RemoteApp improvements in Windows Server 2012 R2

RemoteApp improvements in Windows Server 2012 R2

  • Comments 11

Hi, I’m David Bélanger, a program manager on the Remote Desktop Virtualization (RDV) team in Windows Server.

One of the areas of focus for RemoteApp programs in Windows Server 2012 R2 was improving the user experience by eliminating some of the remaining gaps we had between a RemoteApp and a local app. RemoteApp programs are apps that are installed on a system by a network administrator and accessed remotely from a different system. RemoteApp programs are similar to Remote Desktop, but allow the user to run individual remote applications on their local desktop in conjunction with local applications. RemoteApp programs are a great way for users to run traditional desktop applications on Windows, Windows RT, and other devices, allowing administration of a single app for multiple device types.

In this blog, I discuss the improvements made to RemoteApp programs in Windows Server 2012 R2—specifically, adding full support for transparent windows, improving the application move experience, providing live thumbnails, the ability to disable these features, and adding support for ClickOnce applications.

Support for transparent windows

New to Windows Server 2012 R2, the alpha-channel information (which provides transparency) is sent from the server to the client where it is applied in conjunction with the local applications. The end result is that we now provide full support for transparent windows, which can greatly improve the look and feel of applications that leverage transparency to provide a smoother experience. This includes Office 2013 applications that have transparent border windows and pop-up notifications that slowly fade away. Transparency in applications now appears the same whether they are running locally or from a remote system.


Figure 1: Microsoft Word 2013 with transparent borders and a transparent test application running as RemoteApp programs over File Explorer running locally

Improving the application move/resize experience

The second benefit is a greatly improved experience while moving or resizing an application. First, there are no artifacts when an app is being moved or resized. Secondly, the content of the window remains visible as the application is moved, behaving the same as a local app.

Live thumbnails

RemoteApp programs on Windows Server 2012 R2 now provide live thumbnails and show a preview of the entire application when you hover over the thumbnail in the taskbar. With these new improvements, RemoteApp programs behave like local apps and make it easier to transition from one app to the next quickly. Note: Some applications such as Internet Explorer may not show thumbnails.


Figure 2: Thumbnail of Microsoft Word 2013 running as a RemoteApp

Group Policy

In some scenarios, for example if users keep multiple applications maximized that have continuous screen updates, the features mentioned in this blog could lead to an increase in memory and bandwidth usage, which could impact high scalability. If performance is more important than these improvements and this is a core scenario for your users, it is possible to disable these improvements by setting the following Group Policy setting to Disable:

Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/Remote Desktop Services/Remote Desktop Session Host/Remote Session Environment/Use advanced RemoteFX graphics for RemoteApp

ClickOnce applications

Some applications can be delivered by using ClickOnce technology, which allows an easy mechanism for keeping the application up to date. Another improvement in Windows Server 2012 R2 is support for ClickOnce applications. While these applications can’t be published as RemoteApp programs directly, they can now be installed and run from their hosting website through a web browser such as Internet Explorer published as a RemoteApp program.


Windows Server 2012 R2 provides an improved RemoteApp experience further blurring the lines between a RemoteApp program and a local app. This feature is enabled by default if both the client and the host are running Windows 8.1 or Windows Server 2012 R2. This is also available on Windows 7 clients with the Remote Desktop Protocol 8.1 Update for Windows 7 SP1.

Note: Questions and comments are welcome. However, please DO NOT post a request for troubleshooting by using the comment tool at the end of this post. Instead, post a new thread in the RDS & TS forum. Thank you!

Leave a Comment
  • Please add 8 and 2 and type the answer here:
  • Post
  • It is great to see the ClickOnce issue being addressed - thanks!

    Here is one hurdle/requests from the trenches - would greatly appreciate a way to prevent uses of RemoteApp users from logging in with mstsc ... this has been a showstopper for us with some Enterprise Customers ... thanks again!

    Enjoy the Season - Cheers! Tex «±»

  • It would be nice to have file associations from outside the application not just inside the application.

  • 2012 Remote App sucks.

    Have to have client go to a website

    Login to the website

    click the icon

    download the icon

    launch the icon

    sign in again

    wait for the remote app to start, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

    2k8r2 - email client MSI, install, click, credentials, done.

  • What happened to the create RDP/MSI file?? .. That will be a problem for my customers that dont want to use the website. Also, where did the gateway settings go for the web applications? Seems like this is a lot worse than 2008 R2.

  • This is the most rediculous change I've seen in a while. '08 had it right. When will MS catch enough flack to change this back to how it should be?

  • Have been using 2008 R2 remote apps in production for a couple of years, trialing 2012 R2 now and enjoying the experience, at this point we don't install anything on the client other than the base operating system, Thanks!

    We have run into one issue; when we upgrade to RDC 8.1 on either Win/7 or 8 we can't seem to pin the remote app to the taskbar, are we missing something?

  • From what I've seen it is possible to get the RDP files, see the following forum post for more info

    Note - we use a dedicated PC/User Account to connect to the feed website on the gateway server which then creates all the available RemoteApp RDP files, which we then distribute these as required to users, the Gateway server then acts as the Broker Service without having to logon to the main RDWeb website.

  • I don't know what made you guys believe that the removal of .msi and .rdp file feature was a good idea!

    That was a necessity for anyone who wanted to manually deploy remoteapps to computers not part of the company domain (lets say a company providing hosted software on VDI) and now they are left with no alternatives.

    How can we petition to have that back?

  • Someone can share their experience in relationship the installation from app clickOnce through a web browser such as Internet Explorer.

  • Sounds like 'BigBird' is using chrome or their internet settings are a touch on the prohibitive side. RemoteApp is actually going down really well with a lot of our clients in education, good to see the RDP client on the Appstores now.

  • Hello, Is it possible to have RemoteApp with Virtual Desktop Session in Windows 2012?, I only find information with Remote Desktop Session


Page 1 of 1 (11 items)