"Application compatibility" is a term used to describe the process of determining whether a specific software product will function properly with certain hardware. Typically, this process will also determine if two different software products will interact, allowing for the exchange of data for the completion of specific tasks. In many cases, program utilities are made available for easy download so that end users can determine the level of compatibility that exists between different combinations of hardware and software.
The downloadable utilities offered with different systems will vary somewhat in terms of the type of application compatibility that can be checked. Most will analyze software that is currently loaded on a hard drive and determine both the points of compatibility and any issues that would obstruct the free transfer of data to each application. A similar tool is used by software developers to determine if software that is currently under development will function at optimum efficiency with certain hardware devices as well as run on specific operating systems with no difficulty. Use of these utilities can be important when it comes to designing a new product that will interact with current popular software and hardware products, or determining if a given application will interface seamlessly with software and hardware that is already in use.
Application compatibility is also a concern when it comes to extracting and using data from different software products. For example, a sales manager who wishes to purchase a new program that allows salespeople to track customer contacts and generate letters from the captured data would want to make sure that sales database is compatible with the word processing software currently in use by the team. At the same time, the sales manager would want the database to be capable of receiving data from a spreadsheet or other format and arranging the information into individual customer files within the database. Unless the level of application compatibility exists to allow the desired interaction, the database is of little use to the sales team.
While the packaging on many products list the software and hardware requirements necessary to operate the products at full efficiency, there is still sometimes the need for end users to conduct an application compatibility check. This is especially true when the information provided by the manufacturer is unclear regarding the ability of the product to interact with some type of freeware that the end user currently employs. To this end, there are a number of free and fee-based online compatibility toolkits that can be downloaded and use to determine the level of compatibility between two or more software or hardware products.