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Visual FoxPro End of Life

You're probably well aware that Visual FoxPro has been discontinued.  It might be tempting to ignore this news.  But as time marches on, more and more VFP programmers will retire or move on to different programming languages.  And trust me when I say this: New programmers have zero interest in learning a dead language.   That's why finding competent programmers will only become more difficult as time goes by.

end of the line

It would be easy to pretend otherwise.   But like it or not the reality is, VFP is going away.  It would be wise to start planning for a software migration. 

How did this happen?

Every software development company (including Microsoft) releases version updates frequently.  They do this because hardware keeps getting better and more powerful.  They want to take advantage of those improvements.  But it's just not possible to keep on supporting every version of software they've ever released.  They need to stay out in front of the demand for software that customers will actually buy.  That means leaving older versions behind. 

So it's not surprising that already several years ago Microsoft announced a sunset date.  They would no longer support Visual FoxPro.  It doesn't matter how any of us feel about it or how much we've invested over the years.  VFP 9 was the last version to be released.  There will be no VFP 10.  

If your company relies on a custom FoxPro software application, where does that leave you?  Does it mean your software will stop running?  Probably not.  I say probably, because it's impossible to predict the future.  But there are several important factors to keep in mind.

software development

Here's what we know:

  • Visual FoxPro is a 32-bit application. Today it runs just fine on 64-bit Windows systems, like Windows 7, Windows 10 and Server 2019.

  • Millions of other 32-bit applications continue to function on these operating systems—even on 64-bit machines.

  • It's not likely that Microsoft will suddenly pull the plug on support for all 32-bit applications any time soon. Too many customers would complain.  So, in theory, you might be able to keep running your application until 2025, when Microsoft will stop extended support for Windows 10.

  • However, in the future, Microsoft won't provide bug fixes for Visual FoxPro. As a matter of fact, they're not under any obligation to pay attention to FoxPro at all.  If they decide to make a change to Windows that causes VFP programs to crash—well, don't say we didn't warn you.

  • In fact, Microsoft has already made some changes to Windows (opportunistic locking on Windows servers and read caching on Windows clients) that may cause database records to become corrupted. Today there are still workarounds for these issues, but future Windows Updates might suddenly render VFP useless in a network environment.

  • Some industries (especially health care and government) require software to be certified. Now that Microsoft no longer supports FoxPro, it'll be mighty hard, if not impossible to renew those certifications.

Start Planning Now

So what does this really mean for your company's software?  Will you need to migrate to a new .NET software application immediately?  That's your call.  But you'd be smart to at least start making plans for the future of your custom software.

If your FoxPro codebase is large, migrating to .NET or a web application may be a big task.  Creating a plan now will protect your investment and keep your company growing in the future.  


Spell out the scope

As you begin this process, your team might want to add new features.  Other functions may not be used any more.  For example, faxes and pagers have been replaced by e-mails and SMS texts.  Maybe you've decided it's time to move your application to the cloud.  These are all key factors that will have a huge impact on the project scope and cost.

It's important to put your ideas down in writing.  That way, whether you tackle the software migration in house, or hire a custom programming company, you'll have a road map to work from.  Your requests for quotes will be much more specific and detailed.  Then, when proposals come back, you'll be able to compare them on an apples-to-apples basis.

Decide on a schedule

When it comes to migrating a VFP application, it's not necessary to do everything at once.  In fact, it might be better to stagger the migration over a period of months or years.

Some of the best migrations we've done were carried out in phases.  Phase One typically involves upsizing the data tables to SQL Server, PostgreSQL or MySQL.

The next phase might involve rewriting external interfaces.  (In other words, programs that pull data into your database from outside, and push data out to vendors and customers.)  

Project Phases
Report generation might come next.  Finally, the time will come when the only thing left to migrate is the user interface—the data entry screens and menu options that your staff sees and touches every day.   

Blocking out the migration in phases and assigning target dates will flesh out your road map, and make sure that the project is completed successfully.


Other options

If your company no longer depends on the software to stay in business, the best course of action may be to do nothing—other than forewarn your staff that when your FoxPro application stops working, you have no plans to replace it.

Another option:  migrate to an off-the-shelf solution which may not meet all of your needs, but comes close enough that you can live with the decision.


If you need help along the way

We're all busy people.  There usually aren't enough hours in the day to finish what's already on our plates—much less to worry about a software migration.  So, if you ever want to bounce your ideas off someone who's been down this road before, feel free to contact us.  There's never a charge for the first consultation. 

Author: Dave Martin
Dave Martin has been writing software for decades. When he isn't busy managing programming projects and writing proposals, he writes articles and e-mails about all manner of software development. Dave is the founder and owner of a software development company that provides custom programming services for businesses in the US and the UK.