New Windows 10 versions of the XLStyles Tool and Windows 7 end of life impact

Windows 7 is reaching the end of life milestone on January 14th 2020. I see a lot more users upgrading to the store app in the last couple of months. As a result of this I’m pushing out several updates:

  1. Windows 10 UWP 64-bit version 3.0.1.0 of the app. It uses an .msix package that should meet the requirement of the private store distribution. The latest UWP submission has “Allow organization-managed (offline) licensing and distribution for organizations” option enabled. I will need to work with someone in the community to validate that it works and to document the steps to help other organizations in a similar situation. Hope someone will step up. I don’t have the environment to try this out.
  2. .Net Core 3.0 went GA on September 23rd 2019. This is very important milestone for the XLStyles Tool app because .Net Core 3.0 supports self-contained distribution as well as WinForms UI with file drag and drop that everyone loves. Over the years I had to deal with many user reported issues that related to missing, corrupted or wrong .Net Framework version running on the user PC. .Net Core 3.0 self-contained deployment option solves this problem at the cost of a larger size download which given the benefits and modern PC disk sizes shouldn’t be an issue. I’ve spent the last 3 weeks working tirelessly on creating a port. This version is now available in the app store XLStylesToolDNC30. I’ve set the lowest possible price of $0.99 for it. Easy way to get the app for free: you can sign up for Microsoft Rewards, collect 1600 points (takes about a week), get the $1.25 gift  card for Microsoft Store and get this app for absolutely free leaving you with $0.26 to spend on other stuff :). This option removes the need for using your credit card in the App Store.

Naturally I’m expecting a backlash from some users for item #2 even though I’m describing an easy way to get the app for free using the Microsoft Rewards path. Why? Because to date I actually even had users complaining about the ads in the original Win 8.0/8.1 app store version. How can someone complain about something that solved a pretty serious problem and they got that benefit for absolutely free in the first place? This part beats me. I didn’t expect that when I created and published the tools. In contrast there were a lot more users that left super nice comments and expressed the desire to make a contribution to the project. Some even suggested donating to charities in my name. People like that is what motivates me to keep this project going for over a decade. I feel that I owe an explanation for making this decision for item #2 to the loyal XLStyles Tool audience, especially the ones that are coming from Windows 7 version of the tool and probably expect exactly the same experience in Windows 10.

So here are the reasons that I will be pointing everyone who decides to complain about the 99 pennies price tag to:

Reason #1: You don’t have to acquire .Net Core 3.0 version. Unless of course you really hate ads in your apps (ads help keep the apps free; same paradigm as your favorite news web site). You won’t be missing anything. I made sure to keep full feature parity. The UWP version is based on the exact same patented algorithm (i.e., file cleansing works exactly the same) and is absolutely free. The 99 cent version is for people that want to support my telemetry gathering initiative (read #4 below) and/or really like WinForms UI. Or feel like contributing to the project that has been going on for 10+ years now on pure enthusiasm and desire to do the right thing.

Reason #2: User base expanded exponentially and there are time consuming follow ups. I’m responding to every legitimate question posted on this blog and to private e-mails. Some edge cases take lots of time to work through. I really appreciate all constructive  and actionable user feedback that makes my tools better.

Reason #3: I plan to stick to the App Store distribution because it is very secure and reliable way to deliver the app and periodic updates to the users seamlessly. Microsoft scans all apps published to the app store for viruses and common issues. This is big benefit. However, there is always a price to pay: publishing process is very tedious and occasionally painful. Some submissions take a lot of time, patience and effort.

Reason #4: If the .Net Core 3.0 version becomes popular which I suspect it might because I’ve heard non-stop requests to resurrect the minimalist WinForms UI on Windows 8.0/8.1/10 I will need to collect app telemetry: usage and more importantly crashes. Win 8.1 app provided it for free which allowed me to see all errors and fix the issues that cause crashes. For .Net Core version I would like to use this service: https://appcenter.ms which is $40 per month. If I hit this mark in monthly revenue to hopefully at least break even it would put WinForms version telemetry on the same level as a UWP app. This was another major factor why I went with the store app distribution. The main reason for the app store of course is secure content delivery as I mentioned earlier.

Reason #5: The costs of maintaining and supporting multiple versions of the XLStyles Tool have skyrocketed. E.g., System.IO.Packaging namespace in .Net Core 3.0 switched to System.IO.Compression forcing me to do full base class re-write. .Net Core 3.0 is open source project and although it is maintained by Microsoft, there were many annoying issues related to full .Net Framework incompatibility to work through. I do this work on my own time at night and on the weekends.

Please post feedback and share your thoughts on the tools and these updates. I put a lot of time and effort into this. The ripple effect of this project made MS Excel better starting with Excel 2007 SP2 if I remember correctly. That is over a billion users and those just the ones that pay the licensing fees.   I will respond and attempt to accommodate all user requests and feedback. These tools are meant to be easy to use. I’m particularly interested to hear the feedback from the users that don’t have access to the app store. I will need to figure something out for how the new apps can be delivered to you and make sure it is done in the most secure way possible. You should never ever under any circumstances download XLStyles Tool from non-store sources or links that are not published on my site.

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9 Responses to New Windows 10 versions of the XLStyles Tool and Windows 7 end of life impact

  1. Pingback: .NET4.0 version of the XLStylesTool is now available | XLGeek's space

  2. DO says:

    “The latest UWP submission has “Allow organization-managed (offline) licensing and distribution for organizations” option enabled. I will need to work with someone in the community to validate that it works and to document the steps to help other organizations in the similar situation. Hope someone will step up. I don’t have the environment to try this out.”

    Most of your technical description details are way over my head, so I don’t understand them and the implications/capabilities.

    I have an organization that blocks the MS Store and any internet access out to the MS Store for app verification. But will allow sideloads of install packages. That’s just what they tell me and I don’t understand that either.

    Other than that, how can I help?

  3. John Panicci says:

    Wow that’s awesome. I have downloaded from MS Business Store for offline use with license and dependencies. I used SCCM to deploy APPX MSIX package. I used the following site , they aren’t exactly what needs to be done, but they should help you get it done:
    https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-store/distribute-offline-apps
    https://www.scconfigmgr.com/2016/04/05/deploy-offline-licensed-universal-apps-offline-from-windows-store-for-business-with-configmgr/

    I was wondering about the ability to remove adds? Can we purchase from MS Store for a price without ads for a price? Its not a huge deal, just asking. Again awesome job works great for Enterprise distribution with SCCM

    • XLGeek says:

      Really appreciate your feedback and the fact that you shared the steps for the IT members of the community to see. I’ll look into creating the ad free UWP version. Need some rest. I’ve literally worked round the clock on this for 3 weeks. Lots of annoying issues. There is one today: I can’t see usage of this package in telemetry, just acquisitions. I need crash reports which I suspect will be missing too. Please make sure that you pushed v3.0.1.0. I fixed last bug in v3.0.0.0 yesterday. I did push out ad free WinForms version: XLStyleToolDNC30 that you can check out now. It went live at 6:15AM Pacific. Had to put a price tag of $0.99 (hope to get some revenue to fund telemetry service), so don’t know how this will work with the private store. Details are in the latest blog post. Thanks again for validating UWP package SCCM deployment option so fast. I don’t have an environment for this.

  4. Pingback: Sharing useful utilities | XLGeek's space

  5. Pingback: Windows 10: private app store for XLStyles Tool | XLGeek's space

  6. John Panicci says:

    Hey, again thanks for all your efforts. Im having an issue with the App. Im getting and error and it says to uninstall and reinstall which actually fixed it last month. Inevent viewer when I trying to run app I get following: “Unable to start a DCOM Server: 6764XLGeekCoder.XLStylesTool_3.0.1.0_x64__491centepbgsm!App as Unavailable/Unavailable. The error:
    “0”
    Happened while starting this command:
    “C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\6764XLGeekCoder.XLStylesTool_3.0.1.0_x64__491centepbgsm\XLStylesToolUWP.exe” -ServerName:App.AppXfnanch0zzn26p1cgg0z1gaj2j91fjg9n.mca”

    Let me know if I need to get a new version? I heard that business app store is closing?

    • XLGeek says:

      I just tried the store app on a couple clean Win 10 64bit VMs and a uninstall and re-install. No errors. My OS is v1909, build is 18363.592. MS support should be able to help troubleshoot this pretty quickly. I didn’t get any other issues reported yet. Can you please point to the resource that is talking about the private store getting shutdown? There should be long-term support plan in place. People made investments in this.

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