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. At the core of Universal Windows apps is the idea that users want their experiences to be mobile across ALL their devices, and they want to use whatever device is most convenient or productive for the task at hand.

Windows 10 makes it easier to develop apps for the UWP with just one API set, one app package, and one store to reach all Windows 10 devices – PC, tablet, phone and more. It’s easier to support a number of screen sizes, and also a variety of interaction models, whether it be touch, mouse & keyboard, a game controller, or a pen.

Windows-powered devices

So, what's a Universal Windows app?

What makes a Universal Windows app special? Here are some of the characteristics that make Universal Windows apps on Windows 10 different.

  • You target device families, not an OS.

    A device family identifies the APIs, system characteristics, and behaviors that you can expect across devices within the device family. It also determines the set of devices on which your app can be installed from the store.

  • Apps are packaged and distributed using the .AppX packaging format.

    All Universal Windows apps are distributed as an AppX package. This provides a trustworthy installation mechanism and ensures that your apps can be deployed and updated seamlessly.

  • There's one store for all devices.

    After you register as an app developer, you can submit your app to the store and make it available on all device families, or only those you choose. You submit and manage all your apps for Windows devices in one place.

  • There's a common API surface across device families.

    The Universal Windows Platform (UWP) core APIs are the same for all Windows device families. If your app uses only the core APIs, it will run on any Windows 10 device.

  • Extension SDKs make your app light up on specialized devices.

    Extension SDKs add specialized APIs for each device family. If your app is intended for a particular device family, you can make it light up by using these APIs. You can still have one app package that runs on all devices by checking what device family your app is running on before calling an extension API.

  • Adaptive Controls and input

    UI elements use effective pixels (see Responsive design 101), so they automatically adapt themselves based on the number of screen pixels available on the device. And they work well with multiple types of input such as keyboard, mouse, touch, pen, and Xbox One controllers. If you need to further tailor your UI to a specific screen size or device, new layout panels and tooling help you adapt your UI to the devices your app may run on.

For a more detailed look at the UWP, see Guide to Universal Windows Platform apps.

Use a language you already know

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

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

Microsoft Visual Studio 2015 provides a Universal Windows app template for each language that lets you create a single project for all devices. When your work is finished, you can produce an app package and submit it to the Windows Store from within Visual Studio to get your app out to customers on any Windows 10 device.

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.

  • The 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 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, PCs, and other devices. 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 great 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

For a more detailed look at the UWP, read the Guide to Universal Windows Platform apps. Then, check out Get set up to download the tools you need to start creating apps.

Related topics

Guide to Universal Windows Platform apps
Get set up



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