Portable Apps Suite

By Rory Monaghan

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Back again with yet another application virtualization solution. This time with Portable Apps Suite or P-Apps. This one is very simplistic, very straight forward to setup and very straight forward to use. I have mentioned in my blogs on other application virtualization technologies that most of the Application virtualization solutions provide the capability and produce applications which provide what I refer to as ‘portable’ applications. You will see with solutions such as App-V and Symantec Workspace Streaming which require you to install a client or agent software piece on your end user devices in order to publish applications for those users to leverage. Portable solutions encapsulate everything required for the application to function i.e. the registry, files, folders, services, environment variables etc.to and also provides isolation into one executable. The executable also obviously contains the vendors own solution to ensure the application launches and finds what it needs in the isolated location etc. So essentially, the agent or client which needs to be installed for App-V, is actually just built into every application. Making it portable for use on any Windows machine, since it doesn’t need a client installed to work or any backend servers. Now, note, I just stated Windows machine, this is because portable does not mean the app will work on any Operating System, isolated applications does not mean the application no longer requires an operating systems system files to function. Most applications will leverage some sort of system files to function which are unique to Windows. So, if you thought you could take your app and use it on your MAC or Linux machine, think again.

The beauty of a portable solution such as this though. Is that you can carry your applications around with you on removable storage and use them anywhere from any windows machine. Everything about this solution is pretty simple. Let’s take a look.

Setup

Well, there really is no setup, so to speak. You download a zip file from Portable-app.com and unzip it on a machine. Preferably a virtual machine so you can take a clean snapshot once you have put the capture tool on the VM.  I tend to use the target platform for capturing these days. E.g. If my primary OS is Windows 7 x64, I capture on Windows 7 x64. When ready, launch the P-Apps tool.

Capture
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The first step of the capture process is to perform the PreScan. This will take a snapshot of your system state before the application is installed. Click PreScan to proceed.

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When the pre-scan is complete (Which takes quite a while) you will need to install and configure your application. I always launch my applications at this point also, to ensure any pop-ups are stopped and to ensure any check for updates or automatic updates are disabled. When complete. Click Next >>

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Once your Post Scan is complete. The Post Scan is detecting what changes were made to the system compared to when the PreScan was completed. This is what is populated into the virtual application. Click Next>>

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On the Launch File dialog you will want to select the valid shortcut(s) for the application. Then Click Next>>

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Next you can select the overall Isolation mode for the application. It’s a good idea to default to High Secured. If the app fails to function, you may then want to try less restrictions. The screenshot above provides good detail on each offering but basically it’s how much access the virtual app will have to the system in terms or writing files, registry etc.

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On the above screen you’ll want to pick a location to save your application to. Then Click Finish.

And then you’re done. You should have a virtual application to play with!

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Conclusion

This is probably the most simplistic Application Virtualization tool that I have used. It’s also free to use! The manufacturer does provide a Forum on their site but there’s not that much traffic on it, so unfortunately information is not readily available. From what I have seen, capturing installation reboots is not currently possible with the tool. The tool also doesn’t seem to output a project file of any kind so upgrading an maintaining applications would require re-work. There’s no option to generate an MSI installer, so deploying via SCCM or a different deployment tool using MSI is not possible. I certainly could not see this tool being use widely in an Enterprise environment. With Cameyo also out there and free to use for 50 users or less, I couldn’t even recommend this solution first as a good introduction to application virtualization or for home use to a friend. I hate to say that, because I’m sure somebody put a lot of effort into creating this tool. It’s better than I could do, that’s for sure! If you are look for exposure to some of the different app virtualization technologies out there, it’s certainly at least worth a look. Hopefully the tool is in it’s infancy and can be developed further to provide more advanced features.

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