MSIX packaging with RayPack

Microsoft® Operating Systems have a deep history with Windows application installers. Availability of different techniques, spanning from legacy installers, through Windows Installer, Click-Once and App-V created several challenges for developers packaging their apps for legacy and modern environments. Due to fast growth of mobile and other non-PC like tablets, phones, game consoles and HoloLens, it has become critically important to unify the installation frameworks and come with a solution that is cross-platform and supports wide range of apps and technologies.

Followed by a series of announcement, especially at Windows Developer Day, Build, Ignite and AppManagEvent, the company has finally worked a way out to provide a single experience consolidating legacy and modern apps inside a single installer. The new format – named MSIX – is internally based on APPX technology stack which provides a solid containerization foundation, yet expanding on previously unavailable enterprise oriented features. This is also symbolized by its name, where APPX + MSI = MSIX. The technology is going to be built in Windows 10 (starting from builds 1809 (October 2018 Update) following series of Insider Builds) and is going to take best of MSI, App-V and Click-Once. Specific goals of the MSIX are:

  • Multiplatform format (not limited to Windows OS)
  • Security, containerization and isolation of running apps
  • Fast install and clean uninstall routines made with easy, preventing any kind of Windows Rot
  • Ability to publish apps in Microsoft Store / Microsoft Store for Business and Education
  • Built-in licensing and monetization features + tons of other APIs, including integration with Cortana, Sets, Timeline etc.
  • Expanded enterprise features, including easy customization of existing vendor packages (Modification Packages), extended compatibility features and fixes (Package Support Framework)

The migration to the new format will take some time, but eventually it is intended that the MSIX is to become the one native installation and packaging framework. MSIX is going to be actively developed, bringing new features and improvements to the existing code bases and introduced in next Windows builds.

Modernization of old apps to the UWP framework (Universal Windows Platform) is not always an option, especially for apps which are no longer maintained and for certain Line-Of-Business products. MSIX implements a bridge to the UWP world, which allows running old Win32 apps on the new platform, with the new MSIX installer and all benefits of it, yet requiring no changes to the code. As the adoption of Windows 10 grows, more and more apps are expected to be packaged in the new format, and slowly modernized to use the UWP benefits. This should finally join the development and packaging world in a coherent world, using same tools and principles.

Raynet is working together with Microsoft to deliver the tooling that supports the new packaging and deployment format. The next release of our products – RayPack Studio 6.0 – is going to be available soon, and it is going to contain a native support for the MSIX packaging, yet leaving and still improving the current features (MSI, App-V) there, in case you need more time to prepare for the migration.

RayPack 6.0 has been officially announced at the packaging industry event AppManagEvent 2018, which takes place every year on the beginning of October. This year, Raynet presented a 45-minute session, discussing some common challenged and pitfalls about MSIX packaging format, and showed a live demo of upcoming 6.0 build, which already covered some cool additions like modification packages and Package Support Framework.

How to move from a legacy installation to MSIX-based package with RayPack Studio

Some specific areas which are covered by the new release:

  • Convert packages from MSI/RPP to MSIX format
  • Convert RCP projects to MSIX format
  • Convert legacy setups (EXE, MSI) to MSIX format using PackBot
  • Open and edit existing MSIX and RPPX projects
  • Build MSIX packages from MSIX and RPPX projects

Especially interesting is an ability to open and modify any APPX/MSIX project, without creating any intermediary format or rebuilding the file.

 

RayPack Studio includes powerful software solutions with a large number of features that automate and accelerate holistic packaging projects.

Software packaging as a Service

Raynet offers different operation models of packaging: onsite, remote and mixed operation.

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