3 min read

New desktop Clients for Mac & Windows | DeskDirector

January 13, 2016

We're moving our desktop platform development to a Hybrid framework called Electron. We will release a version for Mac and then Windows in the next couple of quarters.

It's a pretty useful framework. It is written by Github and used by Slack so we think its future looks good.

The new platform should give you all the advantages of today's native DD applications without the head-ache of custom MSI deployment.

Our first release will be the Mac client and it is in development now. We're hoping to get something out this quarter.

When we started writing DeskDirector in 2012 we wanted a good looking native Windows application.
We needed the app to run as a first class citizen in Windows so we could integrate with Active Directory for authentication.

We wanted DD users to never have to remember credentials if they were authenticated to Active Directory. We chose .Net/WPF as our desktop platform and were able to deliver on these features...

There was a big downside to the strategy and that was deployment. As a native application, DD needed to be installed by MSI and the installer required elevated privileges. Each new version meant a new install. We wanted you to be able to brand the application so we had to build a custom MSI builder in our admin portal.

We asked a lot of our partners. Each new version meant, for each DD partner, rebuilding the MSI and then configuring a deployment job in the RMM of choice. It was a lot of work. A number of partners fell behind in their deployments and this caused problems.

We looked at web platforms at the beginning but there were a number of shortcomings we were not happy with. In 2012 most Web frameworks were butt-ugly. You could tell a Rails application from across the room. There was also no way we could autenticate your users without asking for name/password pair. This was very important to us. There were a bunch of other limitations so we turned away from Web.

But things change quickly in our game. Three years is a long time. A project called Bootstrap was released from the folks at Twitter and this allowed Web applications to look and feel as composed as native. The folks at Google backed a MVC framework called Angular that allowed us to develop a presentation layer in an orderly manner.

In 2015 we used these technologies to release a Web client that had 98% feature parity with the native application. It was almost a pixel perfect port of the Windows version. Bootstrap gave us responsive screens so it ran well on mobile. Being Web it is auto-updating by default and it has been well received.

In 2016 we're bundling that web app into the Electron framework. This will give us 100% feature parity with our current Windows version with the important advantage of auto-deployment. 

It's going to be a best-of-both-worlds release and we are very excited.

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Topics: Technical
Warwick Eade

Written by Warwick Eade

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