Configuring RemoteApps on Windows Server 2008 R2

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Installing Applications for Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop ServicesConfiguring Windows Server 2008 RD Web Access


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RemoteApps are a part of the Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services role. Up until this point, Remote Desktop Services have been covered in the context of displaying an entire virtual desktop session on a local client from a remote server (otherwise known as an RD Session Host). Whilst this can be useful in a number of situations it is actually more common that only individual applications running on a remote server needs to be displayed on a local client, essentially making the applications appear as though they are running locally. This functionality is provided by RemoteApps and is the focus of this chapter.

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[edit] Preparing the RD Session Host for RemoteApps

In order to configure RemoteApps on Windows Server 2008 R2 there are a few prerequisites. In the first instance, the Remote Desktop Services role must be installed and configured on the server system. For details on how to achieve this refer to [Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop (RD) Services]].

Secondly, any applications which are to be configured as RemoteApps must be installed for Remote Desktop Services so that they support multiple users. The steps to implement this were covered in Chapter 18 - Installing Applications for Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services.

Finally, if the applications are to be accessed via a browser using the Remote Desktop Web Access services role, this will also need to be configured as outlined in Configuring Windows Server 2008 RD Web Access.

Once the first two, and optionally the third, requirements are met the server is now ready to begin the RemoteApp configuration process.

[edit] What are RemoteApps?

RemoteApps are part of the Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services role. The objective behind remote desktop services is to allow client systems to access desktops and applications running on remote servers. As the description suggests, remote desktop access presents an entire desktop session from the remote server on the screen of the local client. This allows the user to perform a number of desktop based tasks including launching and interacting with applications on the remote host. The RemoteApps feature avoids the necessity to access an entire desktop on the remote system in order to launch an application, instead allowing the user to launch individual applications from their local system. When launched, each RemoteApp appears in its own window on the client's desktop just as any locally running would.

RemoteApps can be launched either by clicking on a link on an RD Web Access web page, or by installing a file on the client which, when clicked, launches the RemoteApp.

[edit] Configuring a Application as a RemoteApp

Applications are configured as RemoteApps using the RemoteApp Manager tool. This can be accessed either from the Start -> All Programs -> Remote Desktop Services -> RemoteApp Manager or by running remoteprograms.msc in a Run dialog or at a command prompt. Once launched, the manager will appear as follows:


The Windows Server 2008 R@ RemoteApp Manager tool


To configure an application as a RemoteApp, begin by clicking on the Add RemoteApp Programs link in the Actions panel located in the top right hand corner of the RemoteApp Manager screen. This will display the RemoteApp wizard containing a list of currently installed applications. One or more applications may be selected from the list before pressing the Next button:

Adding RemoteApps to Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services


The wizard also provides a number of different properties that may be changed for each of the applications. To change these settings, select an application in the list and click on the Properties button to display the RemoteApps Properties dialog as illustrated below:


Configuring RemoteApp properties


This dialog allows the following properties to be configured:

  • RemoteApps program name - The name by which the application or program will be presented to the user.
  • Location: - The physical path to the executable which launches the application.
  • Alias - A unique identifier for the program or application, typically set to the executable name minus the .exe (or other) extension.
  • RemoteApp is available through RD Web Access - Controls whether the application is available to be launched via RD Web Access. For details on RD Web Access read Chapter 20 - Configuring Windows Server 2008 R2 RD Web Access.
  • Command-Line Arguments - Specifies the rules for providing the application with command-line arguments.
  • Change Icon - Allows a different icon than the programs default icon to be specified.

The second tab on the RemoteApps properties screen labeled User Assignment allows restrictions to be imposed on which users and groups can access the selected RemoteApp icon. Note, however, that these settings are only relevant within the context of Active Directory domains.

After making any necessary property changes click Ok to close the property dialog and click Next to proceed to the Review Settings screen and Finish to complete the configuration. Upon completion the applications selected within the wizard will be listed under RemoteApp Programs as illustrated below:


RemoteApps configured in RemoteApp Manager


Once the RemoteApps are configured, they need to be made available to the remote users. This is achieved via RD Web Access, Windows Installer Package or Remote Desktop Protocol (.RDP) file. Each of these approaches will be covered in detail in the remaining sections of this chapter.

[edit] Making RemoteApps Available to Users via RD Web Access

By default, RemoteApps are configured to be accessible via RD Web Access (for details on installing and configuring the RD Web Access service role refer read Configuring Windows Server 2008 RD Web Access). As outlined above this setting can be checked during the RemoteApp configuration process by verifying that the RemoteApp is available through RD Web Access box is set in the properties dialog. This setting can be modified at any time by right clicking on the RemoteApp program in question on the RemoteApp Manager RemoteApp Programs list and selecting either the Show in RD Web Access or Hide in RD Web Access menu option.

Assuming that the RemoteApp programs are configured for RD Web Access, simply open a browser window and enter the URL of the RD Web Access page, the format of which is typically as follows (where server is the name or IP address of the RD Session Host Server system):

https://server/RDweb

When a connection has been established the browser will prompt for the user's login and password credentials before displaying the RD Web Access page:


RemoteApps in RD Web Access portal


To launch an application the user simply clicks on the icon for the required application. First to appear will be the RemoteApp Connecting dialog. This will be followed by a second dialog which contains warnings about any risks inherent in running the application. A Details button is provided to display settings allowing the user to decide which resources on the local system (such as drives, devices, keyboard, mouse, printers, ports etc) should be made available to the application running on the remote system. This can be particularly useful, for example, if a user needs to print from the remote application onto a local printer, or save a file onto a local disk or USB drive:


Starting a Windows Server 2008 R2 based RemoteApp on a local client


Having made the appropriate settings, click the Connect button. The RemoteApp launcher will then prompt for the login and password credentials of a user on the RD Session Host. Note that this user must be either an administrator or be a member of the Remote Desktop user group. Once the connection is established the remote application will appear in a window on the local desktop just as a local running application would appear.

[edit] Making RemoteApps Available to Users via Windows Installer Packages

One alternative to providing RemoteApp program access via RD Web Access is to create a Windows Installer package which can be used to install the RemoteApp launcher on any client systems which need access. To create a Windows Installer for a RemoteApp program, right click on the RemoteApp program in question on the RemoteApp Manager RemoteApp Programs list and select Create Windows Installer Package from the menu. When the RemoteApp Wizard welcome screen appears click on Next to proceed to the package setting screen. On this screen, set the target directory where the RemoteApp program launcher is to be installed in the client system. Also on this screen are settings for controlling which server and Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) port the client system will be directed to in order to launch the RemoteApp. The final setting allows access to the RemoteApp to be protected through the use of certificates.

The Next button proceeds to the Configuration screen where settings such as controlling whether the application is listed in the Start menu and Desktop of the client user's desktop after installation. The final option is related to file extension associations. As examples of file extension associations, a Word document has a .doc file extension and an Excel file an .xls extension. When configured, file extension associations ensure that when a user double clicks, for example, on a .doc file, Word is started with the selected file opened and ready for editing. The Take over file extensions option associates appropriate file extensions with the RemoteApp, such that the RemoteApp is started when a corresponding local file is selected by a user.

Once the settings are complete, proceed to the confirmation screen, review the settings summary and click on Finish to complete the Windows Installer Package creation. Once completed the .msc package can be found in the location specified during the configuration process (by default this is C:\Program Files\Packaged Programs). This file should be copied to any client systems where access to the RemoteApp is required and executed to install the application. Once installed, the RemoteApp can be found in the Start -> All Programs -> Remote Programs and on the Desktop if the corresponding option was selected during the installer configuration process.

As with RD Web Access, the user will be given the option to control which local resources such as devices and printers are to be made accessible to the remote application and must login in as a user that has either administrative or remote desktop privileges on the RD Session Host.

[edit] Making RemoteApps Available to Users via .RDP Files

The process for creating a Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) file for a RemoteApp is similar to that for creating a Windows Installer package. To create an RDP file for a RemoteApp, right click on the RemoteApp program in question on the RemoteApp Manager RemoteApp Programs list and select Create .rdp File from the menu. When the RemoteApp Wizard welcome screen appears click on Next to proceed to the package setting screen. On this screen, set the target directory where the .rdp is to be generated. Also on this screen are settings for controlling which server and Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) port the client system will be directed to in order to launch the RemoteApp. The final setting allows access to the RemoteApp to be protected through the use of digital signatures.

Once the settings are complete, proceed to the confirmation screen, review the settings summary and click on Finish to complete the .rdp file creation. Once completed the .rdp file can be found in the location specified during the configuration process (by default this is C:\Program Files\Packaged Programs). This file should be copied to any client systems where access to the RemoteApp is required.

As with the previous options discussed, the user will be given the option to control which local resources such as devices and printers are to be made accessible to the remote application.

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