I’d like to introduce you to a completely new Windows Server Solutions (WSS) add-in that was released today called “WHS RemoteApp 2011” (for use with Windows Home Server 2011, Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials, or Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials – or “WSE RemoteApp 2012” for use with Windows Server 2012 Essentials). If you are at all familiar with any of my other WSS add-ins, then you will feel right at home with the new add-in. It works just like my other add-ins, except that your users are not limited to the use of a single server-installed application (or application suite). Instead, you can grant your users individual access to pretty much any application that is installed on your server. Here is a more thorough explanation of the new add-in:
WHS RemoteApp 2011 makes it possible for administrators to deliver remote applications (referred to as “RemoteApp programs” or simply “RemoteApps“) to their users. Specifically, WHS RemoteApp 2011 enables a straightforward publishing process that allows applications installed directly on the server to be provided to users, allows RemoteApp programs to run side-by-side with local programs, and offers integration with a custom “launcher” application to make it simple for users to find and launch RemoteApp programs.
RemoteApp programs are programs that are accessed remotely through a special type of Remote Desktop Connection, and appear as if they are running on the end user’s local computer. Instead of being presented to the user in the desktop of the server, as with a traditional Remote Desktop Connection, the RemoteApp programs are integrated with the client computer’s desktop, running in their own resizable window, with their own entry in the taskbar. If the programs use notification area icons, the icons appear in the client computer’s notification area. Any popup windows are redirected to the local desktop, and local drives and printers can be redirected to appear within the RemoteApp programs. Many users might not be aware that a RemoteApp program is any different than a local program.
WHS RemoteApp 2011 provides administrators the ability to group and personalize RemoteApp programs and make them available to individual end users via the WHS RemoteApp Launcher application. WHS RemoteApp 2011 improves the user’s experience, opens new avenues for program deployment, and reduces the amount of administrative effort required to support these programs.
Users can run published RemoteApp programs in two different ways:
• Locally from the server’s Launchpad application that is installed on their computer.
• Remotely from almost anywhere using the server’s built-in Remote Web Access (RWA) website.
To get you up to speed with the new add-in, I’ll walk through the publishing of a simple application like Paint. However, any application that can be installed directly on the server, and is Remote Desktop compatible (i.e. that will run as designed from a Remote Desktop Connection) should work just fine though. Both 32-bit and 64-bit applications are supported.
After installing the add-in on both your server and on all of the computers on your network (see the ReadMe.txt file included with the download for complete step-by-step instructions on how to install the add-in), start the server’s Dashboard application and click on the new “WHS RemoteApp” icon in the navigation pane.
On the “Users” tab, select (highlight) the user you want to be able to access WHS RemoteApp 2011 and click on the “Allow access to WHS RemoteApp” task in the Tasks pane. Repeat the process for each user you want to be able to access WHS RemoteApp 2011.
Now that your users have been allowed access to WHS RemoteApp 2011, you will need to publish one or more RemoteApp programs for the allowed users to use. Again, we’ll stick with publishing just the simple Paint application in our example.
Click on the “RemoteApp Programs” tab, and then click on the “Publish RemoteApp programs” task in the Tasks pane.
In the Publish RemoteApp Programs wizard that opens, select (check) the RemoteApp programs that should be published for use by the allowed users. If a particular program isn’t listed, you can click on the “Add Another Program” button, and browse for the program that you would like to have added to the list of available RemoteApp programs.
Click Next, and either select, or type the name of the group in which you want the list of RemoteApp programs to appear. If you do not want the list of RemoteApp programs to appear in any group, leave the RemoteApp program group field blank.
Confirm that the list of RemoteApp programs to be published is correct, and click Publish.
Back on the “RemoteApp Programs” tab, you can see that the RemoteApp program (Paint) was successfully published, and added to the list of published RemoteApp programs (under its chosen “Accessories” group).
Once the RemoteApp program has been published, you can view and/or edit the RemoteApp program’s properties by selecting (highlighting) the published RemoteApp program in the list of published RemoteApp programs, and clicking on the “View the RemoteApp program properties” task in the Tasks pane.
On the first panel of the RemoteApp Properties wizard that opens, you can edit the general properties of the RemoteApp program (such as changing its name, adding command-line parameters, changing its group assignment, etc.).
In the next panel of the RemoteApp Properties wizard, the RemoteApp program can be limited so that only selected users can see it when using WHS RemoteApp.
Lastly, you can associate the RemoteApp program with a file type. Doing so takes over the file type association on the user’s computer, allowing them to easily open local files of the specified type with the program that is installed on the server.
After you have finished publishing, grouping, and personalizing your RemoteApp programs, your users can access them from the server’s Launchpad application that is installed on their computers.
From the Launchpad application, click on: “Add-ins” -> “WHS RemoteApp” -> “WHS RemoteApp”
Enter the user’s server account logon name and password, and click on the sign-in button.
The WHS RemoteApp Launcher application will start, making it simple for the user to find and launch published RemoteApp programs.
Since many users might not be aware that a RemoteApp program is any different than a local program, the WHS RemoteApp Launcher adds itself as a notification area icon so that your users can identify when a RemoteApp session is active. Double-clicking on the notification area icon will activate the WHS RemoteApp Launcher window, while right-clicking on the notification area icon will display the following popup menu (where users can change various settings, disconnect, or log off the active RemoteApp session, etc.):
When your users are away from the local network, they can continue to access WHS RemoteApp remotely from almost anywhere using the WHS Remote Web Access gadget on the server’s built-in Remote Web Access website.
There’s a fully functional 21 day evaluation period available, so go and try it out for yourself. I hope that everyone enjoys the new add-in as much as I do. And as always, please do let me know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns.
More Information, Screenshots, and Download (WHS RemoteApp 2011)
More Information, Screenshots, and Download (WSE RemoteApp 2012)