Hi, I’m David Bélanger, a program manager on the Remote Desktop Virtualization (RDV) team in Windows Server.
One of the areas of focus for RemoteApp programs in Windows Server 2012 R2 was improving the user experience by eliminating some of the remaining gaps we had between a RemoteApp and a local app. RemoteApp programs are apps that are installed on a system by a network administrator and accessed remotely from a different system. RemoteApp programs are similar to Remote Desktop, but allow the user to run individual remote applications on their local desktop in conjunction with local applications. RemoteApp programs are a great way for users to run traditional desktop applications on Windows, Windows RT, and other devices, allowing administration of a single app for multiple device types.
In this blog, I discuss the improvements made to RemoteApp programs in Windows Server 2012 R2—specifically, adding full support for transparent windows, improving the application move experience, providing live thumbnails, the ability to disable these features, and adding support for ClickOnce applications.
Support for transparent windows
New to Windows Server 2012 R2, the alpha-channel information (which provides transparency) is sent from the server to the client where it is applied in conjunction with the local applications. The end result is that we now provide full support for transparent windows, which can greatly improve the look and feel of applications that leverage transparency to provide a smoother experience. This includes Office 2013 applications that have transparent border windows and pop-up notifications that slowly fade away. Transparency in applications now appears the same whether they are running locally or from a remote system.
Figure 1: Microsoft Word 2013 with transparent borders and a transparent test application running as RemoteApp programs over File Explorer running locally
Improving the application move/resize experience
The second benefit is a greatly improved experience while moving or resizing an application. First, there are no artifacts when an app is being moved or resized. Secondly, the content of the window remains visible as the application is moved, behaving the same as a local app.
RemoteApp programs on Windows Server 2012 R2 now provide live thumbnails and show a preview of the entire application when you hover over the thumbnail in the taskbar. With these new improvements, RemoteApp programs behave like local apps and make it easier to transition from one app to the next quickly. Note: Some applications such as Internet Explorer may not show thumbnails.
Figure 2: Thumbnail of Microsoft Word 2013 running as a RemoteApp
In some scenarios, for example if users keep multiple applications maximized that have continuous screen updates, the features mentioned in this blog could lead to an increase in memory and bandwidth usage, which could impact high scalability. If performance is more important than these improvements and this is a core scenario for your users, it is possible to disable these improvements by setting the following Group Policy setting to Disable:
Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/Remote Desktop Services/Remote Desktop Session Host/Remote Session Environment/Use advanced RemoteFX graphics for RemoteApp
Some applications can be delivered by using ClickOnce technology, which allows an easy mechanism for keeping the application up to date. Another improvement in Windows Server 2012 R2 is support for ClickOnce applications. While these applications can’t be published as RemoteApp programs directly, they can now be installed and run from their hosting website through a web browser such as Internet Explorer published as a RemoteApp program.
Windows Server 2012 R2 provides an improved RemoteApp experience further blurring the lines between a RemoteApp program and a local app. This feature is enabled by default if both the client and the host are running Windows 8.1 or Windows Server 2012 R2. This is also available on Windows 7 clients with the Remote Desktop Protocol 8.1 Update for Windows 7 SP1.
Note: Questions and comments are welcome. However, please DO NOT post a request for troubleshooting by using the comment tool at the end of this post. Instead, post a new thread in the RDS & TS forum. Thank you!