Deploying Applications with VMware ThinApp

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ThinApp is an “Odd” VMware product, insofar as it’s got nothing to do with virtual machines or virtual technology. It’s a product that turns applications into “Stand alone” thin applications, that can be sent to a user and ran without the need for that user to have administrative access, or the need to install anything.

ThinApp was a product called Thinstall that VMware purchased and “re-badged”, you get a free copy with VMware View 5 (Premier Edition). And it ships with a copy of VMware workstation. (Not because it needs a copy, but VMware recommends you use a clean virtual machine to create your ThinApps on).

If you’ve ever used sysdiff in the past or Novell Zenworks for Desktops, you will be familiar with the process, take a ‘scan’ of a clean machine, then install application(s), then carry out another ‘scan’. The software then works out the ‘difference’ and uses that information to build a software package.

In the example below I’m going to create a stand alone version of Google Chrome, that is pre configured, and has Java already installed, and finally deploy that as a single executable file.


1. It’s recommended that you create your ThinApp on the oldest operating system that it might be deployed on, so here I’m creating a virtual machine in VMware workstation that’s running Windows XP.

XP Virtual Machine

2. When built remove any hardware that will not be needed, like the floppy drive, and the USB Controller (Edit > Settings).

Remove unnecessary hardware

3. Installing ThinApp is pretty straightforward, simply run the executable and follow the on screen prompts the only thing to note is; when you enter your licence key, be aware the name you enter will display on the “splash screen” as your ThinApp loads (as shown).

Install ThinApp

4. Once your reference machine is setup, take a snapshot of it, so you can roll back to this point to create further ThinApps on this clean machine (VM > Snapshot > Take Snapshot).

Take snapshot

5. Run the ThinApp Setup Capture > Next > Prescan > This will take a few minutes > When finished simply minimise the window you are finished with it for now. Note: Don’t worry if the application you are installing requires a reboot, ThinApp is clever enough to cope with that.

ThinApp Prescan

6. Now install and configure the application you require, in this case Google Chrome. I’m also installing Java, and setting the default homepage to the Google search page.

ThinApp Install and configure application

7. When the application is installed to your liking, maximise (or open the capture if you’ve rebooted) and select ‘Postscan’ > OK.

Note: Before running Postscan make sure you delete any installer files downloaded, any icons from the desktop you do not want deployed in the ThinApp, and empty the recycle bin (you don’t want all that stuff captured, when creating your ThinApp).

Thinapp Postscan

8. Make sure only the executable you require is ticked as an entry point > Next > At the Horizon App Manage Page > Next.

ThinApp entry Points

9. In a domain environment you can restrict ThinApp access to particular users or groups > Next.

ThinApp AD Integration

10. Set the isolation mode as required, for most cases it will be ‘Full’ > Next.

ThniApp Sandbox Access

11. Select the option to store the sandbox in the user profile > Next > Select whether you want to provide statistics to VMware > Next.

ThinApp Sandbox Location

12. You will see this screen ONLY of you are capturing a browser. This is used if you have a particular website that will only run in IE6, or Firefox etc. So that only when URL’s enters listed here are accessed (either directly or from a hyper link) the ThinApp browser will open them, all other URL’s will be opened by the default browser. It’s a cool feature but not one I’m using > Next.

ThinApp Browser Redirection

13. Give your ThinApp a name > Next.

ThinApp app Name

14. I’m choosing the option to embed everything into my executable, selecting this may cause a warning about icons, but I ignored and deployed with no problems > Save.

Note: You can use this page to create an MSI file to deploy via group policy if you wish.

ThinApp Primary Data Container

15. After ThinApp generates the files it needs > Build.

Thinapp build

16. Finish

ThinApp Project Build

17. Heres my ThinApp executable file.

ThinApp Application

18. To test I’ve copied it to a Windows 7 machine.

Run ThinApp

19. While it’s loading this is what you will see.

ThinApp VMware Splash

20. And here is my ThinApp version of Google Chrome running and pre configured.

ThinApp Application Running

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Author: Migrated

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