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Application refactoring helps legacy apps go mobile

The application refactoring market is still fairly young, but the companies that are vying for attention all do refactoring differently.

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: Modern Mobility: Goals first, mobility management second:

There's a pesky problem with desktop virtualization on smartphones and tablets: Desktop applications were never meant for mobile use.

Legacy applications, built for a PC with a physical keyboard and mouse, are still critical to today's businesses. The experience of using them on a touchscreen device, however tends to be extremely clunky. Application refactoring attempts to solve that problem by reformatting and optimizing desktop apps for mobile.

Refactoring should be a familiar term to those in the developer community; it refers to the process of improving software coding and design without changing its intended functions. The new stock of application refactoring vendors -- which includes Capriza, PowWow, Reddo Mobility and StarMobile -- takes that concept and applies it to legacy software running on modern endpoints.

As an added bonus, application refactoring usually doesn't require any manual coding, scripting or application development. But with only a few companies vying for attention in the app refactoring market, there's still a surprising number of different approaches.

Reddo Mobility lets IT pros (or even power users) launch a Windows application and select which of its layouts, buttons and menus to display in an HTML5 Web app with a mobile look and feel.

Capriza, founded in 2011, has been in the game longer than most. It only transforms Web applications, using browser virtualization to deliver the app through its cloud service.

PowWow, which launched in 2014, uses a combination of HTML5 and Remote Desktop Protocol to deliver apps to the client. A collaboration option allows multiple users to connect to the same session and interact with shared documents, similar to Google Docs.

StarMobile, a cloud-based service, uses its own protocol to abstract a desktop application's underlying user interface data and render it in a mobile-friendly manner on a client device.

Network latency can slow streaming in some cases of application refactoring, and it often depends on the product's protocol quality and specific rendering process. Most of these vendors tout the fact that users don't need app development experience, but some products offer simpler designer interfaces than others. One nice benefit is that some offerings also integrate with existing virtual desktop infrastructure deployments and/or enterprise mobility suites.

Overall, there's a good smattering of tools that cover just about any app, whether it's cloud-based, Web-based or on-premises. As enterprise mobility grows, there are sure to be even more solutions to the problem of modernizing Windows apps.

Next Steps

Why VMware's Workspace Suite is missing app refactoring

DaaS isn't the best route to deliver Windows apps on mobile

This was last published in March 2015

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Which application refactoring tool would you choose?
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2015 C++ RVS. I like the ability to convert raw string to an easier to read string and built-in error checking. RVS allows you to create declaration definitions to avoid context switching.
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I don't have experience with many different refactoring tools, but I have used ReSharper and it works great - no complaints here. It makes it so easy to navigate, create tests, extract code into methods, etc. It integrates really well into Visual Studio.

When ReSharper licenses were cut back to save money, I gave mine up since I need to use it less frequently than others. It was immediately noticeable how much more difficult it was to work in VS without it!
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Of the four apps listed in the article (Reddo Mobility, Capriza, PowWow, and StarMobile), my choice would be StarMobile. Reddo Mobility optimizes the presentation layer ofa legacy Windows app for mobile, which I think can too often result in an “appified” legacy app that users will no be happy with. Capriza, as I understamnd it, only adds mobile-specific features to legacy apps, pretty much producing the same results as Reddo. PowWow only works for iOS devices, which leaves out a large portion of the population. That just leaves StarMobile, and I think that their approach of abstracting the applications underlying data to render in a mobile friendly manner avoid the pitfalls into which the other tools can easily fall.
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@mcorum Thanks for the insights, Mike. Each of these options has its pros and cons, and you're right that "appifying" anything needs to take the user experience into account. Making a legacy/traditional app better suited for mobile can be very tricky, as with other methods like delivering VDI desktops to mobile devices -- not always a great experience. 
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When it comes to refactoring, The IDEs of today (Eclipse, IntelliJ, RubyMine, and Visual Studio) are getting better.  Resharper was a godsend for the Jobs where I was working with .Net.   
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I’ve been more than a little leery of refactoring desktop applications to give them a mobile feel. If done poorly, then a legacy application can come across as “appified” to the end users, with less than favorable results. In my experience, users have found the features they used in the legacy applications and wanted in the mobile apps were either not in the app or did not function as well as the legacy counterpart, so they stopped using the apps. To do it right, I think that you need the ability to re-do the layout and the workflow to give the users a new yet somewhat familiar experience that they can work with.
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