In XenApp projects you always face the challenge to decide whether to deploy a published Desktop or different published applications for the users. Many times you will have to use a combination of both. Especially in the published application use-case, you have to find a way to allow your users manage their files with a file explorer. This might not be a problem for Fat-Client users with their Windows 10 Notebooks inside the corporate LAN. Those can simply run their local file explorer and access smb shares.
Tablacus Explorer is an awesome replacement for a published explorer.exe
- it’s a x64 EXE, no setup required
- it’s small
- open source
- it has tabs
- it displays XenApp redirected drives!
The main challenge are Thin Client users with a non Windows OS like IGEL Linux or Dell Wyse ThinOS. And Notebook users in a off-corporate network situation. They could of course utilize offline smb shares, but I think we all agree that this is not an option.
As we are here to talk about XenApp users who rely on published applications, we should take a look at our possibilities. In a typical XenApp deployment, you will most certainly have Microsoft Word and Excel available for your users. And one could just leave it that way, because it would be valid solution to advice your users to just open Word in the first place, and then do a simple “File -> Open -> Search”. Or is this to complicated?
In my opinion, this has two specific drawbacks:
- You would have to publish each and every application for the specific files your users could have saved on their personal smb shares.
Word, Excel, Power Point, PDF, TXT, Images, technical drawings, financial data and so on and so on..
That could become very annoying, sooner or later.
- It’s way to complicated. Most people would never open an application, to open the file they want to use afterwards. The normal workflow would be to open your preferred file explorer, which might be explorer.exe for most users. And then search, move, open, rename or edit all of your files. As soon as you wish to open one of those files, the desired application will just start. Simple like that.
Now to the real problem and the reason we are here: It’s just not possible to publish explorer.exe without any drawbacks. There is a reason for a full Citrix KB article just about explorer.exe:
CTX922603 – How to Publish Windows Explorer.exe with Specific Drives, Folders, or URLs
From all suggestions in that article, only Method 4 seems valid to me:
Use a third party file management utility that has been tested in your environment.
So I started searching for a replacement:
As it's not recommended nor useful to publish explorer.exe as a file explorer, has anyone a good suggestion for a free alternative? #XenApp
— Marco Hofmann (CTA) (@xenadmin) March 23, 2017
I tested a few programs, but they all had the same problem, they weren’t able to display the XenApp redirected client drives and network drives. Especially on off-corporate Windows and macOS clients this is a must have requirement. As it happens I stumbled upon a small file explorer in the news of a tech magazine:
Product Site & Twitter:
Let’s take a look at the official feature list from the author:
Tablacus Explorer is a tabbed file manager with Add-on support.
- Tabbed interface
- Add-on support
- Completely portable, No installation required
- Multiple language and Unicode support
- Columns: Total file size, Label
- Customizable association, menus, keys, mouse gestures, alias
- Open source
64-bit(TE64.exe/x64 Edition) and 32-bit(TE32.exe/x86 Edition) versions are available
I downloaded it, extracted it, published it and was thrilled!
It has everything I needed. The author also thought about the small details like the “search of updates” button is hidden if you don’t have admin privileges.
It saves the user settings in the right path:
It honors the local drives are hidden.
I don’t think I need to post instructions about how to publish a EXE file as a published application, nor should I need to clarify how to update Tablacus Explorer, should I? 😉
(download -> unzip -> replace everything -> done)
Update: In the meantime I’ve written and published a blog post about how to Download and install Tablacus Explorer via an evergreen PowerShell script. Take a look!
I hope I could give you a good hint for an alternative to explorer.exe and make your live as an administrator and the live of your users maybe a little bit easier.