How we use Classic Shell as a Start Menu replacement in XenApp

Ever since Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 the Windows Start menu is dead to me. I tried a few times to use it, but horrible placement and the slow search function make it unusable. Many people say that this is no longer valid for Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016, and I agree that it has become a lot better, but i still don’t like it.
Besides my personal feelings, there are so many ridiculous problems with the Windows 10 Start Menu, that I must confess that I never even tried to deploy it enterprise ready. Examples:

Long story short, since Windows 8 I’m a proud and exited user of Classic Shell. They offer a great and free Start menu replacement. It can look like the Windows 7 Start menu and most users know without any help how to use it. The search function is fast, comprehensive and modifiable.

You can customize the look and feel completely. You can change so many things, a normal user would be completely overwhelmed. But guess what, that is no problem, as Classic Shell comes with ADMX files, that allow the administrator to preset every single setting. You can preconfigure it exactly for your business use case. You even have the choice for each setting to set a default value the user is allowed to change, or lock it down to the desired value.

My personal ClassicShell on our XenApp 7.x VDA

But the best part is, that it works without any problems, even with RDSH / XenApp Roaming. But the positive facts don’t end here. It works awesome together with Citrix WEM, as WEM places Start menu shortcuts in the same way as Windows 7 did it.

Remember that path?
\\fs01\homes\marco.hofmann\XenApp\Start Menu\Programs

Shortcut files are placed in the filesystem, not in a database file.

That is a folder redirected Start menu in your home path. Guess what, that works together with Citrix WEM and Classic Shell.

But enough with the talking, in a typical XenApp Deployment, we use two GPO. The first is for all users, excl. admin users. The second defines a few values needed for our admin users and is filtered only for them.

With these two GPO we satisfy most of our users and administrators needs. I hope I could show you a different way, about how to handle Start menu with Windows Server 2012 R2 and 2016.

Ps.: This article wouldn’t have been possible without the help of my dear colleague Daniel Schick: @cYb_ton

Author: Marco

Marco is an IT-System administrator and IT-Consultant with 10+ years experience. He is specialized in the delivery of virtual Apps and Desktops with Citrix solutions. In 2017 he has been awarded Citrix Technology Advocate by Citrix for his community work (#CTA). His second core area is availability & performance monitoring with Zabbix, a leading open-source solution. His employer is the German IT-Company ANAXCO which is developing a Transport Management Software (TMS) based on Microsoft Dynamics AX. More about Marco

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