Microsoft has released the open-source Windows Package Manager for developers and general users to install applications on Windows 10.
The Windows Package Manager service and the winget.exe command-line tool are now available in public preview for everyone to test. Winget comes with the preview version of Windows App Installer for sideloading apps on Windows 10.
While Windows 10 users can install apps from the Microsoft Store, the Windows Package Manager will help developers install tools that aren't necessarily available in the store, such as Win32 software products that haven't been converted to Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps in the store.
It could be helpful for anyone who needs to reinstall all their apps and tools after rebuilding a PC and should save time for developers who need to install lots of development tools, like editors, programming languages, and software libraries.
Microsoft announced the new package manager at its Build 2020 online conference this week.
The tool can help users get their apps by typing 'winget install' followed by the program name into the command line or create a script that automatically installs all necessary tools.
The package manager is available to users in Microsoft's Windows Insider testing program after installing Microsoft's App Installer program.
Microsoft has aimed to create a repository of trusted applications, from which the package manager can install apps that have been vetted with its SmartScreen technology and cryptographically verified.
While the package manager does provide an alternative to the Microsoft Store, formerly the Windows Store, Microsoft says it changes nothing for the store.
So it remains an open question what the company will do with the Microsoft Store, which many have speculated would be killed off because it only contains a fraction of the tens of millions of applications that run on Windows PCs.
The shortage of Microsoft Store products stems from Microsoft's failure to convince developers to convert their Win32 apps to UWP apps for distribution in the store.
The key difference between the Microsoft Store and Windows Package Manager is that the store is all about commerce while the package manager is not.
"The Windows Package Manager is a command-line interface, no marketing, no images, no commerce. Although we do plan on making those apps installable too," said Demitrius Nelon, a senior program manager at Microsoft.
Microsoft earlier this week detailed its latest efforts to close the divide between Win32 and UWP apps under Project Reunion, which includes the Windows 10 UI framework, WinUI 3, and WebView 2, a tool for integrating web content into an app.
Microsoft's roadmap for the package manager states it will be updating preview versions monthly until May 2021 when it will release version 1.0, which will support installing apps from the Microsoft Store as well as Progressive Web Apps.