Building a Reliable App Installation Experience with MSIX

Simple, safe, and reliable software installs and uninstalls are always the best, but getting there isn’t easy. Applications cut into each other – or even the operating system itself.

MSIX, Microsoft Packaging Format, is the latest alternative to Microsoft Software Installer (MSI) technologies and has been in place for decades. MSIX is gaining widespread acceptance and adoption due to the benefits it offers: security, ease of use, and reliability in application installations.

MSIX provides a new, modern runtime environment designed to protect both your applications and end user systems. Enterprise users prefer the MSIX format as it provides the most convenient framework for updating applications; Simultaneously reducing IT departments workloads when preparing application package(s) for delivery to hundreds or thousands of end users.

As developers who build Windows desktop applications embrace the concept of running code in an MSIX container, understanding some of the key concepts can simplify and enhance their application installation experience.

Why MSIX?

Running code in an MSIX container can solve common problems faced by developers coming from non-container deployments. This includes products that are built and delivered as Win32, .Net Framework, or Universal Windows Platform (UWP) packages – or when starting a new project from scratch.

In addition to providing clean installs and uninstalls, MSIX allows organization to be customized in independent packages via mod packages. It also supports the ability to deploy applications through enterprise tools (eg Microsoft Endpoint Manager) or on the cloud (Azure Virtual Desktop, MSIX Application Attachment).

Value for developers and IT professionals

MSIX optimizes the more restrictive form of UWP while it is running in the container. It allows developers to program in their preferred way (eg, unmanaged code using Windows Forms, invoking Win32APIs or managed code using the XAML and .NET framework versions of the APIs).

However, some tactics have to be changed to work inside the MSIX container. In addition to minimizing work, it facilitates building modern IT ecosystems, deploying applications and updates faster and more frequently, and updating applications in the new world of containerized packages.

MSIX also supports deployment of applications via enterprise tools (eg Microsoft Endpoint Manager) or even to the cloud.

value for users

By offering users a simpler installation experience, MSIX provides benefits to customers and end users, including:

  • Guaranteed Clean Installs: This prevents wasted time on installations, uninstalls, reinstalls, or issues with other installed applications.
  • Isolation between applications Except when isolation is not desirable.
  • More security for Client and application protection.
  • Enhanced Features Including automatic updates, differential updates, and disk space optimization — without the need to customize your code or package process.
  • single instance storage; Block-level automatic de-duplication of any file in any installed package.
  • Fewer support calls: This reduces inconvenience, delays and expenses for all involved.

Elements of a successful MSIX project

MSIX projects require a different approach than many developers are used to. To provide clients with the best possible package file(s) consider the following items as part of the project. Doing so will enhance additional project activities and project preparation, testing, debugging, and supported schemes.

  1. digital signature: Secure installations of MSIX packages are provided by installing the application in the application container and enforcing application packages with digital signatures (with a valid code signing certificate). Only trusted applications are installed, which enforces the integrity of the package and its containers after deployment.
  2. Package Ingredients: The MSIX package includes files that are essentially a set of components – some created directly (for example, image files for the start menu) and others created as part of the build process (for example, output by other vendor tools). Component files, including the root and virtual file system (VFS) folders, will be passed to the MakeAppX command to build the package.
  3. Efficient build process for MSIX: Sometimes custom package adjustments are required, such as when PSF is suitable to handle some unforeseen scenarios; This requires recompiling the extracted contents into the MSIX package. Whether or not these modifications are required, an efficient building process is always essential. MSIX / APPX package can be created manually without any packaging tools, using Documents provided by Microsoft. Instead, tools like InstallShield The process can be automated.
  4. MSIX packages: Installing .msixbundle ensures that only packages applicable to the device architecture are installed. The MSIX package targets different system architectures, language-specific assets, various image scale assets or resources applicable to specific hardware.
  5. Mod Packs: MSIX supports the creation of mod packages intended to modify or extend existing packages. This allows customers to create custom configurations for your package or attach a plugin.
  6. Common package containers: When working closely with two separate packages, each with their own start menu and other entry points, a common package container may be appropriate. This additional XML file can be installed on the end user’s computer to tell the operating system that packages should share a single container rather than isolate them from each other.
  7. AppInstaller (XML) file: While MSIX and package files are generally installed directly into the operating system, the operating system makes it easier to install and manage updates automatically. Microsoft now Makes this function available For packages delivered externally using the AppInstaller XML file to perform the installation, telling the operating system where to find the current msix file, where to look for updated AppInstaller files and configuring the package’s updated settings.
  8. MSIX Essence: MSIX kernel It was designed for older Windows versions that do not natively support MSIX. This allows MSIX applications to be installed on previous versions of Windows (as long as the applications were designed to run on those versions of Windows).
  9. AppXManifest basic structure: Last but not least, the most important file in an MSIX package is the AppXManifest file, an XML file that defines how the application integrates with the operating system for end-user access, including the application model used that affects the features of the runtime container. Understanding the syntax and element tags (package, properties, resources, dependency capabilities, applications/app element tags) in AppXManifest early on will help ensure proper project setup.

As MSIX continues to evolve, so can your projects. The end results will be application packages that not only simplify work for IT departments but also reduce issues for end users.

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