Notes on Vista Compatibility – and Incompatibility

February 9, 2009

in Vista

by Ross M. Greenberg 

I’ve been a Vista user since it was in early beta.  When the question wasn’t whether an application program would run properly under Vista but rather what would cause Vista to crash taking your machine, your hard disk and all the data thereon with it likely trashing your backup along the way. I also had to walk to school 3 miles. Uphill both ways.

A tool I have found incredibly useful is provided by Microsoft itself: their compatibility guide can be found at In the drop-down box, choose “software” and then enter a software title whose compatibility you’re not sure about. It seems the list is continually updated. 

Although initially virtually nothing was Vista compatible, especially some of the more esoteric software, most of the products currently available have been updated to take advantage of some features inherent in the Vista architecture.  Similarly it seems that hardware device drivers have slowly been updated to be Vista compatible as well. You can’t really blame the hardware or software vendors because Vista was an entirely unknown product and its reception in the marketplace was questionable. These days it is rare for a product – both hardware and software – to not be it Vista compatible.  In particular the majority of the highly graphical multiuser/multi-site role-playing games seem to be on the forefront of Vista compatibility.

It is true however – check out your favorite software at the above site – that you may have to upgrade some software and that the vendors may charge an upgrade fee. There are some peculiar incompatibilities that still makes no sense: my favorite is that Microsoft Messenger, Microsoft’s Instant Message “client” is not compatible with Vista’s voice recognition system. Actually it might be now but I have found nothing incompatible with Dragon NaturallySpeaking, my personal favorite.

I was using various old-school software packages (think WordStar-compatible or dBase-compatible systems) from defunct companies, and these were not updated, of course. By properly spelunking across the Internet and with good luck I was able to find a number of suitable “wedges” that would help me to get the job done – after a fashion.

Hidden away within Vista is what they call “Compatibility Mode”—to get to it you merely navigate to the application program, right-click on its icon and select properties. Then open the target directory and find the actual application and right-click on it. You’ll then be presented with another window with a number of tabs. One of those tabs will be called “Compatibility” – from this tab you’ll be able to set such things as screen resolution and whether or not to turn on some the enhancements that Vista is known for. These may not be compatible with older programs.

I use Vista as my main operating system and it is my operating system of choice. I have not had a problem with any modern software I can recall.

Oh!  I just remembered: it wasn’t really that far to go to school.  And elementary school legs are short… 

Ross M. Greenberg is a software developer, writer, and a webpage designer — in that order.  He’s been using Vista since forever, initially as an MSDN user and has dutifully upgraded it as it matured. It is currently his favorite operating system; starting off with CP/M through DOS and its various incarnations and Windows with its various incarnations. If you are new to Vista he promises it will grow on you. He loves being on the cutting edge … “