MSIX Hero

Creating VHD for MSIX app attach with MSIX Hero

In MSIX Hero 0.3.0.0 a new feature has been added. For any MSIX package, it is now possible to create a VHD image and scripts for staging, registering, unregistering and unstaging. This is a foundation for a new cool concept, named MSIX app attach (casing sic!).

MSIX is just a modern Windows app package format. MSIX app attach on the other hand takes the packages in this new format, and dynamically attaches them to Windows Virtual Desktop Session. Since the attached packages are expanded on read-only virtual disks, attaching and using an app is really fast and unnoticable to the user. And yet it still provides all benefits of maintaining minimal number of images, which are dynamically enhanced by the apps the user needs and can access. This all is possible without installing anything, with just only a minimal registration step that takes place. MSIX app attach is still in preview and will be available in upcoming version of Windows 10.

Now back to MSIX Hero. The new version has an ability to create attachable VHD disks + necessary scripts to test app attach out. This just eliminates a few manual steps that the user otherwise must do before getting any app attached. The automation built into the tool closely follows the steps from the following website:

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/virtual-desktop/app-attach

Here is a UI for it. The dialog can be found in the GENERATE section > Generate VHD for app attach… accessible from the main ribbon.

Update: In version 0.3.4.0 the ribbon has been changed. The button is now in the EDIT > MSIX app attach VHD generator

The options are really minimalistic and self-explaning, but one or two things are interesting enough that they require a few extra words and comments.

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Posted by Marcin Otorowski in MSIX Hero, 0 comments

How to sign MSIX package (with MSIX Hero)

MSIX deployment stack requires that every package is digitally signed. Not doing it, or modifying an already signed package sooner or later ends with this:

The package is not signed, has a broken signature or the certificate is not trusted.

Package which is not trusted (as seen above) is not installable. The error is shown when trying to install an APPX or MSIX package which either :

  • Is not signed at all, or
  • Used to be signed, but due to unauthorized changes the signature is invalid, or
  • Is signed by an untrusted certificate.

Digital signing on Windows is not a rocket since, but still a bit tricky for APPX and MSIX packages. Aside of complex command-line of signtool and even a simple posessing of a valid certificate, the certificate subject must be kind of “imprinted” into the package manifest. Signing will fail if the publisher (from manifest) and the subject (from certificate) are not equal. And you will sign a lot, in fact after every single change in manifest or package files.

MSIX Hero makes signing and re-signing of packages piece of cake.

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Posted by Marcin Otorowski in MSIX Hero, 0 comments

Be more productive with MSIX with MSIX Hero

MSIX is a modern deployment and packaging format for Windows 10, with – although being relatively new in comparison to some other popular frameworks – plenty of tools and utilities out there. I personally find the ecosystem a bit scattered and a bit difficult for newcomers.

MSIX Hero is an answer to this challenge. This utility with simple GUI integrates several APIs, PowerShell commands and SDK tools in a single tool. Its primary use is management and troubleshooting. It does not try to be a complete authoring tool (for which commercial software like Advanced Installer, RayPack or InstallShield is a better choice) – instead it is rather a complimentary addition which can be used by anyone with any MSIX package, and should help users be more productive whichever of the above they use. It certainly has been driven by my needs, and being done in my spare time I actually managed to get rid of almost all scripts and snippets I was using for MSIX related tasks.

It can be downloaded from the following location: msixhero.net or by using a direct link to online installer. The best of it – it’s completelty free for personal and commercial use.

In the upcoming series of posts, I will show a few use cases and functions of MSIX Hero. In the current version the tool supports the following (the list is not comprehensive, it is just to name a few highlights):

  • Viewing installed packages (for current user or any local user)
  • Identification of packages:
    • Visual identification: translated user-friendly names, icons, colors
    • Identification of tool used to create the package
    • Showing applications and start-up information
    • Showing package dependencies, installed add-ons and users
  • Detection of PSF and visualization of file redirections
  • Adding and removing packages (for current user or all users)
  • Quick access to applets and screens
  • Ability to start installed apps and browse their manifest, folders etc.
  • Packing and unpacking of MSIX packages
  • Signing and changing signatures
  • Building modification packages stubs
  • Creating and editing .appinstaller files
  • Installing, extracting and creating of certificates

Posted by Marcin Otorowski in MSIX Hero, 0 comments