How the App-V 4.6 SP1 Sequencer Makes Packaging Easier, Faster and More Predictable

This release of the App-V sequencer has been focused around ease of use and that is why you will notice many visual and feature differences from previous versions. The goal is to ensure a more successful sequencing experience by introducing the following new features.

 

  • Sequencing best practices – The sequencer will let the user know of potential issues with the sequencing environment and configure the sequencing station as per Microsoft best practices.
  • Improved wizards – The user is guided through the sequencing process and the complexity of sequencing applications is reduced.
  • Awareness of application type – The App-V sequencer supports different sequencing scenarios such as Standard Application, Add-on or Plug-in and Middleware.
  • No more 8.3 folder requirement – Now you don’t have to worry about what to name that 8.3 asset folder.
  • Application feedback – Known and potential sequencing issues are communicated to the user as part of the sequencing process. With that knowledge issues may be addressed before the application is deployed to for testing saving time both on the application packaging and testing processes.
  • Improved implementation of LOCAL_INTERACTION_ALLOWED – This setting can be applied to a sequence without editing each OSD.
  • Ability to specify sequencer templates for creating new packages – Customize the sequencer for your environment by ensuring frequently used parameters are configured prior to sequencing.

 

As you can see there are some significant changes in the new sequencer but you are probably wondering what that really means. Let’s take a quick tour of the new sequencer and by sequencing an application that will have issues with App-V. For this article I’ve chosen PowerISO since it has known issues with App-V but we’ll pretend we don’t know that for now.

 

Before we look at sequencing itself let’s take a quick look at some of the things the installer of the App-V 4.6 sequencer performs to make sure you are following Microsoft best practices. The first obvious change is the configuration of the second partition using the installer. App-V 4.6 SP1 installs its own virtual drive removing the need to have a special virtual machine configuration for sequencing and a different one for testing App-V applications.

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Again, another example of a built-in best practice! Prior to SP1, the person doing the sequencing had to go out, read the best practice documentation, remember to set up a number of items including a dummy ODBC entry for both user and system DSNs. Now the Sequencer does this for them automatically. If I check my ODBC settings on the workstation the App-V Sequencer installation has put in place dummy ODBC entries as per Microsoft best practice.

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Let’s proceed onto sequencing. Below, I’ve opened up the 4.6 SP1 sequencer application. What you will notice on the right hand side is a selection of links pointing to documentation and community resources. If you are not familiar with these resources I suggest you take the time to go through the Application Virtualization Library and the Sequencer SuperFlow. When you have tried a few attempts at sequencing there are the links to the Application Virtualization Forms on TechNet where you can find answers to some of your challenges. Also make note of the Recipe and Package Accelerator links because those might save you some time re-inventing the wheel. Also if you don’t it doesn’t hurt to keep track of the Application Virtualization Blog as it is quite active and informative.

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I’m going to start the sequencing wizard by clicking Create a New Virtual Application Package.

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Before I get too far, notice that the Sequencer gives you the option to package an application using a new feature called a Package Accelerator. Package Accelerators allow you to streamline the packaging process for an application by converting the installation media of an application into an App-V package. Check out Tim’s and Kalle blogs for a detailed overview of how to use this technology.

 

Tim's Article
http://www.tmurgent.com/TmBlog/?p=326

Kalle’s Article
http://www.virtualisointi.fi/archives/246

 

There’s also a link near the bottom of the sequencer that leads to documentation on the packaging methods. You will notice throughout the sequencing process that there will be a link at the bottom of the window which will lead to documentation. Since I’m not using a Package Accelerator, I’m going onto the next screen by choosing the default selection of Create Package by clicking Next.

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The next step is to validate the sequencing environment, ensuring it meets best practices before continuing. As you can see Windows Defender is running. I can click the message for more information.clip_image011

 

The message box that appears gives more detail about the problem and also prescribes a solution to the issue. I’m going to close this window and fix the issue.

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I’ve opened the services control panel and selected the Windows Defender service. I’ll right click and select Stop to stop the service which should resolve the issue indicated by the sequencer.

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This screen does not automatically refresh so I have to click the Refresh button to re-evaluate the state of the system.

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Now that the system evaluated successfully I can continue to the next screen. But before I do so I thought I’d point out the documentation link at the bottom of the screen. Click Next to move the wizard onto the next step. clip_image017

 

To aid you with sequencing for Dynamic Suite Composition there are additional options for the application type to sequence. We will be sequencing a Standard Application, and leaving this screen with the defaults by clicking Next.

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On this page you configure the installer to launch via the sequencer or you can perform a “custom” installation and manually install the application. PowerISO is a single EXE installer so click browse to locate the installer file.

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I’ve got a copy of the PowerISO 4.7 installer already downloaded onto my file server so I’ll navigate to the folder and select the PowerISO47.exe installer and click Open.

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Now that the installer is specified I can click Next to name the package.

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I’m going to name the package PowerISO. Notice that at the same time you can see that the sequencer automatically sets up the folder on the Q:\ drive. I’ll click Next to begin sequencing.

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You should see a progress bar as the sequencer prepares for sequencing and launches the installer.

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Since I’m running the installer from the network I’m prompted with a security warning that I pass by clicking the Run button.

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If you look down you might catch a quick reminder to install PowerISO to the Q:\PowerISO folder which is another App-V best practice.

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In the Destination Folder field I’m going to put in Q:\PowerISO and then click Install.

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Once the installation phase of the installer has completed I’m going to click Next.

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The next page lets me select which file associations to configure for PowerISO, I’m going to leave the defaults and click Close.

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The installer then asks to reboot the PC and I’m going to pretend to not know that rebooting the sequencer while sequencing is not required and click OK.

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This isn’t necessarily a new feature but the sequencer catches the reboot request can cancels it. I’m going to click OK so I can continue on sequencing.

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I personally like this screen because sometimes when you are sequencing you instinctively click next when presented with a dialogue and this may lead to you stopping the monitoring process before they were actually done sequencing. This screen makes you go through a sequence of two steps before you finish sequencing. In order to do this I need to click the I am finished installing checkbox and the Next button before I can continue on.

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The system will then show its progress as it completes the capture of the application.

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This section allows you to launch and configure applications before completing the sequence. This can be helpful while sequencing MSIs with Advertised shortcuts as it requires a bit of MSI knowledge to figure out the properties of these shortcuts. We will leave the package as-is and click Next.

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This is the page I love the most with the new sequencer. Here is where you get feedback that usually requires an application sequencer with some experience under his belt to determine. Now the sequencer immediately scans and identifies issues with the application’s composition that might cause issues while running inside of App-V. The first issue is a driver issue so I’m going to double click Unsupported driver detected and see what the feedback says.

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If you look at this screen you should not only notice that it has discovered a device driver but also has identified the exact driver that was installed into the system. Also guidance is provided to install the driver locally if I need its functionality for the application. I’m going to note the error and click Close.

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Next let’s look at the Unsupported shell extension detected issue.

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Here you can see the specific entries for the affected shell extension. For this error you note the loss of functionality of the application and click Close.

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And finally let’s look at what files were excluded by clicking on the Files excluded from package report.

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If I look at the details the files being excluded are temporary files and likely have nothing to do with the application’s functionality so I’ll ignore the warnings and click Close.

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To get to the next phase of the wizard I’ll click Next.

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If I want to edit this sequence further by changing shortcuts, file type associations, and operating systems allowed to use the sequence I can select Customize and I will be given more options to customize this sequence. But since I’m try to produce a quick sequence I’ll leave the Stop now radio button selected and click Next.

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As you can see below the sequencer automatically creates a folder and sequencer project filename for you if you want to save the sequence right away. Of course you have the option of editing the sequence in the more familiar editor mode of the sequence but I want to complete this sequence so I will click Create.

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At the end of saving the sequence, a summary of potential issues is presented as a reminder to the application sequencing technician. I’m going to click Close to complete the process.

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As you can see there are many enhancements to simplify application sequencing by making knowledge readily available, encouraging best practices, and providing feedback about the application sequencing process. But before I wrap things up I wanted to share a couple goodies I found inside the sequencer’s Options… menu under the main Tools menu.

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Ever had to turn on LOCAL_INTERACTION_ALLOWED for an application with many shortcuts such as Office 2010? Now you don’t have to visit every OSD to turn this setting on. Turn on the Allow all named objects and COM objects to interact with the local system option then save your sequence and you are done!

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Also you can supply templates for creating new packages with App-V. You select the template SPRJ file using the checkbox and field below.

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What kinds of settings can you specify in a template file? Here is a list broken out by package and sequencer specific settings.

Package Settings:

· App-V server hostname

· App-V server port

· Operating systems

· Package compression

· Security descriptors on or off

Sequencer Settings

· Enable the use of windows installer

· Allow virtualization of events

· Allow virtualization of services

· Append package version to filename

· Exclusion items

 

And there you have it! As you can see there have been many changes and lots of hard work put into this latest sequencer release to make it the easiest to use yet. It is compatible with the 4.6 client so you don’t need to upgrade any client facing infrastructure to support this release. If you are just starting out with App-V I think this sequencer will help you become successful more quickly than previous versions. You can try the App-V 4.6 SP1 Sequencer by downloading it via TechNet, MSDN or your Microsoft Volume Licensing site

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