What is VMWare ThinApp

Have you ever wished that you had a way of running a favorite application or game of yours on a machine without needing to install it or to have administrator privileges to run it ? Or sometimes you would you just want that DOS, Windows95 or Windows 2000, XP application to be compatible and be running in Windows Vista ? Sometimes you just want something portable, that you can run on a client's machine using your USB drive, without having the application write anything to the hard drive ? VMware's ThinApp is the solution that provides you with your wish!

VMware ThinApp (previously called Thinstall) is a very nice application that makes you create applications in a single executable file which are OS independent. When I say Operating System independent, I mean that the executable can be made such that it never writes to any part of the Active Operating System, its registry etc. All dependencies are included within the executable itself. It can tremendously help with your application development and fix compatibility problems.

 In this article we would walk you through on installing this application and then creating an independent executable for FireFox version 3.0 that you can put on a USB drive and can run on any workstation. You do not need any admin rights to run the application as it never installs on the hard drive or writes anything to the active operating system.

How to install:

- Download the application from VMWare, a registration is required so you would need to present a valid email address to activate your ThinApp

- Start install, Accept licensing, Next

- Provide the activated license key you recieved after logging to the link provided in your email.

- Click Finish after accepting all defaults for install

The ThinApp manual is available in HTML and PDF formats at: http://pubs.vmware.com/thinapp4/help/wwhelp/wwhimpl/js/html/wwhelp.htm

Pre installation scan:

- Start it from the start menu by clicking on Start -> All Programs -> VmWare -> ThinApp Setup Capture

 

- Click Next on Start with a Clean PC screen, The prescan process would now start

 

- Do not click next yet, minimize the window instead

 

Installing the Target Application:

- VMware ThinApp is a very nice application that makes you create applications in a single executable file which are OS independent. When I say Operating System independent, I mean that the executable can be made such that it never writes to any part of the Active Operating System, its registry etc. All dependencies are included within the executable itself.

- Make sure you launch FireFox and do the initial configuration once (such as not importing bookmarks from Internet Explorer, not making it the default browser and uncheck the checkbox that asks for it to check everytime if you want it to be the default browser, setting its start page etc)

Post Application install scan:

- Once satisfied, close FireFox and maximize the VMWare setup Capture screen, and click Next on it

 

- On the User Accessible Entry points screen, choose the defaults but change the "Primary Data Container" value to "Mozilla FireFox.exe" from "Mozilla FireFox (safe mode).exe

 

- You can customize the next screen by specifying which ActiveDirectory user groups are allowed to access this application. You also have to specify the default sandbox location. This is a location where the user must have write access to, it could be the AppData folder in users profile, USB Flash drive (where it stores the data within a directory in the application), this is the best option if you are allowed to use USB drives on the machine, it would not write any files to the hard drive. You can also choose Network drive, as sometimes users have these mapped to every workstation they go to and often have write permissions to their home drives. In our example we would keep it at default (user's profile)

 

- Next is the "Default File System Isolation Mode" screen. Here you get to specify where the application can write to, if you want users to be able to create and write files to non system directories such as their desktop and their user profile, choose the "Merged isolation mode" option. If you don't want users to write to create and write files anywhere but the sandbox provided in previous step, choose the option of "Write Copy Isolation Mode". In our case we would choose the first option, "Merged isolation mode"

 

- Next choose a project location where your project files will be stored, this is where you would build your actual executable from, in our case we have changed the default directory to C:\Temp\FireFox3Project. On this screen, you can also choose if you want to build a MSI file, in case you want to install this application to multiple machines using Group Policy, this is helpful. The compression option in most cases should be left at default (No Compression). Click next and it would start to create the project

 

- You can either Build the project exe now or click Finish to create it later. We chose to build now

 

- Click finish on the build screen once done

 

- Your executables to launch the application are located in the Projectfolder\bin directory