February 22, 2006

Review: Versora Progression Desktop

Author: Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier

Linux distributions have virtually all of the amenities that desktop users want, but moving from Windows to Linux is still a bit of a challenge for users who need to migrate their settings and files to a new desktop. Versora's Progression Desktop utility is designed to copy a user's settings and files from Windows to Linux, mitigating the hassles that come with migration. It's still a bit rough around the edges, but it's a major step toward making it easier to move to Linux.

Progression Desktop handles settings in common applications such as Microsoft Word, Outlook, and Internet Explorer. It also handles user desktop settings such as desktop wallpaper and mouse and keyboard settings. Finally, it also helps automate copying files from the Windows desktop to the target Linux machine.

Using Progression Desktop on Windows

Installing Versora Progression Desktop on Windows XP is easy. As soon as I popped in the CD-ROM, it prompted me to start the installation process. The Progression Desktop installer should be simple enough for anyone who has installed a Windows application at least once or twice.

The Progression Desktop wizard is fairly easy to use, but I noticed a glitch in the user interface that could be a bit confusing. Specifically, when you reach the file and folder selection dialog, it displays a series of default folders and files that are to be migrated. That's all well and fine, but each file/folder entry has two states -- included or excluded. If a folder is to be excluded, it's greyed out in the interface. That's intuitive enough -- but users also see a checkbox next to each item that also needs to be checked to include a file or directory. This is a bit confusing, and should be streamlined to simply a single checkbox.

Progression limits migrations to sets of no more than 2GB of files and settings, compressed. The limitation is a bit annoying, since most users are likely to have more than 2GB of data that they wish to migrate. As a workaround, you can run the migration more than once, storing, for instance, desktop settings in one pass and files in another. However, the Progression Desktop client doesn't support any kind of batch processing, so users must run through the wizard for each 2GB clump of data, and manually select the files and directories to include and exclude each time. Given that my home directory on my Linux workstation is about 44GB, I wouldn't like to run through the wizard 22 times to get all of my data. Yes, users can copy data manually, but that defeats the purpose of using Progression Desktop.

Finally, I'm disappointed that the Progression Desktop application doesn't offer any real online help. Some of the functions are not self-explanatory, and it would be nice if a user could click on a help button and get some additional information. The CD comes with a PDF that has some documentation, but it's fairly skimpy.

Restoring settings with Progression Desktop

Before I started with the hard stuff, I decided to give Progression Desktop an easy test. I set up a mail account with Outlook Express and subscribed to a few mailing lists I lurk on. After grabbing about 400 messages, I created a migration file and used the Windows wizard to import my settings to Thunderbird 1.5 for Windows. (Yes, Thunderbird also has an import wizard for OE, but we're testing Versora's software here.)

On the first run-through, Progression Desktop didn't actually do anything. I had to re-run the wizard in "custom" mode to tell the wizard to migrate settings to Thunderbird (instead of Outlook Express).

After running the wizard a second time, I found that Progression Desktop had copied over my settings perfectly -- I was able to log into my account and it had retained my server preferences -- but it looked like the wizard didn't actually copy my mail. However, it did copy over the mail -- but dumped it into the local folders instead of into the account inbox.

My next step was to copy over settings to a Linux machine. Progression Desktop 1.2 supports quite a few Linux distros. The version I tested did not include support for Ubuntu -- but Versora says that Ubuntu is supported with version 1.2.3.

I tried migrating to SimplyMEPIS. Using Progression Desktop is pretty simple on Linux as well -- just mount the CD and run a shell script that fires up the GUI. Progression Desktop copied almost everything to the SimplyMEPIS machine without any fuss. It moved the bookmarks from Internet Explorer to Firefox without any hassle, and all of the documents stored in the My Documents folder were moved to the home directory on Linux. The wizard also offers the option of moving files to a different destination directory if you don't want them dumped into the home directory.

My settings were transferred successfully from Thunderbird to KMail -- except my password. I had to re-enter that once I fired up KMail. For some reason, Progression Desktop also failed to detect Thunderbird, so I wasn't offered the option to transfer settings to Thunderbird.


I'm pleased to see an application that helps users migrate away from Windows to Linux. Many Windows users have years invested in their desktop, and the thought of having to move email and settings manually is no doubt daunting to many users. Having an easy-to-use desktop isn't enough, if users are not confident about moving their data over.

The product's price of $29 for the download isn't bad for an application of this nature. However, I wouldn't count on Versora moving everything, but it should certainly make the migration process a lot easier. It might be worth the $29 to avoid having to copy over some of your settings manually, but Progression Desktop isn't quite effortless just yet if you have a lot of data.

Progression Desktop is easy enough to use, but it still has a few rough edges. I think it has serious potential, but don't count on it to do everything flawlessly.


  • Migration
Click Here!