Windows 7 / Windows Server 2008 R2: RemoteApp and Desktop Connection

Vista PearlWelcome back to our Launch Series.  It’s Day Fourteen which means that there’s just over a week to go!  Today we’re continuing on with our look at various Remote Desktop Services components.  Our subject: RemoteApp and Desktop Connection.  In Windows Server 2008, RemoteApp was introduced to deploy RDS applications to users, and to seamlessly integrate those applications into the users’ desktops so they would appear as if they were running locally.  In addition, TS Web Access provided a single web page to access all RemoteApp applications and session-based desktops.  Those capabilities have been expanded in Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 into a new framework for deploying RemoteApps, session-based desktops, and virtual machine-based desktops to users called “RemoteApp and Desktop Connection.

With RemoteApp and Desktop Connection, administrators can create an aggregated and customized view of RemoteApps and desktops and assign them to users.  Users can then access the RemoteApps and desktops from the RD Web Access portal, or subscribe to a web feed which will seamlessly integrate them into a Windows 7 Start menu and automatically update the list as published applications and desktops change.  Additionally, administrators can deploy the RemoteApps and desktops directly to users using a variety of methods.

There is no single component that provides RemoteApp and Desktop Connection functionality.  Rather, various aspects of RemoteApp and Desktop Connection functionality are provided by specialized RDS role services and other components including:

  • Remote Desktop Session Hosts – provide traditional session-based desktops and RemoteApps to users.  These resources can be published via RD Web Access, or deployed directly to users via .msi or .rdp files.  Administrators can assign RemoteApps to users.

  • Remote Desktop Virtualization Hosts – the new Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) of RDS in Windows Server 2008 R2 enables an administrator to provide access to virtual desktops through RemoteApp and Desktop Connection.  The desktops are virtual machines hosted on a Windows Server 2008 R2 system with the Hyper-V role and Remote Desktop Virtualization (RD Virtualization) role service installed.  A user can either be assigned a personal virtual desktop or a desktop from a virtual pool.

  • Remote Desktop Connection Broker – RD Connection Broker’s centralized publishing enables administrators to aggregate RemoteApp programs, session-based remote desktops and VM-based remote (virtual) desktops from various sources into a single customized view for users.

  • Remote Desktop Web Access – RD Web Access serves two main purposes in RemoteApp and Desktop Connection.  First, users can log in to the website and access RemoteApps, session-based and virtual machine-based desktops.  RD Web Access provides users with the ability to connect to resources from Windows Vista and Windows XP systems in addition to Windows 7 clients.  Users can also subscribe to a web feed which will integrate RemoteApp and Desktop Connection resources into their Start menu.  The menu is then updated automatically as the list of published applications and desktops changes.

  • Remote Desktop Gateway – Administrators can use RD Gateway to help secure remote connections in cases where access to the RD Web Access web page from the internet is needed.  RemoteApps and virtual desktops can be configured to use specific RD Gateway servers, no RD Gateway server or specific RD Gateway settings when users connect using RemoteApp and Desktop Connection.

  • Windows 7 client computers – Windows 7 client computers include a new RemoteApp and Desktop Connection control panel applet.  Using this applet, users can specify the URL of a web feed which will integrate all RemoteApp programs, session-based desktops and virtual machine-based desktops into the Start Menu under a new program group.

  • Remote Desktop Connection 7.0 – provides a new notification area icon to show connectivity status

Let’s walk through the configuration of a RemoteApp and Desktop Connection web feed via the control panel. 

The first step is to open the RemoteApp and Desktop Connection Applet: image
Click on the link to “Set up a new connection …” image
Specify the URL for the web feed: image
Click Next and confirm your selection: image
You receive confirmation that the connection was successfully added: image
And you can then see the connection in the applet: image
If you click on the Properties button, you can see the connection’s details and you also have an “Update Now” button that you can use to manually update the list of RemoteApps and Desktops: image

Alternatively, administrators can configure a Workspace Configuration File (.wcx) from an RD Connection Broker server and distribute it to Windows 7 users in their organization.  The .wcx file can be distributed in a number of ways, including via login scripts.  Let’s quickly walk through the process to create a configuration file.  A quick note here – you will need to either be a member of the local Administrators group (or have equivalent privileges) on the RD Connection Broker server.  OK, let’s go through the steps:


  1. On the RD Connection Broker server, open the Remote Desktop Connection Manager

  2. In the left pane, click Remote Desktop Connection Manager: <server name> where <server name> is the name of the RD Connection Broker server

  3. On the Action menu, click on Create Configuration File

  4. In the Create Configuration File dialog (shown below), enter the information for the RemoteApp and Desktop Connection URL.  Use the Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN) of the RD Web Access server.

  5. Click Save, specify a file name and folder location and click Save again

  6. Distribute the configuration file to the users


After the RemoteApp and Desktop Connection web feed has been configured, a new Program Group – RemoteApp and Desktop Connections – appears in the Start menu.


So that’s how you configure the connection – let’s go over how you assign applications to users.  To assign users to a RemoteApp program, the Remote Desktop Session Host server on which the RemoteApp program is configured must be a member of an Active Directory domain.  You will need Administrator privileges on the RD Session Host server in order to configure the RemoteApp assignments.  In addition – to run the RemoteApp program the user’s account must be a member of the Remote Desktop Users group on the RD Session Host server.  OK – so here’s the breakdown:

  • On the RD Session Host server, open RemoteApp Manager

  • In the RemoteApp Programs list click the program to which you want to assign domain users / groups

  • In the Actions pane for the program click Properties and then click the User Assignment tab


  • Click Specified domain users and domain groups, then click Add


  • Select the domain users and group that you wish to assign, then click OK to close the Select Users or Groups dialog box and then click OK to close the RemoteApp Properties dialog


Finally, as I mentioned earlier, RDC 7.0 provides a new notification area icon that shows the connectivity status to all of the active RemoteApp and Desktop Connections for a user.  The icon itself only appears when the users is currently connected to at least one RemoteApp and Desktop Connection. 


Users can use the new icon to identify when they are connected to a RemoteApp and Desktop Connection, to disconnect from one or all of their RemoteApp and Desktop Connections, or to launch the control panel applet for RemoteApp and Desktop Connections as shown below:


And with that, we’ve come to the end of our post.  It looks like a long post, but there’s lots of screenshots!  Don Geddes will be here tomorrow with a look at RD Connection Broker.  See you tomorrow!

– Dane Smart

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