Force Older Programs to Use XP Common Controls

Older Windows programs look ancient and outdated in XP, because they don’t use the XP-style buttons and checkboxes. Here’s how to make them use XP common controls.

When you run an older program in XP, the operating system applies an XP-type frame around it, with rounded title bars. But the older program itself still uses its older-style interface. You can, however, force older programs to use XP-type common controls for things such as checkboxes and buttons.

You’ll have to create a manifest file (a specifically formatted XML file) and place it in the same directory as the older file.

Example 1 shows the code to put in your manifest file. For Program Name, enter the name of the program, and for Description of Program, enter a description for the program.

Example 1 Creating a manifest file

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" standalone="yes"?>
<assembly xmlns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:asm.v1" manifestVersion="1.0">
 
<assemblyIdentity
    version="1.0.0.0"
    processorArchitecture="X86"
    name="Program Name"
    type="win32"
/>
 
<description>Description of Program</description>
<dependency>
<dependentAssembly>
 
<assemblyIdentity
    type="win32"
    name="Microsoft.Windows.Common-Controls"
    version="6.0.0.0"
    processorArchitecture="X86"
    publicKeyToken="6595b64144ccf1df"
    language="*"
/>
 
</dependentAssembly>
</dependency>
</assembly>

To create the file, open Notepad, copy the text into it, and save it to the same folder as the executable file of the program you want to force to use XP common controls. Give it the same name as the program’s executable file, but with an extension of .manifest. For example, if the program’s executable file is named oldprogram.exe, give the manifest file the name oldprogram.exe.manifest.