We’re excited to announce the general availability of the new versions of Receiver for Windows, Mac, Linux, Web, HTML5, and ChromeOS.
These new Receivers will have support for the new unified experience, provided you point them at a suitable StoreFront 3.0 deployment, which also released at the end of last month. New versions of Receiver for Android and iOS are on their way and the limited tech previews for these platforms will be available soon (we’ll give you a heads-up as soon as they are!)
With any new product, there is always a concern that we have taken away the old or that those who wish to retain the “classic” experiences of green bubbles or ‘Program Neighborhood Agent (PNA)-like’ desktop integration will be forgotten.
So it’s worth noting that StoreFront 3.0 is a seamless upgrade from previous releases of StoreFront (though not from the tech previews), and when upgraded in this way it will serve the same classic experience as before. You choose when–and if–you move a store from ‘Classic’ to ‘Unified’, and if you need to, you can move back at the click of a button. New deployments are ‘Unified’ by default, but again, you can switch at any time.
All the new desktop receivers are straight upgrades from previous releases and will equally support older servers and UIs in all the combinations. The new Unified UI is in addition to all of this, not instead. While I’d certainly recommend moving to it, if you want to stick with green bubbles, or hide our UI and just use start menu or desktop shortcuts, that’s fine, too.
I want, here, to emphasize backward compatibility because I’ve been seeing a lot of questions and concerns about things like PNA support, Fast Connect, desktop shortcuts, file type association, pre-launch and a hundred other powerful–but sometime overlooked–features.
All of these are still all here, and in Windows Receiver, in particular, we have done significant work to boost many of them. In particular, there is now more complete support for the use cases that used to be handled by ‘Receiver Enterprise’ including (finally) adding the ability to seamlessly upgrade from Receiver Enterprise to ‘regular’ Receiver – no mean feat given that these are similarly named but completely different clients.
Now there really is no reason not to move, even if you are still using a PNA Server from the turn of the century.
Most of these advanced features will work just fine with the ‘Unified’ UI as well, though there are probably a few limited gaps that we still need to fill. The only one that comes to mind is the ‘Use Receiver to find an app to open this file’ explorer extension doesn’t work with the Unified UI—yet. Directionally we will continue to support desktop integration such as shortcuts, file type association, fast connect, pre-launch etc, but will focus more of the in-app UI/UX effort on the Unified UI rather than the ‘Green bubble’ legacy UI.
As to the Unified UI itself, I’m immensely proud of what the team has managed to pull off. One UI delivered from one server to six different native clients, plus numerous web browsers (even IE8) is no mean feat. Each native client is much more than just an embedded web browser, and there are around 50 internal APIs for calls between web and native code to ensure things like refresh, app shortcuts, and settings are all in sync. It’s been a lot of work, but what we have achieved is much more than a consistent experience for Citrix. It is all about enabling you to deliver a unified experience to your users. Maybe that means a vanilla Citrix UI. Maybe that means adding your logo and color scheme – but with a little work, it can mean whatever you need it to mean.
- Click through compliance notice? – no problem.
- Message of the day? – fine
- Geo-filtered app list ?– go for it
- Per app link to support forums? – ok
- Integration with your existing backend approval system that uses AD groups for authorization? – ok. That one is fiddlier – but watch this space. It is entirely possible with the APIs we provide, and I plan to cover it in the next blog or two.
- Turn it into your next-gen corporate portal? Entirely possible – and we have a few customers already working on this.
One word of caution though, is that the HTML5 web container we use is not quite the same as web browser, so some care is needed to make sure everything works as well on an offline Windows PC or android phone as it does in a real web browser.
When I wrote my earlier blogs I warned that the APIs may be subject to change. In general this hasn’t proved necessary, and all the APIs and previous blog posts should still apply, however a few things to note:
- For native clients, some initialization happens before the UI is shown to the user. Some of the blogs hooked these early events, and may do things like show messages boxes ‘off screen’. To resolve this the same code can be moved to a later event (I’ve added comments to the blogs where necessary). The new hook CTXS.Extensions.beforeDisplayHomeScreen is the ideal place for most custom start up UI.
- Native clients can be fussier about network access, particularly if offline. Be sure to handle errors from your own ajax calls, and consider using CTXS.ExtensionAPI.proxyRequest if you want to talk to services behind NetScaler, or load dynamic content from StoreFront itself. (I’ll blog more on this later)
- The UI has changed a little, based on feedback and the diligence of our Customer Experience and Product Design teams. Changes aren’t significant, except that now clicking on an app icon will always launch it, and the secondary action is now always ‘Details’ rather than the modal Add/Launch/Remove we had in the first tech preview. It’s better overall, but for those who have been using the first tech preview it’s a bit of a jolt.
- We’ve fixed some bugs—actually lots of bugs. Bear this in mind if you try and follow some of the examples in my earlier blogs to the letter, they may be trying to work round a problem that just isn’t there anymore.
Finally, for anyone who is still using Web Interface, and wondering if it is time to move, take a look at this doc. We’ve listed everything you can customize on WI from the admin console, and how to achieve the equivalent in the new Receiver UI. No, it’s not all in the StoreFront admin (and we get that you’d like it to be), but it is all possible, and mostly straightforward.
Blogs in this series