirement of banking websites, mobile phone games, and apps, made it just as ubiquitous as the Flash Player in the 2000s. With the rise of mobile devices such as the iPhone, Java also found that its relevance began to wane, partly due to its performance and potential security issues.
In recent times, quite a number of users have been asking how to install Java on Windows 10. This got me curious enough to try and find out why users would need to. Even applications that once supported Java natively have discontinued support. Google Chrome no longer supports NPAPI (application programming interface standard for plug ins created by Netscape) as far back as version 45.
My computers have been Java-free since I started using Windows 7. There is little reason to still keep it installed because the applications I use don’t need it. That said if you are using applications such as Adobe’s Dreamweaver, you might still need to install Java. If you are not planning on building websites, there really is no need to install Java.
Apache Office, an open-source productivity suite similar to Microsoft Office, also requires the Java Runtime Environment. The same goes for some parts of Libre Office, an alternative to Apache Office, but not all of it. Only the database management exclusively requires Java installed in order to work.
So, there is really no letting go of Java if you need these applications. But one thing you can do to enhance your security when running Java on your computer is to keep it disabled it where it’s not needed. Applications such as your web browser don’t necessarily need to have Java enabled. Brian wrote a comprehensive guide to managing Java on your Windows PC that is well worth reading.
One of the early media player pioneers in the 90s, Quicktime became just as ubiquitous as Macromedia Flash. It was used in all sorts of multimedia projects, whether its multimedia content for CDs included with textbooks; as the web add-on for viewing movie trailers; or as a platform for delivering streaming video.
While Apple still maintains Quicktime in macOS – called Quicktime X – the company has abandoned the Windows version. Yet there are users who pop up from time to time asking about how to install it or fix a broken installation. Quicktime is dead on Windows and Apple didn’t bother to even patch an open vulnerability before its discontinuation. So, anyone choosing to use it is doing so at their own risk.
Just like Flash, Quicktime has been superseded by much richer web technologies like HTML5. Unless you want to view that Backstreet Boys or Britney Spears enhanced CD from 1999, there really isn’t much reason to still be using it.
Windows Live Mail
The history of Windows Live Mail goes back as far as Outlook Express, which made its debut with Windows 95 OSR2 in the mid-90s. The built-in Windows Mail client has evolved over the years. The first major change came with Windows Vista in 2007, which included an improved spam filter, redesigned layout, and instant search technology. Users had to wait five years for this upgrade, which was tied to the ill-fated Windows Longhorn development.
The launch of Windows 7 unbundled Windows Mail and other applications like Photo Gallery and Movie Maker for the first time. Instead, users could download them separately as part of the Windows Essentials suite, while receiving regular updates. Over time, Windows Live Mail became neglected in favor of the modern Mail app that came with Windows 8. Earlier this year, Microsoft discontinued the development of Windows Essentials leaving users who depended on the suite without a viable alternative.
How long the suite will continue to work on Windows 10 remains to be seen. The issue for many users still dependent on Windows Live Mail is that there was no clear transition from the desktop Mail client to the modern Outlook Mail. It’s basically starting from scratch unless you had synced all your mail to Outlook.com. There really is no way to get your emails over to Mail in Windows 10 offline. Some users don’t like using the new Mail client in Windows 10 either, but that doesn’t mean you are out of options. Over the years, numerous third-party email clients have shown up as alternatives to Windows Live Mail. The most famous one to date is Thunderbird, from the developers of the Firefox web browser.
Providing a familiar user experience, users running Windows Live Mail can even back up their messages and easily import them into Thunderbird. This is still a desktop app, but at least it’s still supported, which might be the best interim solution users still dependent on the unsupported mail client can use until they make the transition to Outlook Mail. I personally have reduced my dependence on local clients overall.
My choice for communications includes Outlook.com, Gmail, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp. They are fast, provide quick access, and are supported not just on Windows but other platforms you might be using such as iOS and Android. Sure enterprises might still need Office Outlook for integration with Exchange Online or Server, but I see that as a legacy investment. Even Exchange has supported a web-based Outlook service for a couple of decades now.
These six apps and technologies were great during their time on the market. There are others like Movie Maker I didn’t mention, but it too will soon be replaced by a modern video editor built into the Photos app. Brian recently previewed the new Story Remix app, which simplifies and automates video editing. It’s not your grandfather’s Movie Maker by any means, but users need to rethink what it means to use such apps in 2017 and beyond.
While they might still have some semblance of relevance, legacy desktop really is tied to a past that’s fading fast. Windows 10 S, Microsoft’s new edition of its desktop operating system is described as the soul of Windows. It’s what Windows 10 is truly supposed to be, free of a classic desktop app legacy that has brought Microsoft and third-party developers great fortune over the past few decades, but at the expense of innovation, performance and security.
Jump in the comments and let us know your thoughts on legacy and modern apps on Windows 10. Which ones are you still using? Why?