Welcome to the Receiver X1 Tech Preview! This is the first of a series of blogs explaining what X1 is, and in particular how you can customize it.

Before I get started, a little about myself. I joined Citrix long ago. I was part of the team that first came up with the idea of web-based access to Windows apps. While I can’t claim any great part in “Project Charlotte,” I have been around long enough to understand the depth and breadth of the issues met by customers who ‘simply’ want to let their users get at their apps.

Roll on a few years, I was the inventor and then lead on “Project Anthem.” This project introduced the idea of an enterprise app store. This was briefly called ‘Dazzle’ before merging with other projects and becoming  “Receiver”.  This, apart from a few coats of paint and a bucket load of extra features, has been the standard in access to Citrix technology.

That Is, Until Now!

Choices of Launch UI

The Move to Mobile Devices

The other great change has been the move to mobile devices. Mobile apps introduce a whole new delivery model, and a whole new set of expectations. We forked our client – WorxHome for XenMobile, and Receiver for XenDesktop. This was a difficult decision, but a necessary one.

The alternative – forcing all of our XenDesktop customers to ride the bumps of the early forages into mobile app and device management – was not a risk we were willing to take. The good news is that we have emerged from those early days, and now is the time to bring WorxHome back into the Receiver (X1) fold.

Mobile apps highlight another challenge – managing updates. With public app stores, IT is out of the loop. When an app manufacturer updates their app, every user gets it. Day zero. That raises huge challenges for enterprise IT support. Like every other app vendor we were caught in the trap. Update our UX to add capabilities and keep our app feeling fresh – or keep with the old to avoid disrupting our more conservative customers.

X1 Architecture

X1 is a New Approach to Tackling All of These Issues

It isn’t a panacea – but it does significantly change the game. The first key concept with X1 is that the UX lives on a server, your server, and you decide when, and if, it changes. Citrix will still release new versions of the client – to fix bugs and add features – but when it comes to the core part of the UI, you will be in charge.

The second feature follows from the first. Now that the UI is server-delivered, we can achieve the degree of consistency across platforms that we’ve been dreaming of and striving to deliver.

Finally, and most importantly – at least for this blog series – we can ‘tweak’ the user interface to better meet customer needs. That means customer logos and color schemes – but also deeper changes like click-through dialogs or messages of the day; integration with back end approval systems or links to your service status dashboards.

What about ensuring that certain applications are hidden, highlighted or float to the top of search results? All of these things are possible, and many remarkably straightforward. The best news is that these changes will apply to all platforms, not just to the web.

We have built a set of APIs specifically to enable these customizations. We learned with Web Interface how useful it is for access to ‘deep’ APIs – but we also learned the cost of unconstrained changes – with customers unable to take their changes forward across releases. With X1 the customization API is baked in from the beginning and we hope this will enable both end customers and systems integrators to achieve whatever they want out of X1, and to carry it forward as X1, StoreFront and XenMobile evolve.

This blog series is the first port of call to learn about X1 customization. Over the next few blogs I’m going to give some insight into the APIs, and their limitations, and solicit feedback on how we can add more. But first, let’s level set on what is in the Tech Preview, and what is not.

The Tech Preview

So what is, and isn’t, in the Tech Preview? Firstly this is a Tech Preview of StoreFront, the XenDesktop component that hosts the X1 UI. (XenMobile will host the identical UI in later versions, but that is not part of this tech preview). For this Tech Preview, the X1 UI is only available for web browsers, however in time this same UI – and the exact web site – will be delivered to all our Receiver X1 clients – Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Windows Phone and Chrome OS.

You can use the Tech Preview build to understand and get used to the X1 UI, and to experiment with customization and branding. It isn’t intended for production use (of course), and there will be changes before release – partly to add features that aren’t in the Tech Preview, and partly to address bugs and scrub areas where more work is needed.  The other expectation we have is to make changes as a result of feedback (so please provide some!). Anything you do to customize or brand the UX will apply to all native X1 Receiver flavors as they are made available – but remember that this is a Tech Preview and some things will change.

Getting Started

  1. Deploy a StoreFront!
    This is a regular StoreFront installer, and installation is exactly like every other version of StoreFront. However for the Tech Preview, there is no upgrade support. Start with a fresh machine – or if installing on an existing machine, uninstall first (and it is often a good idea to check C:\inetpub\wwwroot\citrix really is empty before installing the fresh install). The next blog will go through this step by step.
  2. Deploy a store
    Each store will, by default, have a Receiver for Web site, and you can create additional sites if you wish. This is where the X1 UI lives. X1 is essentially a reskin of Receiver for Web, and actually lives alongside the old green bubble UI. You can even switch between the two in the admin console – and under the covers this simply changes which page is loaded.
  3. Try it
    Open the URL in a browser. There is X1!

What Do You Get?

The new UI has a number of elements, and this is a quick walkthrough. Note there are two versions of the UI – for browsers on large screens (desktops/tablets) and small screens (phones).

  • Client Detection Pages

This is traditional UX to determine if a native Receiver is installed, which is then used for HDX launches. Note this part of the UI only applies to pure-web clients, and there is also support for the pure-HTML5 HDX engine.

  • Authentication Pages
    Again, only related to web clients, and then only if you aren’t doing SSO from NetScaler Gateway. These have a new skin, but under the covers have the same feature set as the previous iteration of Receiver for Web.
  • The main UI, split into
    • Favorites
      These are apps the user has selected (or had selected for them). If you don’t want this feature, it can be turned off on StoreFront by disabling subscription.
    • Desktops
      The set of desktops published to the user. Only shown if the user has some!
    • Apps
      All applications the user has access to.

The ‘Apps’ page is the key one, and has three or four sub-views of its own. In any of these views the user has the ability to ‘add’ the application (if favorites is enabled), to ‘open’ it, or to view more details. (In future the will be able to add/open and perform other actions from the details view.)

The sub-views are as follows

  • All Apps
    A simple alphabetically ordered list of every app.
  • Folders
    A traditional folder (or if you prefer ‘category’) hierarchy with apps in each folder. Homage to Web Interface.
  • Search
    Search apps by name, description or folder.
  • Featured App Groups
    These are new. The administrator can highlight collections of applications for any purpose, and these are highlighted on the main page. Featured App Groups are defined in StoreFront via the admin console and can be based on application name, keywords or categories.

Make It Mine!

This blog series is going to go into depth on both visual and functional customization of the UI, however for today here is a teaser. You can go into the StoreFront Admin UI and select a company logo to upload, and colors for the key UI highlights. Under the covers this creates a web style (CSS) file to rebrand the UI on the fly. Something like this:

Example Simple X1 Branding

Over the coming blogs we are going to use CSS to make deeper UI changes, along with JavaScript to add functional changes based on the new X1 extension APIs created especially for this purpose. For now, download it and try it out.

Before I Close

Blogs in this series