In our first post in this series we talked about publishing apps at the right resolution. Here, we’ll talk a little more about an application publishing concept called publishing tasks.

Optimizing Configuration by publishing tasks

In the mobile world, users perform tasks. Just think about it… every app is designed to perform a single task very well on a small form factor. The most important thing you can do when providing access for mobile users is to understand the tasks your users perform when they work with your applications and then break applications down into specific tasks wherever possible. Doing so will save users time and make navigation easier. An easy example is Microsoft PowerPoint. With this app, a user can either edit a PPT or view a slideshow. You can publish Powerpoint,exe and call the published app “Edit a presentation”. That is fine for users who want to edit a PPT file on their mobile device (however impractical that use case may be). But, if users want to simply view files in slideshow, you could save them some panning, zooming and a couple of taps if you publish PowerPoint Viewer (the program specifically made to view slideshows). In this case, you might call it “View a presentation”. These are two distinct tasks that a user would want to perform and for which you can tailor the application session.

Citrix Receiver even has built-in short cuts to help users work with with PowerPoint like a slideshow button on the keyboard to enter and exit slideshow easily, a tab button to move between objects on a slide in edit mode, as well as the general copy, cut, paste and save shortcuts.

A more sophisticated and real-world example might be a Healthcare application used in a hospital. In this case perhaps you take a user like a nurse. That nurse might be giving medication or taking vital stats or simply entering notes. If you can publish direct access to those tasks by using a command line parameter then you should do so. For example, if the app is a web app, then publish App Viewer or Internet Explorer with the URL to a specific page as a command line parameter. If you can do this, it will save clicks, pans and zooms and make the application at least more bearable for use in a pinch.

Many apps have command line parameters that can help. Google or Bing the application executable or check the vendor’s admin guide to see if there are any that might be useful for publishing apps in a specific resolution, in a different mode or even to get to a specific screen upon opening.

Make the Receiver yours

The Receiver isn’t just client software for accessing applications. It helps you organize applications in a way that makes sense to your organization. However, with Receiver for Mobile devices, you can take that concept to a new level. For example, a traditional XenApp admin may use a folder structure that organizes apps by package as follows:

  • Microsoft Office 2007
    • Microsoft PowerPoint 2007
    • Microsoft Excel 2007
    • Microsoft Word 2007
    • Microsoft Outlook 2007

I submit to you that making this menu task oriented is far easier for mobile users as long as there are actual task-based applications behind each item. So, a new folder structure for published apps may look as follows:

  • Work with files (Folder)
    • Find & edit files (Opens Doc Finder)
    • Create Presentation (Opens PowerPoint in edit mode)
    • View a Slideshow (Opens PowerPoint Viewer)
    • Create a document (Opens Word)
    • Create a Spreadhseet (Opens Excel)
  • View e-mail (Opens Outlook)

Another example might look like this if you were able to publish apps with command line parameters as mentioned in the first section above:

  • Patient Care (Folder)
    • View dashboard (Dashboard that show me open tasks, active patients, messages, etc.)
    • View active patients (App that filters only current open cases assigned to me)
    • Record patient data (App that let’s you enter patient data)
    • Search Prescription Med DB (Reference app that let’s me search for info in prescription meds)
    • Write Prescription (App that let’s me write a prescription for my patients)
    • View historical records (App that let’s you view patient data for archived cases)
  • Administration (Folder)
    • Order supplies
    • View budget
    • View payroll status

So, the lesson here is that you don’t necessarily need to customize your applications as a first step. Consider simple things that you can do to make it easier for users by reducing the number of clicks or taps they have to go through to do what they need to do. Do a little research to find out how much flexibility you have in your own apps to get users to the screen they need to use right when they open the app. These things go a long way to creating a great user experience.

Stay tuned for more in my next post in this series – “Publishing useful apps.”

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