The first chunk of February came with good news for those with Windows VR headsets. On February 1st, Microsoft released a preview version of Windows which comes with a slew of new features including the ability to run regular desktop apps in VR; it’s been possible to run apps from the Windows Store with Windows VR headsets but, until now, apps from outside the store—like Photoshop, Spotify, Chrome, and others—were excluded.

While WMR only previously supported apps purchased from the Windows Store, the new integration of Win32 desktop apps opens the way for users to access standard software inside the Windows Mixed Reality Portal, the default virtual ‘home’ environment for Windows VR headsets.

The umbrella category of ‘Win32 desktop apps’ includes software that most Windows 10 users are accustomed to running on their computers, including Photoshop, Spotify, Google Chrome, and Steam, among others. To get to your desktop apps inside of Win32, navigate to the Pins Panel, all apps, and then to the folder titled “Classic Apps (Beta)”.

Windows Central broke down this and a handful of other recently release features in the video below:

The new feature came as part of the Windows Insider Preview build 18329. As is the case with all Insider builds, Microsoft is warning users that there will be many bugs to squash before the new features are ready for prime time. In the meanwhile, they are encouraging testers to submit as much feedback as possible. Because it’s still a preview build, features that are being tested right now may not make it all the way to the public Windows release in their current form.

SEE ALSO
Walmart Deal Brings Lenovo Explorer Headset + Controller Bundle to $180

With Insider build 18329 and the upcoming 19H1 public update in April, WMR moves closer to strengthening its position as a productivity tool, something Microsoft has been angling toward since the launch of the Windows VR headsets at the end of 2017. However, headset resolutions have not caught up fast enough to make working inside of VR palatable for long periods of time. Though that might not be the case for long though as HP recently revealed a new headset that’s a huge jump in resolution over even the highest fidelity Windows VR headsets available today.

Along with native support for regular desktop apps inside of Windows , the new Windows Insider build also includes non-VR Windows improvements like a Top Apps bar in the Search Home, ADLaM and Osage font support, better dark mode support for Mail & Calendar, and the ability to set a default font.

This article may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product we may receive a small commission which helps support the publication. See here for more information.


  • dk

    also in this update …u can run apps inside other vr apps not just inside the winmr portal …but I’m not sure what r the limitations of that

    • crim3

      Right. That’s the bit that makes this news really big. Maybe Road to VR could confirm it and add it to the article.

      • dk

        my other comment was a demo of that

  • eckehard

    Genau betrachtet sieht das wie ein Rundumschlag von Windows aus :
    1-die Veröffentlichung von AR Brille Hololens 2 aber für Normalos —
    2- im Zusammenspiel mit der kommenden neuen VR(MR) Brille von HP die neueren Features des 2019 Upgrades mit dem größeren Windows-App.-Zugriff im Cliffhouse (das aber immer noch ruckelt) und vor allem Zugriff auf payed games von Steam und teilweise Oculus – …wenn ich nicht alles falsch verstanden habe im obigen Video !!

    • Francesco Fazio

      English maybe ? Turn on the brain maybe ?

      • eckehard

        Sorry – but I use on each browser the google translator

      • Spam Box

        Piss off maybe?

      • jj

        HEY! i’m on here saying turn ur brain on to things. NOT YOU

        also being bilingual would tell us his brain is on more than yours….

        if you can tell me what movie made the phrase “turn your brain on” then you can use it

        • Francesco Fazio

          That was easy. It is Beverly Hills Cop and it is Eddie Murphy saying that.

    • eckehard

      What I mean – if I understood it well – it could a fantastic cooperation from the coming HP Copper with the upgraded Windows MR and Steam + other payed games –that means the pimax -vive – and other are out …

  • realtrisk

    AWESOME! It was with the hopes of this functionality in mind that I bought a Samsung Odyssey. I’ve wanted to be able to do music production in VR since DK2. I do all my music on a 17″ laptop screen, and there is just NOT enough real estate to expand out all the windows that Reason uses.

    I really, really hope this will let me position the program’s windows all around me in space without the horrible limitation of all other “virtual desktop” apps that still force your programs to run in a limited window in space, therefore providing zero benefit over using the screen.

    • dk

      youtuDOTbe/CbszpLlgO5U demo

    • daveinpublic

      Looks like an awesome update

    • Hivemind9000

      I think the resolution of the headsets is still a limiting factor if you’re using complex UIs (i.e. video production, game development/coding, photoshop/image editing). It’s possible but not comfortable for long sessions. Perhaps the next generation of headsets might make it practical.

      For me another big problem is using the keyboard (I’m a coder but spend about 50% of my time in applications Blender, Photoshop and Unity). I was hoping for some sort of look-through camera capability so I could see my keyboard and hands when I starting typing and looked down at my keyboard. Even if the image of my keyboard/hands was faded and slightly transparent I wouldn’t care. But this requires decent front facing optical cameras. I think headsets should have these as standard, and even allow for a hybrid AR mode. Dreams are free…

      • jj

        yupp you read my mind

      • Kyokushin

        On Samsung Odyssey+ you can browse websites, chat on skype/messenger, you can use Word/Excel and watch movies.
        For photoshop is surely not enough, but for daily usage it is enough to say it can be used. Of course better resolution will come and functionality will look better.

        • Hivemind9000

          How do you use Excel if you can’t see the keyboard? Word (and messenger apps) I can understand if you’re a reasonably good touch typist. Using the windows software keyboard with controllers is like pulling teeth – not something for constant daily use.

      • Blapidoup

        What kind of developer or computer professional looks at its keyboard? :/

        • Hivemind9000

          Me and most I’ve known. I’ve also interviewed/employed over 100 developers in my time, and never has their ability to touch type or being able to develop without looking at their keyboard been on the list of criteria for a good developer or computer professional.

  • Thunk

    Doesn’t seem all that different to how Oculus Dash lets you run desktop apps in VR.

  • oompah

    so many thing r possible with this
    i ‘d like to see dos with in with a blinking cursor hah ha
    & also the ability to run dos programs
    nostalgia