Windows Dev Center

What's a Universal Windows app?

A Universal Windows app is a Windows experience that is built upon the Universal Windows Platform (UWP), which was first introduced in Windows 8 as the Windows Runtime. Universal Windows apps are most often distributed via the Windows Store (but can also be side-loaded), and are most often packaged and distributed using the .APPX packaging format.

You might have seen a lot of different terms for Windows apps, such as "Windows Runtime apps", "Windows Phone Store apps", or "Windows Store apps". What do they mean?

A Windows Runtime app is an app that uses the Windows Runtime and runs on a Windows 8 or 8.1 devices (such as a PC or tablet) or a Windows Phone. We call a Windows Runtime app that runs on PCs, laptops, and tablets a Windows Store app. We call a Windows Runtime app that runs on the Windows Phone a Windows Phone Store app.

Windows Store apps running on Windows devices

Windows Store apps

Windows Store app

A Windows Store apps is a Windows Runtime app that runs on Windows devices (like PCs, tablets, or laptops) and can be sold in the Windows Store.

Windows Phone Store apps

Windows Phone Store apps

Windows Phone Store app

A Windows Phone Store app is a Windows Runtime app that runs on Windows Phones and can be sold in the Windows Phone Store.


So, what's a Universal Windows app?

Current versions of Visual Studio provide a Universal Windows app template that lets you create a Windows Store app (for PCs, tablets, and laptops) and a Windows Phone Store app in the same project. When your work is finished, you can produce app packages for the Windows Store and Windows Phone Store with a single action to get your app out to customers on any Windows device.

Universal apps

Universal Windows apps

Universal app

The Universal Windows apps template lets you easily create a Windows Store app and a Windows Phone Store app from a single project.


Universal Windows Platform (UWP) in Windows 10 Insider Preview

The Universal Windows Platform (UWP) takes the next step in Windows apps with Windows 10 Insider Preview. It empowers you to build a single universal app experience that can reach every device running Windows 10 Insider Preview—every phone, tablet, PC, and soon Xbox. The UWP uses adaptive UI controls for different device types and a common API set that's guaranteed to be present on all devices that run Windows 10 Insider Preview. To get an early look at the UWP on Windows 10 Insider Preview, see Guide to Windows universal apps.

The best way to be ready for Windows 10 is to build your Universal Windows app for Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 now.

For more info about building Universal Windows apps, see Building Universal Windows apps for all Windows devices.

Now that you know what Universal Windows apps are, let's talk about what makes them special.

Use a language you already know

You can create Universal Windows apps using the programming languages you're most familiar with, like JavaScript, C#, Visual Basic, or C++. You can even write components in one language and use them in an app that's written in another language.

Universal Windows apps can use the Windows Runtime, a native API built into the operating system. This API is implemented in C++ and supported in JavaScript, C#, Visual Basic, and C++ in a way that feels natural for each language.

Universal Windows apps come to life on Windows

On Windows, your app can deliver relevant, real-time info to your users and keep them coming back for more. In the modern app economy, your app has to be engaging to stay at the front of your users’ lives. Windows provides you with lots of resources to help keep your users returning to your app:

  • Live tiles and the lock screen show contextually relevant and timely info at a glance.
  • Push notifications bring real-time, breaking alerts to your user’s attention when they're needed.

  • On Windows Phone, the new Action Center is a place where you can organize and display notifications and content that users need to take action on.

  • Background execution and triggers bring your app to life just when the user needs it.

  • Your app can use voice and Bluetooth LE devices to help users interact with the world around them.

Finally, you can now use roaming data and the Windows Credential Locker to enable a consistent roaming experience across all of the Windows screens where users run your app. Roaming data gives you an easy way to store a user’s preferences and settings in the cloud, without having to build your own sync infrastructure. And you can store user credentials in the Credential Locker, where security and reliability are the top priority.

Monetize your app your way

On Windows, you can choose how you'll monetize your app—across phones, tablets, and PCs. We give you a number of ways to make money with your app and the services it delivers. All you need to do is choose the one that works best for you:

  • A paid download is the simplest option. Just name your price.
  • Trials give you a unique way to let users try your app before buying it, providing easier discoverability and conversion than the more traditional "freemium" options.
  • In-app purchase offers you the most flexibility for monetizing your app.

Let's get started

Now that you know what a Universal Windows app is, check out Get set up to download the tools you need to start creating apps.

Other types of apps

The guides and tutorials in this section cover Universal Windows apps, but there are other types of apps you might also be interested in.

Windows desktop app An executable or browser plug-in that runs in the Windows desktop environment. These apps are typically written in Win32 and COM, .NET, WPF, or Direct3D APIs. For more info, see the Desktop dev center.

Windows Phone Silverlight app

Windows Phone Silverlight 8 app

Windows Phone Silverlight 8.1 app

A Windows Phone app that uses the Windows Phone Silverlight UI Framework instead of the Windows Runtime and can be sold in the Windows Phone Store. For more info, see Windows Phone Silverlight development.


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